Zoom does not lie. Zoom is humbling. I am Zoomed out. Zoom fatigue. I have the Zoomies. These are a few phrases and sentiments I’ve heard in recent days. Likely, you have heard similar statements in this age of virtual everything. I’ve come to call them zevelations — as in, Zoom-revelations. My latest zevelation is that I do, in fact, look like my mother. Zoom does not lie, after all. Since mid-March I have taught a mid-week Bible study, had countless meetings, celebrated the publication of a friend’s book, marked a graduation, had family gatherings and participated in a board meeting, all virtually. None of these events is the same as being physically in the same space, but all of them are valuable.
One zevelation that sticks with me is the equalizing effect of those small squares. No one takes up more than their allotted space. There is no status reflected in the seating arrangement. It is both easier and harder to fade into the background and distract one’s self with alternate technology. In one large meeting I was struck that the normally formal group seemed less so, sitting in their kitchen or bedroom with an occasional pet cameo to further obliterate any perceived meeting decorum. I like seeing the art on people’s walls, the books on their shelves, the way they respond to an errant child or partner wandering into the frame.
We cannot readily separate our personal and professional personas in our virtual world. I think there is something faithful about this Zoom truth. We cannot curate our image in the ways we might in social media posts or in real, live meetings. The president of the company’s school-age child does not care that she is meeting with the board; the stuffy professor’s dog is oblivious to the lecturer’s gravitas. All of us are at the mercy of the frozen screen or the unstable internet connection.
I am going to miss being in Baltimore for General Assembly with a wide swath of my Presbyterian family. I’ll miss collecting swag from the exhibit hall and bumping into old friends in the hotel lobby. I regret we cannot be literal hands and feet on the streets of the city. I wish we could have worshipped in the large convention hall. However, I am grateful we will be together, even if virtually. I am thankful for all the people who know how to make such meetings happen. (Another zevelation is the fact that I rely a lot on those with gifts and skills I do not possess.) I know much of the business that was to come before the 224th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will have to wait until 2022 for any official action, nonetheless I am confident the mission those overtures represented will continue no matter what. The church, we have seen, is resilient in finding ways to serve.
As we tackle the “critical and core” business of our denomination, my hope is that this virtual reality will enable more people to engage with GA. I believe that even though much is lost in this way of gathering, there are gifts in it too. Maybe it will humanize the process, demystify the decision makers, allow us to see that the larger church is not out there, but right here in our living rooms. Perhaps we will learn that there is no division between Louisville and Lancaster, but that we are in fact, one Body of Christ, called and sent to be God-bearers in the world. I pray we’ll be gentle with one another over not only the course of this virtual GA, but in the challenging months still before us. No doubt, the screen will freeze, the internet connection will be unstable, those running the meetings will need some directions here and there and commissioners will be confused about the voting process. None of this will stop the movement of the Holy Spirit. God’s revelations are not squelched by our limitations, and surely there will be some overlap between God’s will and our work if we ask for some divine intervention. I’ve noticed – had a zevelation really – that when we humbly attempt to do a new thing for God, God does a new, good thing through us.
Grace and peace,