Virtually Yours? Improving email communication in pastoral care Margaret Whipp [email protected] “Technology has become the architect of our intimacies” Sherry Turkle Small scale research Aims • Improving email communication • Themes and virtues for reflective practice Methods • • • • • Literature search Interviews Focus groups Email survey Observing good practice Virtual Pastors • Emerging patterns of missional communication are widely promoted and researched • Email is widely used in pastoral contexts, but under-researched • Available guidelines are defensive, relating to safe practice • Wider lessons may be drawn from similar professional groups Connectivity and its discontents Email is a powerful and seductive tool It is too easy to succumb to the fascination of technology, to deify it; humanity too easily finds itself in the service of new gods. J-N Bazin and J Cottin Critical threads • Seeking words of wisdom • Digital culture • Email composition • Pastoral challenges Critical threads: digital culture • • • • • Accessibility Screen and body languages Asynchronicity Privacy Any medium has the Permanent record power of imposing its own assumptions on the unwary. Marshall McLuhan Critical threads: email composition • • • • • • • Length and brevity Terms of address Format and tone Clarity Informal language Ending Copying and forwarding Critical threads: pastoral challenges • • • • • • • • Stewardship of time Choice of medium Email accounts Digital divides Managing conflict Deliberation Expectations of reply Safe practice Digital virtues Classic virtues Ingredients of care 1 Digital virtues Prudence Knowing Media sense Temperance Alternating rhythms Sustained attention Fortitude Courage Respect for boundaries Justice Honesty Congruence in role Faith Trust; patience Prayerful focus Hope Hope Creative depth Charity Humility Consistent courtesy 1 Mayeroff, Milton. 1990. On Caring. Gracefully yours... • Humane conversation • Hospitable conversation • Holy conversation Inasmuch as you did it to the least of these emails..... Core bibliography Bazin, Jean-Nicolas, and Jérôme Cottin. 2004. Virtual Christianity: Potential and challenge for the churches. Geneva: World Council of Churches. Howe, Mark. 2007. Online Church? First steps towards virtual incarnation. Cambridge: Grove Books. Mayeroff, Milton. 1990. On Caring. New York: HarperCollins. Original edition, 1971. Pickell, Travis. 2010. 'Thou Hast Given Me a Body': Theological anthropology and the virtual church. Princeton Theological Review (Fall 2010):67-79. Turkle, Sherry. 2011. Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Books.