Wednesday, April 26, 2000
Churches use pagers to relay prayers
By Richelle Thompson
The Cincinnati Enquirer
In some churches across the country, the Holy Spirit travels by pager.
Religious groups are meshing the stay-connected technology of 2000 with the ancient rite of prayer so they can send out good vibrations.
The program is delightfully simple: You're sick. A friend gives you a pager. It goes off. Again and again, throughout the day. Each beep, each vibration, signals another prayer sent up on your behalf.
It's a system, I swear to God, that really works, says Sister Audrey Meanor of the Most Pure Heart of Mary Church in Topeka, Kan.
All you have to do is pick up the phone and dial seven numbers, and say a Hail Mary, for gosh sakes.
Marvin Cobb, owner of the Beeper Zone in Corryville, says using pagers for prayers makes sense, even though he hasn't heard of people doing it here.
In fact, he wishes he thought of the idea first.
It could be a good sales ploy, Mr. Cobb says, laughing.
Brenda Brasher, a religion professor at Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, 40 minutes south of Cleveland, has studied the intersection of technology and spirituality since 1995.
I think pagers are one of the more innovative uses of technology, Dr. Brasher says of the trend she first noticed a year ago. What we're finding among religious groups is the desire to connect with others, to be in healing communion with others.
For the faithful, these technologies have different uses than (for) a stockbroker. They want a pager so they can know if a stock goes up a quarter point.
On the other hand, some religious groups have established high-tech prayer chains, relying on pagers for 24-hour access. Muslims in some areas have begun signaling the start of each of the five required daily prayers with a pager.
Other churches use pagers to remind to people in need that they are surrounded by prayer.
Sister Meanor picked up a pager last week to give to a friend recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Before she could visit her friend, the pager went off several times. Every time it sounded, every time it shook, Sister Meanor was bathed in the benevolence of strangers.
It's tremendous therapy, she says. No one knows my friend on this pager . . . They just know this page number belongs to someone who is ill.
Georgia Sawhook, a member of Fellowship Bible Church in Hamilton, believes technology can be a useful tool to aid the spiritual journey. She has established a Web site for pastor's wives that includes a cyberspace prayer list.
Still, Mrs. Sawhook is a bit skeptical of a prayer pager program.
If people know they're being prayed for, I don't know if a buzzing on their side is going to make a difference, she says. But maybe it works for somebody else.
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