DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Globalization to Mobilization and the New Media

Written by: on February 15, 2014

Just before leaving the house my wife reminded me that I should steer clear of Independence Square.  So much for wifely advice.  Not that I do not take her words seriously, she has a tendency to allow her protectionist and motherly instincts take over if there is even a hint of threat.  I was in a taxi on the way to my friends apartment within forty five minutes of deplaning, almost a record!  Thirty minutes later and I was having coffee in his apartment.  We were catching up on all things ministry and I was answering questions about the recent happenings in America including the Super Bowl for which he showed a heightened interest.  The more we sat and talked the more my sixteen hour over night travel began to take its toll on my eye lids.  He noticed and suggested we take an excursion.  Yes, you guessed it!  20 minutes and two metro changes later and we were in Independence Square. I stopped for a minute to do a mental checklist, going through my recent visual ethnography input and all thinks sensory.  I did not want to miss the sounds, smells, and sights of this evolving historical event that is representative, in my opinion, of the post Soviet Union block countries to retain some sense of freedom despite the economic pressures to adjust to the various globalized powers preferences to promote a trail of resources.  You would think that the sights would be the first blow to my senses but it was the wood smoke.  It was a cold damp day with a bit of breeze blowing, the kind of winter day that even an average winter temperature cuts right through your clothing.  Wood fires in piles and in burn barrels were set up everywhere spewing forth their dark blue and sometimes black clouds of smoke.  The smell of wood burning was mixed with the smell of food cooking in large pots over some of the fires filled with soups and stews. The entire length of the square was cordoned off by the protesters who blockaded the ends of the square with large bags filled with snow and then soaked with water which quickly froze into solid walls as hard as concrete.  They set up their own security officials to turn away anyone who looked like they may just want to start trouble and also those whose thirst had turned to drunkenness.  Burned out vehicles littered one section of the square and pictures of fallen protesters with candle lined memorials were stationed around where they had fallen for the cause of freedom. There were all ages in the square and both Ukrainian and Russian languages could be heard.  My friend pointed and explained the various points of interest, the burned vehicles, the overtaken buildings, the port-a-potties, the kitchen tents, the tents representing the various city contingents from around Ukraine, the kiosks selling protest memorabilia, and the prayer tent.  As we approached the prayer tent we could smell a brew of oatmeal and sausage (that is what it smelled like to me).  The volunteers were handing out cups of this mixture which was quite good!  My friend and I entered the little prayer tent and prayed for peace.  Outside again we talked to a few friends who recognized my friend and I actually was approached by two people who recognized me from ministry engagements during the past year! As we began our return to my friend’s flat I began to think about how so many protesters were quickly mobilized and how all the infrastructure was being managed.  They did not have an office building with super computers and an administrative staff to coordinate the resources like food, blankets, waste removal, trash collection, and other important activities.  But they did have cell phones and the internet.  This is the age of new media!  Not only is the new media facilitating the protest activity, it is also providing the venue for lament.  There are some Facebook entries that are pleading to God for justice and peace and not denying their rebellious and selfish sinfulness, but asking for grace and mercy. Only a few churches are ‘online’ in Ukraine though many have parishioners who are active in social media.  But the recent protest has opened the eyes of many churches to the power of the new media and I believe many are rethinking their stand on it’s use.  They are being forced to apply theological thinking to areas that they are not used to dealing with and this is stretching their intellectual and theological thinking capacities.  This protest movement has given way to the establishment of a virtual amalgamation of various churches and organizations that is online, accessible, and serves as a sort of faith community.  These virtual worlds are seeping into traditional churches and the more ‘pop’ expressions of faith. The one hazard of this political protest is to see the mixing of political, social, and religious cultures to the extent that certain groups are being identified as christian because of their allegiances to certain political ideologies.  This is not beneficial for the gospel.  My observation of the engagement of the churches in Ukraine, however, is that they are taking the ‘high’ road and avoiding the various ethnic and economic allegiances.  They are, instead, proclaiming the peace of God that comes from the gospel, inviting people to walk with God in the midst of this revolution, and proclaiming the value of human dignity and freedom. The man who is a leader for the prayer tent has shared that many have committed their lives to Christ after hearing the gospel at the prayer tent.  I am encouraged that the gospel is penetrating this place and this people!

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David Toth

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