I have been incredibly impressed by the number of personal connections that have been made in response to this blog and the various social media that I have been engaging in recent months. Dating God went public only a few months ago, after which my reluctant embrace of Twitter ensued.
What has been so pleasantly surprising is that as the number of readers has increased, so too the number of personal connections have followed suit. Some of these connections have gone from the temporal to the virtual (I’ve known some people in ‘real life’ and then connected with them online), but many more relationships have been forged in recent weeks and months virtually only to be carried over into the terrestrial sphere (folks connected online and then met in person).
This morning one of these latter experiences occurred. One of the first and most generous supporters of my online work was Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, a parish minister in the diocese of Albany and an avid blogger (visit her Personal Blog here and the blog she runs for her Parish here). We met up for coffee and conversation this morning and it was delightful to meet someone previously known virtually, as I like to say, in “real time.” Fran had this morning posted a very generous and kind blog entry about me following her recommendation of a fine article about digital ministry in the local diocesan paper (you can read about both here: Parish Blog or here: Personal Blog).
Fran is by no means the only person with whom I’ve had this sort of experience recently. Just last week I met Paul Snatchko, the director of marketing and communications for the renowned Catholic publication Magnificat, perhaps the leading source for daily readings, prayer and reflections in print. He had heard about me through the internet, thanks to mutual friends such as Fran, and decided – along with two of his friends from NYC – to come to my lecture on Thomas Merton and St. Francis on the Upper West Side. It was great to meet him. He blogs at Between The ‘Burgh and The City’ (He’s originally from Pittsburgh and now lives in NYC since graduating NYU).
There is also the recent case of Jamie Arpin-Ricci, the author of two books and an award-winning blogger who can be read at A Living Alternative: Our Missional Pilgrimage. Though we have not met in person, he lives in Canada, we have connected through the use of social media – something that Jamie is very good at using and I am continuing to learn. He recently interviewed me and posted the conversation online here:
He is someone who is indeed doing wonderful ministry, along with his wife and others, following in the footprints of Francis of Assisi and inspired by the Italian Saint’s life and example.
There is also a reverse case of an in-person relationship made virtual. My friend Fr. Tim Heines, a doctoral student at the Catholic University of America, with whom I was a classmate in two graduate courses at CUA now a few years back, keeps a blog (Heine’s Site: Or, The Taming of the Shrewd) in order to share his daily and weekly homilies, while also remaining connected to his family, friends and former parishioners back in Texas (yes, he’s from Texas). Not that long ago Tim also posted a very kind (if at times silly, especially the photo) blog entry about me and my recent blogging adventures:
I continue to be impressed by the connections that have been made or renewed in their new relational form by way of the so-called blogosphere. Sharing my view on matters of faith, culture and politics has really connected me with people I would never have met otherwise. For that I am very grateful. I look forward to these relationships continuing and enthusiastically anticipate the new connections that will be made on this digital pilgrimage.
For those who continue to doubt the efficacious quality of social media for ministry and outreach, trust me — a former cynic and reluctant bystander — there is something very valuable, very personal and quite ministerial about meeting people where they are. If at first electronically, then later in-person.