Drifting through space and 250 miles above Earth is the perfect place to reflect on humankind’s place in the universe. At least, that’s what Pope Francis thinks, judging from his recent video conference call to astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The Pontiff chatted with the six-man international team for 20 minutes during a direct link-up from the Vatican, posing questions such as: what is your opinion of love, what are your sources of joy, and how does life without gravity change your point of view of life on Earth.
As far as video calls go, that’s a lot deeper than your average Skype chat with your friends at college. It does, however, demonstrate the profound reach video conferencing can have in the internet age. There are no barriers between any two (or more) people in the internet-connected world sharing a face-to-face conversation.
As the Pope just proved, that means there’s no limit to the possibilities of online spiritual counseling.
The Real Magic of Video Conferencing
Watching the Pope speak to the orbiting astronauts brings to mind two things.
Firstly, the technology we have at hand today is incredible. You can stare at your smartphone from the comfort of your own home and watch one of the world’s leading spiritual minds speak directly to a bunch of guys in space.
Secondly, as remarkable as all that technology is, it’s still at its most profound when it serves basic human needs. Across a connection of hundreds of miles, the conversation is still one of who are we, where are we, what is love?
For all the wizardry of the underlying technology, the result is still just people talking, face-to-face. You don’t have to disappear into fairy tales of a world united through video conferencing to see the potential for that connection. There is a clear ability here for anyone with a little ambition to start a conversation, to build their own global network, and get people from all over the world sharing their opinions on some of the questions Pope Francis posed.
Create Your Own Video Conferencing Group
As impressive as all that video conferencing technology is, it’s still easily accessible to everyday people. You can host your own group chat with dozens of people all over the globe by using free apps like Skype and Facebook Messenger. Or, you can build your own video portal using browser-based video calling like WebRTC. That technology turns any internet browser into a video conference host using open sourced codes built-in to platforms like Google Chrome.
The trick to both solutions is getting people to notice you’ve built the perfect place for them to chat. For that, you have to think creatively about how you present yourself online, using methods such as thought leadership or existing social media forums like Facebook.
With a venue in place, though, there are no restrictions on the conversations you can host. You could set up weekly online meetings, like a movie club or a book club with a spiritual theme, or leave the virtual doors open 24/7 for anyone looking for answers to log on and start chatting. There are even translation services available that can let your group move out beyond the confines of your language.
That kind of group platform would service an informal, casual conversation, but video conferencing could also be used to deliver more specialized online spiritual counseling.
Online Spiritual Counseling
Video conferencing brings people together, but equally importantly, at times, it can keep them at a safe physical distance. Spiritual counselors have long been a part of military life, but it’s not always practical to have such a person at hand during active duty. Video conferencing could be a way of delivering that service without having to place an advisor in harm’s way–they could simply reach out from behind a webcam housed at a more secure location.
Similarly, counselors could use video calls to speak with inmates of high-security prisons, aid workers in hazardous conditions, counsel patients suffering from infectious diseases, or talk with workers in extreme locations such as oil rigs, mines, and remote areas. The calls could be staged as town-hall sized events using interactive live streaming or as private, face-to-face discussions.
In all these cases, affordable technology–video calling apps are free, HD webcams cost less than $100–is easily put to use to get people talking even though they are miles apart. As Pope Francis demonstrated, not even the sky is a limit to online spiritual counseling anymore.