Nothing’s better than the real thing

Jodie McNeill

There was a time when "artificial' was the buzz. We loved artificial grass, artificial light, artificial sweeteners, and even artificial intelligence. Through technology, humans could create something similar to the natural product, but without some of the limitations.

As a result, we had grass that would be green without sunlight, we had sunlight that would shine at night, sugar that didn't make you fat, and machines that could think like humans but never need food or sleep.

Yet, despite the impressive technological wizardry, we know that there is nothing quite as good as the real thing. We love the feel of real grass between our toes, real sunlight that warms the soul, sweeteners without the after-taste, and intelligence with a sense of humour and compassion.

In the last few years our society has been bombarded with artificial community. Most teenagers and adults have a mobile phone that enables them to be connected to friends far and wide, through voice, text and even video.

Another form of virtual community is the so-called "social networking' phenomena. Websites like MySpace and FaceBook promise connectedness with friends at a level beyond email and SMS. Believe it or not, this technology can go a long way to bridging the gap between people, and providing a sense of community.

But, like everything artificial, there is nothing like the real thing!

This is why getting away to a camp or conference site is so good. It is my experience that there is nothing as good as eating meals together, enjoying activities together, admiring the view together, smelling the flora together, hearing from the word of God together, sharing our lives together. No matter how good the promised virtual experience, nothing seems to measure up to the real experience.

We love real community because God made us that way. The Bible teaches us that we are built for relationship. When God created the earth, everything he made was good or very good - except for one thing. When God created man, he said that

"It is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18)

So, he created the woman, and in doing so, the first community.

This is why humans crave community. It's hard-wired by God. This is why we love to be with others, even if it means communicating artificially through mobile phones and internet browsers.

Today we are time poor. Your group will claim to be too busy to have a camp or conference. But be assured that there is nothing like the real thing. If you love your group, do all you can to encourage them to invest the time and money to get away for a weekend or longer. There is nothing as good as real face-to-face community. Investing in this will reap real rewards!

Jodie McNeill is the Director of Camping and Conferencing at Anglican Youthworks. This article originally appeared in the new 2008/9 issue of ‘Somewhere To Go’, the annual directory of Christian Venues Association.