If you have been following Daily Theology these past few weeks, you have seen that several members of our DT community have had the rare opportunity to share some time together. During the week of Pentecost, Leo Guardado, Christine E. McCarthy, and Meg Stapleton Smith traveled together to El Salvador to witness the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero. Over the course of their pilgrimage, they wrote powerful posts reflecting on this shared experience. I encourage you to read them. The following weekend, seven of us–myself, Brian Flanagan, Kevin Johnson, Katharine Mahon, Stephen Okey, John Slattery, and Andrew Staron–attended the College Theology Society’s (CTS) annual conference in Portland, Oregon. (Brian, Steve, and John each wrote posts reflecting on their experiences of blogging and engaging with others online.) And we have several more contributors participating in other conferences with the the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS) and Catholic Theology Society of America (CTSA). Keep an eye out for future posts!
Reading the posts from El Salvador and being with my fellow DT contributors at CTS led me to pause and reflect on how grateful and humbled I am to be part of a community of such dedicated scholars and ministers. My DT colleagues and friends—many of whom I see only once or twice a year if I am lucky and some I still have yet to meet in person—inspire me to be a better teacher, a better theologian, and a better Christian. I have also been reminded just how far reaching this community really is, going well beyond DT’s twenty contributors.
During the CTS conference last week six of us participated in a panel discussion titled “Blogging in An Unexpected Wilderness.” Gathered together in one room, we shared our insights on the benefits, challenges, and joys of being part of the Catholic blogging world with other curious scholars. To be in that room, you would have thought the six of us spend ample of amounts of time together, but in actuality, only two of the contributors present at the conference live in the same city. And while a few DT contributors are longtime friends, the majority of us have only become colleagues and friends through our involvement with the blog. We interact with each other the same way many of our readers interact with us—through our posts, facebook, comments, and tweets. Yet, there was a palpable connection between those of us on the panel as we talked about our individual experiences with blogging. Much of our rather organic (read: improvised) presentation focused on the benefits of being part of a blogging community like DT and how we encourage and support one another in the rather lonely existence that is scholarly life. As much as writing for DT has made us better ministers, theologians, and writers, so too has reading, commenting on, and sharing our colleagues’ posts. Each of us agreed that as members of a rather competitive, dog-eat-dog academic culture, being a part of a community like DT offers a space for collaboration—and in turn, this collaboration fosters the kind of creativity and risk-taking that thoughtful and honest theological scholarship demands. And as John Slattery wisely stated, blogging keeps us “tied to the earth—tied to theological topics that make sense, that are concrete, that apply to life together as a community of believers.”
This post is not solely intended to be a shameless blog-promotion (but, seriously, do tell your friends to check out Daily Theology and other blogs such as Catholic Moral Theology, Dating God, Women in Theology, and The Jesuit Post). Nor is it solely intended to be a sort of group-congratulatory post (but, seriously, my DT friends are pretty awesome). It is also intended to point out that there is something at work here, something that goes far beyond our humble blogging efforts. It is something akin to the Holy Spirit and it deserves theological reflection. The Feast of Pentecost, which we celebrated two weeks ago, commemorates how the Holy Spirit sent the disciples off into the world. After three years of eating, traveling, squabbling, laughing, and weeping together, these friends were told that the time had come to leave the safety of the upper room and the physical proximity of one another. Who knows just how often they all got to be together after that. Scripture gives us some clues and it doesn’t seem that it was very often. Yet the Holy Spirit remained the tie that binds. And she remains that everlasting tether today, holding us—all of us—together. The Holy Spirit is the source of our baptismal bond and shared commitment to the Gospel. After reading those powerful posts from Leo, Christine, and Meg and after getting to spend some time with my beloved colleagues discussing theology, current events, and pop culture while breaking bread and drinking wine together, I am convinced more than ever that the Holy Spirit can certainly work through this rather ambiguous public platform we call a blog. Certainly, as these past few weeks have shown me, our community benefits from seeing each other in person. And there is no doubt that all of our gadgets and many forms of social media can become distractions, disconnecting us from our daily lives and relationships. But, as Steve Okey pointed out so eloquently in his latest post, they also provide avenues to enhance our relationships, expand our communities, and encourage us to become a more knowledgeable and faithful people. For where two or three are gathered in His name–even around the computer screen–Christ is there in their midst.