January 9, 2013

Pray it Forward, FB-style

You’ve probably seen the posts by now about the pay-it-forward movement on Facebook.

“The first five people to comment on this status will receive from me, sometime in the next year, a gift - perhaps a handmade item, some baked goods, a candle or some other surprise. There will be no warning; it will happen when the mood strikes me. Inbox me your address if I don't already have it! The catch is the first five to respond must post this message on their Facebook page and make the same offer.”

Social media is a strange creature, telling us far more sometimes than we want to know (I really don’t care about the color, texture or velocity of a child’s vomit). Sometimes it creates rifts: my husband’s great-uncle recently unfriended both of us. Facebook is not a good medium for him – he comes across spiteful, angry and bigoted, so perhaps the unfriending is a blessing.

But there is also a real power in the way it connects people. Birthday blessings are fun, but it’s also a privilege to offer prayers for the high school friend whose 18-year-old niece died unexpectedly.

The pay-it-forward movement is interesting because it offers an opportunity for us to show our best selves. A random and unexpected kindness is a gift from God. It can transform a day, strengthen a relationship and build community. It offers a chance for us to be gracious receivers and generous givers.

I wonder if a congregation or a diocese could participate. It might be fun for a congregation to start with one person giving to another a small gift or note of encouragement and a pledge to pray for daily for the other, with the request that the recipient do the same thing for another parishioner. What would it be like if every person in the congregation was touched in 2013 by a random act of kindness? How would it impact our commitment to each other and to regular worship, knowing that someone was actively thinking and praying for us?

We could share the stories on our church’s Facebook page, perhaps building some excitement and momentum. And other friends, not affiliated with our church or maybe struggling to find a spiritual home, would see one way in which we are Christians by our love.

Enough talk. Now for the fun part: The first five people to comment on this blog will receive from me, sometime in the next year, a gift. E-mail me your address (snail or electronic, your choice). The catch: make this a vital practice movement. Post a link to this blog on your Facebook page and see if others might embrace the opportunity.

Let’s make praying it forward a vital practice, of our churches and our lives.