Queen's College, Robert Neil Cooke

St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

To develop a theology of technology and social media that leads to the development of liturgical skills in the local church context and of ways to utilize technology and social media to strengthen the public activities of the church.

Project Summary

This research project seeks to develop a theology of technology and social media that leads to the development of liturgical skills in the local church context. The project will also focus on developing ways to utilize technology and social media to engage the wider community in theological education, liturgical praxis, homiletical aids like blogs and podcasts, as well as public theology conversations through Facebook and YouTube Live and other social media platforms.

What questions about worship and your discipline will be guiding your project?

How do we understand digital technology from a theological perspective? How do we understand essential Christian concepts like God, Spirit, Church, and incarnation in a world that is increasingly shaped by digital technology? How does digital technology help, hurt, or transform our understanding of worship? How can we reimagine the use of digital technology beyond merely live-streaming our already existing "offline" worship? What skills and leadership styles do worship leaders (ordained and lay) need in a digital world? 

How do you envision this project will strengthen the worship life of congregations?

It is my hope that this project will help congregations see the possibilities that digital technologies provides them in the enhancement of their liturgical ministries. We live in a hybrid world of both online and offline existence, and this research projects seeks to help congregations embrace digital technology as a means to complement their already existent offline worship by equipping them to enter the world of online worship. The choice is not and either or, but both and, as more and more people claim to have a multi-site reality when it comes to living out their faith. This project seeks to equip worship leaders with the necessary critical questions, skills, attitudes, and information to help congregations develop meaningful digital liturgies. This project also seeks to develop digital tools at Queen's College that can help local congregations as they explore digital worship. 

What do you expect might be your greatest challenges (or challenging opportunities)?

One challenge that we have already encountered is the negative attitude that many still seems to have toward online/digital worship. We still hear people say that online forms of worship and community are not real, as opposed to the in person worship that we are so accustomed to. To some, the migration to online worship that was brought on by the global pandemic, was just a temporary blip, and now as things get back to "normal" we will just go back to the way we always worshipped. This sentiment is especially strong in the more sacramental traditions where the Eucharist and Baptism play a central role. How can we engage in these embodied/physical rituals in a disembodied/virtual medium? The other attitude is more open to using digital technology in worship and other aspects of congregational life, but simply takes its offline/in-person content and posts it online. 

What do you hope to learn from the Grants Event and other grant recipients?

I hope that this Grants Event provides an opportunity to network and build connections with other researchers. Though I am disappointed that there will not be an in person event, it would be hypocritical of me to say that networking and relationship building cannot happen online, seeing as my research project is exploring just such connections :).  

I also hope to learn ways that I might better focus my research project so that I can the best outcomes possible from this experience and develop something that truly helps empower the church in the digital age.