May 03, 2009, 12:24 PM — In a small number of communities, church means not only putting on your Sunday best, but charging up you mobile device or laptop. That because, according to an article at Time.com, Tweeting during a service is being encouraged! The Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, MI went so far as to hold training classes on how to use Twitter and installed video screens so Tweets could be seen by everyone in the service
I can't deny the voyeur in me became quite intrigued by this idea, so I went searching.
The Westwinds Twitter account has only 89 updates, the most recent of which is from April 23rd. But some folks had twittered about heading to worship there.
The Time.com piece also mentions Mars Hill in Seattle, and a Twitter search on "Mars Hill" performed this morning at about 8:30 am Seattle time showed that people were at least Twittering about their arrival at church. And I found Pastor Jesse Winkler's account (well, one can never be sure a Twitter account belongs to the person it appears to) and he was getting ready for a service.
Someone was Tweeting snippets of the Trinity Wall Street (NY) sermon on http://twitter.com/TrinityWallSt. The 'trinity church' search pulled up lots of hits, partially because it seems the sermon is webcast and partially because 'church' and 'trinity' just show up together in a lot of tweets.
And for the last church mentioned in the article, Next Level Church outside of Charlotte, NC, I found Pastor Todd Hahn but he wasn't Tweeting about this morning's service (his last Tweet was about the Time Magazine article).
I'm not sure what I was expecting to find in all these searches, but mostly I learned that there are a lot of churches with the same name, and that church pastors are regular people who watch basketball and follow Tiger Woods.
Of course its hard to figure out how to search for Tweets from a particular church since generally it'd be the congregation that was Tweeting, not the man at the front of the house. I find myself curious as to how those screens in the Westwinds Church get only Tweets from the congregation. A hashtag? Replies to a particular account? Somewhere in the midst of this thought process I really did start feeling like a voyeur. Even though Twitter is a very public forum, it just didn't feel right to try so hard to tap into the attempt at a closed loop in the service. It felt disrespectful.
I'm not a church goer and it's been a long time since I sat in a Sunday service. Maybe my mental image of church is horribly outdated, but I find it really hard to picture pews filled with folks with laptops open, or staring at their iPhones and Blackberries Tweeting. Isn't the point of going to Sunday morning church to focus on the sermon? I wonder what other, non-Twitter-using members of the congregation think of the constant clicking and snipping of keystrokes and screen taps happening all around them?
What do you think? Is Tweeting from a church service a great way to enhance the communication within the community, or is it disrespectful to both the church and to the rest of the congregation? Please leave a comment!