The title of this post may seem strange for a blog primarily focused on issues of faith, prayer, religion, and my boring life. But bear with me.
Recently the New York Times published a fascinating series of articles on the impact of autonomous or driver-less cars and trucks. You can find it HERE. The Times looked at this technological revolution in transportation from many angles – transportation of goods, how cities will change (picture no street signs, and parking only on the perimeter of town – for the driverless cars of course), how expectations of employers may shift to include your commute time since you are not having to worry about driving. There is a lot of speculation and visioning and legalities and the like to encompass as this technology moves forward. One thing I think is for sure – it’s coming.
The one area I haven’t seen or heard anyone talk about regarding driverless cars is the church. Today in most churches programming often has to be geared around the reality that an increasing number of our parishioners don’t drive at night (or drive at all – more on that in a moment). We want to include all demographics in the things we offer, discipleship and formation, fellowship and fun, worship and service, but driving restrictions are just as difficult to, pardon the pun, navigate as are things like work schedules and child care. I currently teach a Bible study on Acts and offer the same class in the morning and in the evening, knowing neither of those times alone would attract all those interested. In fact they are attended in almost equal numbers. I would much prefer more intergenerational gatherings, but with weekends so jam packed for young families, doing so on Saturday or Sunday doesn’t really help much, and if we offer them on a weeknight we are eliminating participation from a decent number of folks whose presence would greatly enhance the event.
While driverless cars would be really wonderful in helping reduce or eliminate driving distracted or driving under the influence, I like to also consider how they could reopen church programming to a segment of faithful people who currently cannot drive at night.
In addition, every church struggles with transportation of elderly to Sunday morning worship when many of them are no longer able to drive at all. They have lost their independence and it is heart breaking when we are not able to consistently provide rides to church. I imagine a pool of parishioners with driverless cars who drop off their owners and then go pick up those who no longer have a way to church! What a difference this could make in their lives, the ability once again to go shopping, doctor appointments, visit friends, and worship
without being dependent on someone else to drive them!
Technology now exists where the home bound can watch church on their computer or TV. And that’s great. But Christianity at its core is an incarnational faith – God became one of us in the birth of Jesus. Flesh and blood contact matters. Being in the room or worship space with other believers is important, being able to attend formation classes and to participate in service ministries to others are huge aspects of discipleship. I can’t wait for the day when those who feel sidelined yet have much to contribute and a great desire to be in the midst of their fellow parishioners will be able to safely and regularly with the advent of this technology.
I say – bring it on! And hurry up! After all, we all know this technology is really not new….