March 17, 2012

Due for a Change or Maybe Complete Transformation

O Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going,
I do not see the road ahead of me,
I cannot know for certain where it will end.

from a prayer by Thomas Merton
The "I" in this well-know prayer by Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, should really be "we" and "we" refers to @virtual_abbey.

We always go through a major something during Lent. We began during Lent 2009, when founding Abbess, Raima Larter (@raimalarter), decided to tweet the Daily Office as a Lenten discipline. A community formed; the prayer team expanded. We got onto Facebook during that Advent and started this blog. By then, we had ~ 1,900 followers and had launched nearly 14,000 tweets into the Twitterverse.

During Lent 2010, we entered into another discernment process about our structure and our mission. I was voted in as Abbess. Our prayer team shifted a bit and grew, as did what we offered.

Observers, like Tami Heim (@tamiheim) noticed what we were doing and added our story to, @StickyJesus: How to Live Out Your Faith Online, her book with Toni Birdsong (@tonibirdsong). Carol Howard Merritt (@carolhoward), author of Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation, invited me to talk about our growth and challenges on God Complex Radio.

And then came Lent 2011. And another discernment process. Did we want me to continue? What did we want to do about prayer team attrition?  (You can track the history of our conversations by review posts tagged " announcements.")

Now, it's Lent 2012 and while we have come to consensus about where we are as a prayer team, we have no idea how@virtual_abbey will survive on Twitter. Over 4,000 followers and more than 50,000 tweets later, we're in advanced burnout mode. Still, about this we are sure: praying the Daily Office satisfies a spirit-and-heart filled need for this enduring, structured prayer form.

While we may be a virtual abbey, we're also a real community of real people who, despite our love (and sometimes deep craving) for monastic life, have secular roles and responsibilities. We love and support one another online and off. At this point, most of us have met IRL (in real life). Still, we're tired. Tapped out. Did I mention advanced burnout?

In virtual reality, three years is an admirably long time for a virtual community to thrive and survive. Will  @virtual_abbey continue? Should it?  If so, we need your help. What would that look like? Only God -- and perhaps you -- know the answer to that!  Options include transferring the accounts and tweeting responsibilities to another informal or even formal group...letting it fade into Great Silence...or?

Here's how you can help:

  • Put your proposals into a comment on this blog.
  • Communicate with us via DM to @meredithgould.
  • Participate or lurk on the #pttalk chat on Twitter this Thursday, March 22 from 11:00 AM-noon ET, where I'll be twinterviewed by folks at the Presbytery of Twitter about virtual communities of real faith in general and the @virtual_abbey in particular.

Will you help guide us? We're open to whatever is next. Thanks be to God!


Jim Kane said...

Perhaps a sabbatical after Lent is in order. This could allow for prayerful discernment by current leadership and those who care about VA.

Meredith Gould said...

Like the idea of a sabbatical leave. Seven weeks? Seven months? Would be interesting to see what, if anything, emerges. Meanwhile, thank you for your support, love, participation, and virtual coffee over the years!

Anastacia said...

Having been where you are several times in the past 15 years, I have no great *specific* suggestion, yet wanted to share something I live by...

Wherever you see two options, choose the third--that's where all the magic is.

Bliss Spillar said...

I like the idea of maybe selecting a few people t

hat are trusted to share the burden. Other options may include posting the prayers in their entirety to a blog and then simply tweet when we are to begin the prayer.... just knowing that their are hundreds of others praying at the same time would be wonderful.

With anything like this, a sabbatical is occasionally needed. We need both seasons of Martha ministry but also Mary ministry. Take some time to just sit at Christ's feet as you have helped many of us do the same.

Cura Animarum said...

Hi Meredith!

I know I've been out of the loop for awhile. Attrition and burnout are indeed the biggest challenges - I should know! I love the idea of a sabbatical. What about a sabbatical period built into the schedule as in the OT - every 7 weeks or 7 months or something like that there is a time of rest - not rest from actual prayer of course but rest from tweeting for the team. I don't know how long a Sabbath it might be, I guess the members would be better able to say how much of a break they need before entering into the prayer ministry again.

Still think about and pray for you all!

Anonymous said...

I miss u