Thursday, March 14, 2013
The Preacher’s Corner
Dial-a-prayer was a huge phenomenon ‘in the day’
A fact few may know is that in my first ministerial work beyond my home congregation, I served as summer student minister in the church that sponsored the very first Presbyterian dial-a-prayer ministry. It was the Presbyterian Church in Dyersburg, Tenn., in 1976.
One of my assignments was to record the daily devotional and prayer that those who phoned in would listen to. This was in the very first days of telephone answering machines. Few people had them in their homes just then, as the technology was still very expensive. I would read a short devotional passage and conclude with a short prayer. Then the caller could leave a message, requesting prayer for their particular concerns.
Hundreds of people dialed in — yes, dialed — many of them long-distance from all across the country. It was a phenomenon and had received a good deal of publicity. Churches everywhere set up their own dial-a-prayer ministries.
Nowadays, faithful outreach keeps up with improved technology. Pope Benedict sent out Twitter messages daily. I am sure you could tweet him with your prayer requests, too.
I confess that I have not yet taken to tweeting, although I am not opposed to it. It is obviously a good way to send out short messages, although I laugh at the people who feel it necessary to tell the world every small detail of their activity.
In olden times biographies of the famous were written with the title “The Life and Letters of So-and-So.” Since nobody writes letters anymore, I suppose we will see an e-book about the next batch of memorable persons called “The Life and Tweets of …” Whether tweets will give a window into the inner life of people is open to question. The biographer may have to consult their blogs.
As I write this, I am watching a broadcast of the mass which opens the papal conclave. It is a huge leap forward for any part of the conclave to be shown to the public. But white or black smoke from the antique stove will still announce the results of each ballot. I’ll bet some tweets will soon follow.
Still, with all the advanced technology, communication sometimes does not happen. A friend of mine who moved away from his former church about two years ago still gets emails from them. One he received recently was an invitation to a men of the church steak supper. My friend responded that he would love to come, but since 300 miles now separated him, it would not be possible. In a flash, the head of the men’s group messaged that my friend was the only one who had answered the email. None of the locals had bothered. How many steaks should be prepared?
In Bible times, letters were carefully prepared. St. Paul sent many of them, and the delivery system was precarious. You can find details of this in Paul’s letters. But so far as we know, all of them except one have survived for us to read — the lost one is a letter to the Laodiceans mentioned in the Epistle to the Colossians. Many still read Paul’s letters with great care and appreciation. I am afraid I cannot say as much for all the emails, blogs, and tweets with which I am bombarded.
Modern technology makes rapid communication possible. The jury is still out on its lasting effect.
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