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St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church PO Box 7416 • Salem, OR 97303
503-363-0601 • [email protected] • www.sainttimothys.org
From the Rector
And lead us not into…Technolatry
Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. (1 Cor. 10:14)
Idolatry—the worship of created things in the place of God—is forbidden by God’s own Commandment. Great debates have raged about how this is to be understood in Christian theology and practice (e.g. the Iconoclastic controversies of the 8th and 9th centuries, the Reformation), but suffice it to say that all true Christians—of whatever stripe—are clear in knowing that worship belongs to God alone.
However, the culture isn’t clear about this. And therein lies a problem for us all.
While some groups are trying to revive the ancient pagan religions, for the most part people know that bowing down before a statue and calling upon it to solve all our problems or give us immortality is ludicrous. Yet, when we apply the same test to our computers, and especially the promise given through the use of the Internet and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the answer seems to be quite the opposite: it’s smart to worship technology.
“Worship” is an interesting word. It can mean the reverence due to God alone (that’s how we tend to mean it in Church life). It can mean reverence for a person
of merit (“Yes, your worship”), or it can mean an extreme adulation for someone or something (“He just worships the ground she walks on” or “She worships dark chocolate”). All of these things, however, go back to a basic root meaning: the giving of worth or value.
We are currently living in a period of change not seen since the development of electricity or steam or printing or perhaps even the invention of writing. Technol- ogy (from the Greek “words/thoughts about art/craft”) is developing at a rate be- yond our comprehension…indeed, beyond our ability to adapt to it. AI’s ultimate promise seems to be the development of superintelligence, a form of intellectual capability far superior to the most intelligent human being, or superior to all hu- man beings combined. This is daunting stuff.
One of the driving forces behind our current technological explosion is the belief that, with ever more data and effective algorithms, we will eventually be able to solve all of the problems that beset us, especially illness, suffering, aging, and (finally) death itself. In an update to Genesis, the end desire is to become immor- tal through technology.
This requires, I believe, coining a new word: Technolatry, the worship of technol- ogy in the place of God.
This word needs to become familiar to us because it may well be the great ques- tion of the years ahead. If Genesis 3 tells us that the initial appeal to Eve by the serpent was that by eating the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil she would become a god, so our own era’s struggle with a new type of idola- try will force us to decide what and whom we worship, to what we give ultimate worth and value—and what being human really means.
Churches have been contending with this issue for some time now. In the 90s it was the advent of e-mail and web pages. The possibility of sending out more communication and getting more work done quickly over the computer rather than via face-to-face meetings, the US Mail, or the telephone was almost deliri- ous. But, then we started having communication log-jams and eventually, we rarely saw major leadership person-to-person—the technology had effectively taken over the relationship. Parish clergy struggle with this same problem.
In the years since, the Church has been struggling to understand how to use electronic technology in a way consistent with its core beliefs. Facebook pages, live “chat,” Twitter accounts, webinars, &c. have been tried and found useful in some ways—but wanting in others. It turns out that technology isn’t a savior (we already have one); it is a tool that must be used, not worshipped or idolized. The old, old questions of what is really worthy and valuable continue to be asked, and the basic answer remains the same.
St. Timothy’s Mission Statement gives us a clear picture of what we value the most in parochial life:
We gather to experience the Holy Trinity through Scripture, worship, study, and fellowship. Receiving and reflecting God’s love and grace, we are sent out to love and serve our neighbor, see the Christ in others, and share the Gospel by the example of our everyday lives.
The key concept here is “gathering.” It is through gathering together — when physically possible — that we enter into worship, study, fellowship, and service as a Body, not isolated individuals. Christ promised to be with us in the personal encounter found in such things as the Eucharist, not in an impersonal “download.” Keeping this clear is essential for the Church to be Church.
Insofar as technology is at the service of this basic, incarnational aspect of our faith, then technology can be helpful and beneficial to God’s mission. If it hinders, obscures, or attempts to be a substitute for that primacy of gathering and en- countering, we may well be veering towards technolatry.
Catholic Christianity is not anti-technology. Indeed, we have often benefitted greatly from various technologies (Roman roads, the book, Greek and Arab sci- entific knowledge, moveable-type printing, digital dissemination of texts, &c.). It isn’t that technology is bad: it is more a question of where it leads us and how it supports the proclamation of the creedal, saving faith.
As St. Timothy’s begins an overview of our parish’s electronic communication (web site, e-Tidings, social media), it is important for us all to understand both
the value of electronic technologies and their limitations. More than one younger member of this parish has told me that part of this community’s draw is its refusal to jump on trends or fads. Being a stick-in-the-mud isn’t helpful; but neither is breaking the Commandment and worshiping the idols of this—or any—age.
Faithfully in Christ,
The Kalendar in May Sunday Eucharist Readings: Year B; Daily Office Readings: Year 2 No fasting during Eastertide; Friday observance resumes May 25
Note: The Holy Eucharist is offered each Tuesday at 10 AM in the chapel, fol- lowed by tea and conversation in the parish library. Most weeks, we commemo- rate one of the saints on the Church Calendar. All are invited!
Sunday, May 6: The Sixth Sunday of Easter Acts 10:44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-6; John 15:9-17
Thursday, May 10: The Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 7 PM, Fr. Anthony Petrotta, Preaching Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53 Fr. Petrotta, who will be our supply priest during the rector’s sabbatical, will preach on this Principal Feast of the Church Year. After the liturgy, a reception will be offered by the rector’s family, welcoming Fr. Petrotta and his wife Pamela, and as a graduation celebration for their son, Lloyd, who finishes college and moves to Coos Bay to begin employment.
Sunday, May 13: The Seventh Sunday of Easter Acts 1:15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19 The Sunday after the Ascension partakes of one of the quietly-special occasions in the Calendar: the period between Christ’s going up to Heaven and the descent
of the Spirit. During these nine days, the disciples and other followers were told to wait in prayer. We will reflect on what that message means to us today in our active lives of discipleship.
Sunday, May 20: The Feast of Pentecost (Whitsunday) Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:25-35, 37; Romans 8:22-27; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 The 50th and final day of Eastertide, Pentecost testifies to the sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Church (as found in Acts, Chap. 2) and also makes clear that Christ’s Resurrec- tion is made whole and complete through the activation of the Church in mission. It is our custom to read the Gospel lesson in as many languages as possible on this day, and for all present to wear red, in honor of the Holy Spirit’s appearance “as divided tongues of flame.”
Sunday, May 27: The First Sunday after Pentecost – Trinity Sunday Isaiah 6:1-8; Canticle 13; Romans 8:12-17; John 3:1-17 The Sunday following Pentecost is dedicated to glorifying One God in Trinity of Persons—the Holy and Undivided Trinity. This mystery is both a joyous- ly-held teaching and an invitation to profound contemplation. In addition to spe- cial readings, hymns, and prayers, the 10 AM liturgy will conclude with the singing of a Solemn Te Deum—the ancient hymn of praise to God-in-Trinity, accompa- nied by two thuribles making visible the prayers of all God’s Holy Church.
Liturgical Notes for May
• Eastertide ends with the Day of Pentecost, also known as Whitsunday (“White Sunday,” so-named for the white baptismal garments worn by those baptized on this day; Pentecost was a favored day for baptism outdoors or in unheated churches centuries ago in northern climates) • The liturgical color for Pentecost is red (in honor of the Holy Spirit’s descent “as tongues of flame.” The color for Trinity Sunday is gold and/or white. The color for Ordinary Time (the weeks following) is green—expressive of g