That’s what my friend and colleague David Reed calls us.
As more and more people across the U.S. and around the world take measures to reduce how fast and how far the novel coronavirus spreads, suddenly it seems the whole world is turning to Zoom. This brainchild of Silicon Valley’s Eric Yuan might be growing faster even than the number of new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
If you do not already use this tool, here’s a little background. Launched in 2011, Zoom is a way of using the internet to support voice and/or video calls between people using all kinds of devices, all over the planet. During its first decade, Zoom was largely a tool for businesses and for universities. Organizations pulled teams of people together “in cyberspace,” with very little need for additional expense or training in the technology. (Note: for some folks, the distance between “very little” and “no” can be… challenging!) Professors and students gathered in “virtual classrooms” for discussions, lectures and demonstrations.
I had used other, similar, internet communication tools in the past. But I was delighted to encounter Zoom when I began to teach online in the Spanish-language Master of Theological Studies program that is a joint venture of Palmer Seminary, International Ministries, the American Baptist Home Mission Societies and several Latin American seminaries. For me, Zoom has become a critically-important tool as I work with pastors, church leaders and students throughout the Americas, seeking to help us all grow in our ability to interpret Scripture. In five decades of face-to-face teaching, I had developed a style that thrives on dialogue, on the kind of back-and-forth interaction that helps learning to be a joint effort of both professor and student. As I entered the world of online education, I was grateful to encounter a tool that would support such interaction, at least for smaller class sizes. It quickly became the dynamic central meeting-place for my work with online students.
This tool of business and higher education is suddenly becoming one of the go-to coping strategies for the increasing number of us who are “social distancing,” “sheltering in place,” or in “lockdown,” in so many parts of the U.S., and in so many countries around the world. Family reunions are absolutely not the same on Zoom, but it is a way of doing something to overcome the isolation so essential for slowing down the coronavirus. From little kids to octogenarians, we are all getting used to hearing and seeing each other on the screens of computers, tablets and phones. Zoom supports these interactions when the number of folks in a conversation expands beyond the limits of FaceTime, WhatsApp and similar tools.
Last night our small group at Royersford Baptist Church conducted its second regular gathering on Zoom. Members of the group found it so easy to use that they immediately began organizing their own virtual family “gatherings” this way, and “entered” last night’s conversation full of joy at what they had experienced.
And that, really, is the point of this little communication. I am happy to be an unpaid promoter for the use of this tool. But what I am really committed to is overcoming isolation. What Yahweh said about the guy in the garden is true for us all, regardless of gender or location. We thrive as we connect with one another. We are all different in just how much and what kind of connectedness we want or need. But we were made for each other, even as we were made to reflect—to image—the Three-in-one God. So, even as keeping people alive and well demands that we stay apart, we long to come together. I am grateful for all the tools that God has given human beings the intelligence and creativity to produce, tools that can be put at the service of love and mutual encouragement.
You may or may not have become part of Generation Zoom. Whatever the restrictions you are using to protect others and yourself, and whatever the tools you are using to overcome isolation, I pray that the Lord will give you grace, strength, wisdom and patience, as we all work together… apart!!
P.S. As people and companies seek to help each other during the COVID-19 crisis, artists are freely sharing some of their creative work. This song, “Far Apart… Together,” by Gary Burr (songwriter for several famous musicians) is one you might enjoy and want to share. (It is being made available for use in campaigns and promotions by MegatraxMusic—so, to get a free license to use it, click here.
P.P.S. Just for fun: Laughter is another vitally important way human beings cope with overwhelming challenges. I am excited about Zoom, but anyone who has experienced online business meetings knows that the tools have not always worked so well, as in this classic, “A Conference Call In Real Life.”
P.P.P.S. If you have not already been introduced to Zoom and want to learn more about this helpful tool, go to: https://zoom.us/
P.P.P.P.S. I have been deeply touched by the generosity of folks in the midst of the gut-wrenching–and for many, life-shattering–economic crisis that has been provoked by the measures taken to stem the tide of COVID-19. (The plunge would have been slower, but far deeper and longer-lasting, had such measures not been taken.) Thank you for making this ministry part of what God is doing through you, even in the midst of the crisis!