A question of balance #digidisciple (@ailsawright)

I’m preparing to go on retreat for five days, my first retreat of longer than a day for eight years. It’s strange to think that then I had no inkling that there might be such people as digidisciples and now here I am as one of them. I’m looking forward to a bit of space and having the time to fully listen to God; I hope he doesn’t ask where I’ve been all this time!

Retreats are special times of course and help us to reconnect with God and to recharge our spiritual batteries, but what about the rest of the time? How can we keep balance in our lives as we journey through this digital space?

http://12baskets.co.uk/view/images/busy-london-traffic-quiet-benches

In my 5+ years of involvement with online church I’ve noticed that digidisciples are particularly vulnerable to burnout. I’ve been trying to think why this might be. There will be many different circumstances which digidisciples find themselves in but I suspect many are juggling quite a variety of commitments. However, that could be said about those who have little involvement with the digital culture; our lifestyles are increasingly pressured and frenetic.

It would be wrong to attempt to speak for others, though I hope some may speak for themselves by adding comments to this post. For myself, I think there is an issue of the all pervading nature of digital spaces. If I switch on my PC to do something for my job (the paid stuff I’m supposed to do to put bread on the table) I am likely to find emails which connect me with Anglicans of Second Life. I really enjoy the ministry I am involved with but I wonder if the lack of a break from it on a regular basis is a problem. I know some very disciplined people take a Sabbath away from the PC every week and I have considered the idea but not really followed through with it. If digidisciples are to live Biblically in the digital culture, is this an essential aspect of our journey of faith?

Another issue I find both exciting and stressful is that what we are doing is so new. There is a build up of experience and sharing through groups such as this but there are few road maps. There seems to be little time to coast and not make much effort. The nature of what we each do is so varied that there are unique aspects of every digidisciple’s use of the digital space. Our paths may meet for a while and veer off again.

Ironically, when we are so very connected digitally, our very wish to live out our faith in these digital spaces can be a source of disconnection with those who don’t relate to this way of living. I know my enthusiasm for what can be done through an online church has helped some who have listened to catch at least a little of the vision but I find it difficult to share some of the challenges with those who have not experienced anything similar. I am fortunate to have a spiritual director who was involved withChurchofFools; this helps a great deal when I’m sharing some of my struggles with him.

I wonder if there may be some way for various digidisciples to meet up in pairs or triplets for mutual support. At least we wouldn’t have to travel far to meet, courtesy of the many opportunities to use digital media for this! Might this help to keep balance in our lives, to spot tell tale signs of burnout, to prevent any feelings of isolation? We’re told by Paul to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). Maybe this is an aspect of the life of faith online we should give serious attention to. I’d be interested to see what response there is to my pre-retreat musings.

So now I shall pack my bags and head off to a remote retreat house with no internet access and poor mobile phone connection! Thankfully connection with God needs no medium to facilitate it.

Ailsa Wright

About Ailsa Wright

Lay Pastor of Anglicans of Second Life, teacher, counsellor. Living in Wakefield in West Yorkshire, England.