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Better Get Yourself a Tech Chaplain

Shamika Goddard

Shamika Goddard is the tech chaplain at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

So my former sparring partner, (the conservative) Rod Dreher, caught wind of new job at (the liberal) Union Theological Seminary: tech chaplain. He thought it a fairly ridiculous position, and he mocked it on his blog.

Then that chaplain, Shamika Goddard, responded with a thoughtful post that Rod posted on his blog. In explaining the pragmatic potency of her role at the seminary, she wrote:

Since officially starting as a tech chaplain in January of 2014, at least one third of the Union community (students, faculty, staff, and alumnae) has taken advantage of drop in hours, one on one appointments, or workshops ranging on topics from Inbox Zero (systematically decluttering one’s inbox) and Google Apps training to Curating Your Digital Self (strategically managing professional web presence across social media platforms).

But it’s not just pragmatic, it’s also deeply theological. Goddard’s essay really gets good when she reflects on just how her work with students and faculty on their tech issues intersects with deeper issues of life and meaning. She writes of a factory worker, Rosa, on the Texas-Mexico border who lost both hands while building LG flat-screen TVs. She writes of the power of womanist theology in framing her own experience of God as a woman of color.

I think what Dreher found, at least judging by his brief comments at the end of his post, is that something he thought worthy of contemptuous mocking might actually be a bit more thoughtful and Christian than he’d assumed.

I’ve worked in seminaries both evangelical and liberal, and I will say unequivocally that the mainline/liberal seminaries struggle with tech — both the personal tech of email and data and the online tech of social media. (It’s why I ran social media boot camps for clergy and seminary personnel for many years.) It seems to me clear that Goddard’s role at Union likely ameliorates some of the stress that students and faculty feel around tech, freeing them up to engage more deeply in the theological work to which they are called.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”via @jonestony”]More seminaries should follow Shamika Goddard’s example and appoint a tech chaplain.[/inlinetweet]

Final words here go to Goddard herself, from her post:

While I recognize that the path God has put me on is fraught with contentious and divisive situations and sentiments, I hold fast to stories of hope and glimpses of how things can and are getting better. My views may differ from others here on American Conservative, but we are all gathered under the name of Christ Jesus and in that I am thankful. I send out my peace and welcome with a fervent hope that here the dust can remain firmly against my feet.



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