“A Cathedral is an immersive experience of faith formation, with the images, architecture, people, music, and ritual all serving to form those who enter that space. Part of the genius of Cathedrals is the way they affect and shape us simply by being inside them. Even as you trace a particular stone carving with your finger, stare up at a certain stained glass window, walk a labyrinth, or listen to a guided audio tour, the environment of the Cathedral itself is shaping you” (Keith Anderson, The DiGiTAL CATHEDRAL: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World. [New York: Morehouse Publishing, 2015], 166).
Keith Anderson uses the Cathedral as a metaphor to explore how ministry might be renewed in the twenty-first century. Rather using than bricks and mortar, programs or flow charts, he builds a new vision for ministry utilizing relationships as a foundation, local neighborhoods and social media platforms to create THE DiGiTAL CATHEDRAL. While an advocate for utilizing technology, Anderson never sees it as a substitute or replacement for physical interaction and relationship building. Rather, he uses social media as a means to help foster friendships, networks and conversations. He offers a nice reflection on a new friendship he made while doing his research, “We met on Twitter.”
It is widely accepted that levels of participation continue to decline among traditional religious institutions in the West. Anderson recasts shifting demographics as an opportunity to be the church “in Cathedral” (by which he means “in relationship” with those around us as we point to God together), “Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5).
“When we engage with friends and followers on digital media, we are affirming the ordinary and pointing to the God at the heart of our daily lives and our relationships. When we exercise Incarnational leadership and imagination, we help people to see their entire lives as ‘in Cathedral,’ with its continual mash-up of the humble and sublime and we invite them to experience the mundane routines of the daily lives as a divine liturgy. In of all this, we are helping people to see their lives – their whole lives – as God does; holy, sacred, and precious. This stance and practice of ministry leadership is essential for the church to reclaim for the sake of our people” (Anderson, THE DiGiTAL CATHEDRAL, 109).
Throughout THE DiGiTAL CATHEDRAL, Anderson acts as our tour guide “in Cathedral”, not of sites per se, but of those spiritual stones being carefully placed: in Canterbury, New York City, Washington, Morningside Heights, St. Paul, San Francisco, Ambler, St. Louis, Boston, Norwich, Rome, Woburn, Gonzales, Timonium, Monroe, Hammonassett State Park, Camp Calumet, Rochester, Medford, Newtown, Los Angeles, Cambridge, Oxford, Phoenix, Atlanta, Seattle, Brooklyn, Marshfield, Omaha, Allentown, Paris, Hingham, Kirkland, Northhampton, Denver, Monte Cassino, Taize, ChristChurch, though smartphones, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google, Pinterest, Tumblr, at home, the child’s nursery, the kitchen sink, the table, the farmers market, Panera Bread, places we exercise, nature, the veterinarian’s office, schools, the brew pub, coffee shops, “St. Arbucks” other third places in the neighborhood, and all the other social networks in which we connect and relate to the world.
Anderson highlights the uniqueness of each “living stone” as if showcasing the beauty of an altarpiece, a stained-glass window, a carving or sculpture in a Cathedral. After such an impressive tour, one is left with hope for the church and an eagerness to engage others in new ways. THE DiGiTAL CATHEDRAL helps stir the imagination to engage anew one’s own context, to see the sacred in the ordinary, the giftedness of each individual, and the promise of Incarnation in community. His prose is entertaining and inspired. Having known him for years, I can hear his encouraging voice clearly in the storytelling and it left me longing for more.
When I first heard of this project I imagined the intended audience as clergy, congregational leaders, seminarians, denominational officials and church planters. After reading it I would recommend this book to any person of faith who wants to make a difference in the world. I think it would be great to share this resource with congregation leadership teams as well as new member classes, with people who have a vested interest in helping their faith communities thrive as well as those who are seeking or are disenfranchised by their experiences with “religion.”
What Anderson facilitates in this book is a fresh way of having a conversation where we stop blaming, shaming and feeling deflated by the latest church participation survey numbers and instead seek new ways to benefit one another right here and now – whether it is online, in person, or in combination. We are invited to be “in Cathedral” together, wherever we are.
I think I’ll Facebook message him and let him know.