Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!


I couldn't help but use the blurb from the old Ronco Veg-O-Matic ad for this one. Many of you remember this post from last year, when I picked up on all the flap about a deacon with visual impairment using a laptop with an ornate cover for an overlay to read the Gospel. It was one of my most-read posts of 2009. The discussion on the Episcopal blogosphere was quite amazing. Many news sites and blogs had picked up the story of how she could more easily proclaim the Gospel with the larger font she could put on her laptop. Opinions ranged from "You go, girl!" to "She's breaking the Canons." All in all, though, it was a healthy discussion.

Well, by the Grace of God and with the consent of the people of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey, that deacon, Stephanie Shockley, is now a priest. The photo above shows that her laptop has also earned its new stole and chasuble, so to speak. She is using her laptop as the altar book and my understanding is that it is now rigged with a foot switch for easy hands-free scrolling so that she can do the Eucharistic prayer seamlessly with both hands doing all the things the priest's hands are supposed to be doing at the Holy Table.

Others might feel differently, but I believe there was a special kind of rejoicing in Heaven Sunday, June 20, even greater than when a newly ordained priest ordinarily does that wonderful "First Mass." I truly do. And what she has done to get to this place gives me hope that the core document of faith of the Episcopal Church--our Book of Common Prayer--can be even more portable than ever before. It allows us to "do church" in more ways than we have yet imagined.

When I heard of her upcoming ordination, I sat and played with my iBCP application on my iPad. I thought about how it would be possible for a person to lead worship with it, with no flipping of pages, no muss, no fuss, no trying to flip stuck pages. I thought of how "the Eucharist is the Eucharist," whether is in a cathedral or a small parish, in a church or a foxhole, indoors or outdoors. I thought of how all it now takes is a smart phone or an iPad. Where can our collective church imaginations take us with this realization? Who knows!

I think a short prayer is in order here:

Almighty God, to whom nothing is impossible,
we give thanks for your servant Stephanie
and for the unique journey that she has taken
simply because she desired to proclaim God's word
to the best of her ability.

Open our eyes to the wonder of where technology
can begin to proclaim God's word
in places we cannot even dream of yet.
Insert in our conscious minds prophetic dreams yet to be dreamed
and mission fields yet to be discovered through the power of discovery.

Grant that Stephanie's ministry continues to be one
of faithfulness to you, and quiet persistence to do your will.
Grant that we be led to similar ministries of our own,
whether lay or ordained.
We ask these things in the name of your son Jesus Christ,
who was not afraid to show his own faithfulness and persistence.

AMEN.

9 comments:

I was just reading on a RC blog about priests putting the missal/lectionary on iPads and the uproar from some was amazing. I wanted to tell them about this priest, but I think we'd have an entirely different argument then.

But really, what's more important: having your minister be able to read the service or stumbling through it on paper that doesn't meet their needs? It's the same text and she took steps to make it look liturgically appropriate. The three-ring binders that surface from time to time at my parish make me cringe much more than a laptop for someone with a legitimate need.

I have had the privilege and pleasure of serving with Stephanie for three years (as subdeacon, minister of ceremonies, altar guild, and plain old parishioner). Stephanie will be a terrific priest because God has given her many gifts to be used in that area. True, her creativity in having her visual impairment not impede her service to God, or the flow of a church service, is laudable. The way she has overcome adversity in her own life and prejudice about her abilities is inspiring. I like your blog post, esp. the prayer, but want to say: please let us applaud this woman priest for all the gifts with which God has graced her. She is compassionate, perceptive, a graceful listener with a strong spiritual compass, and a good preacher. I, too, thank God for Stephanie Shockley, and in ways that have nothing to do with technology. Amen and amen. (I am serving as subdeacon on the right in this picture.)

Absolutely, Susan! Personally, I think of the laptop as the "catalyst" as in a chemical reaction. A catalyst does not chemically change the reaction itself, it merely enhances what is already there. I am sure she already has the "right stuff" for the reaction in every sense of the word.

The part I find exciting is that the same technology that is used for her in one way, might be used in a very different but equally exciting way with any of us, whether we are of 20/20 vision or 20/200 vision. I think all of us need enhanced "vision" there!

P.S. Glad to meet another person in the picture!

I am sure that folks were upset when priests had to stop praying extemporaneously and memorize and finally devolve into reading the eucharist.....

Go Stephanie!!! I think that is SO wonderful!

Kirkepiscatoid,
Hello, nice to meet you too. Your blog posts are generally gracious. I just wanted to make sure we didn't lose the whole person/woman/priest/Stephanie behind the altar book.
peace and all good, Susan V.DaP.

Not a chance of her being "lost" when we are talking about such an awesome individual, from what I understand...;-)...

I think that it's probably time for me (Stephanie Shockley) to comment on all the comments about me and my MacBook!

Thank you for the congratulations and best wishes, and for featuring the story about my MacBook on your blog. I'm also grateful for Susan's post, both because it has been a delight to serve with her in a variety of capacities over the past three years, and because I truly appreciate what she said. I am definitely glad I was able to come up with a technology solution that allowed me to preside at the Eucharist. Incidentally, I also have the iBCP on my iPhone and refer to it frequently, along with multiple translations of the Bible, the lectionary calendar, etc. I think iPads are amazing but they're not as accessible to those with limited vision as a MacBook.

To return to the discussing Susan's comment, while I support the use of technology to enhance our ministry, the MacBook as altar book is, for me at least, a somewhat less important detail of my recent ministry. It is, as kirkepiscatoid suggested, best thought of as a catalyst, or perhaps a tool, a way to get something done or make something happen, a means to an end. I don't necessarily want to be "known" for that particular detail of my ministry, and yet it is something rather unusual. This is something I wrestle with in a larger way. I don't want to be know as the visually impaired priest, and yet I am aware that sometimes that reality opens doors for people to view me as approachable in a unique way.

I spent most of the past year working as a hospital chaplain. My day to day clinical work focused on two medical units. My patient population mostly consisted of those dying of cancer, those with complications of HIV/AIDS, and sometime those who fell into both categories. I also handled a lot of crisis/death calls in the ER and ICU. Through the grace of God and with lots and lots of help from the Holy Spirit I cared for hundreds of patients, including 4 dozen patients and their families at the time of death. My patients rarely asked about my visual impairment, and yet I often knew that they were aware of it. Perhaps it made me more real, or accessible; perhaps it helped them get past the collar. Maybe they sensed, somehow, that I am all too aware of what it feels like to be different, to face stigma, or to have other react in strange ways to the reality of your life. I'm not sure, but what I do know is that I spent most of my time talking with people who had never met a clergy member before, or with people who had been rejected by organized religion long ago.

I consider that work - bringing the presence of God, the love of God, the compassion of God, the mercy of God - to those who find themselves on the margins, to those who are afraid, to those who feel rejected, to those who are stigmatized, to those who the world forgets - to be one of the central themes of my ministry. It's not about being visually impaired; I don't have any particular interest in working with the visually impaired. Instead it's about using something of the understanding gained through my own experiences to connect with others who need to know that God is loves them.

I reached the comment character limit and so I'm submitting a second comment...

Since we are talking here about ways to use a laptop, or any technology, in ministry, I will tell you a story about where chaplaincy and the use of the laptop intersect. There are very few details in this story, for reasons of confidentiality, but I think it is powerful nevertheless. I have posted it elsewhere (such as on Facebook back in March) but I will re-post it here:

"As many of you know, I use my Macbook as a Gospel book because the print is way too small to read in the regular books designed for that purpose. On Friday morning I had a chance to use my computer for a purpose every bit as sacred.

I have a young patient who has recently experienced a devastating hearing loss due to a life-threatening medical condition. The only way to communicate with the patient is to scribble on a notepad. This seemed completely inadequate - much too slow - for a pastoral conversation. With the patient's permission, I decided to use my laptop instead of writing by hand. I sat in a chair close to the bed, facing the same direction as the patient, so the screen could be read over my shoulder.

For over an hour we carried on a conversation; I typed, and the patient talked. It was undoubtedly one of the most profound experiences I've ever had as a chaplain. At the end of the conversation the patient gave me permission to pray, and so I typed the prayer. I wasn't sure at first if it felt like a "real" prayer to my patient. When I typed "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" and the patient made the sign of the cross, I knew the answer."

Stephanie+

Thanks for making an appearance (much as you did on my post a year ago, Stephanie+!

Here is what is interesting to me in terms of many forms of technology...there are many times that the only way technology gets introduced in certain settings and accepted more globally is if the technology gets introduced with a certain humanitarian bend to it.

I recall much of the blog discussions a year ago regarding the rubrics and using a laptop. I remember thinking in that "what if?" way, "What if I were a deacon and I had wanted to do that, simply because I was a geek?" A generic techno-geek would have had a much harder battle for "street cred," I think, than someone who actually needs the technology do do what she/he has to do.

I wonder sometimes what discussion went on when churches moved from scrolls to hand-printed vellum-paged books, or from those to mass-produced books with movable type. "Let the people have books! OMG! It's just not done!"

Your story from March is incredibly moving. What a holy moment that must have been.

Sometimes I daydream about "the Episcopal church when I am an ancient old fogey." I keep thinking if we plan on having millenials IN the church, on our vestries, participating in worship, we have to start being experimental and evangelistic-minded about what our personal digital technology and where and how it can be used in our lay and ordained ministries. Stuff that makes that laptop "old school," even!

I think the simple act of people seeing your laptop ON THE ALTAR and appearing "normal" can be the first thing to get those dreams started. To see the variety of ways your laptop is used in your day-to-day ministry does that too. Then it becomes not just "your" laptop, but a bunch of them...or iPhones/iPads/Droids/Blackberries...where can the church now reach that could not be reached before?

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I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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