Mary’s dad, Hal Upchurch, (right) with his siblings circa 1940.

“Don’t tell Mary Kay that story — she’ll put it in a book!”

Spoken by one of my uncles after I had distributed an original collection of poems, memoirs, and anecdotes by, about, and among my extended paternal relatives. That amateur project was undertaken in 1994, inspired by the acquisition of my first home computer and my preacher/poet/people-loving daddy’s willingness to let me pick his brain for stories. He kept me typing for the last 15 years of his life! The empowering sense of connection that resulted from those efforts planted a seed that has extended its roots far beyond the birth family tree well into my retirement years.

Cyberspace was an entirely different place in the mid-1990s, not so long ago in human years but eons in Internet time. I’ll never forget the exhilaration of logging onto my maiden voyage via 300 baud dial-up modem, calling up Usenet (the first world message board system), and watching a web page begin to slowly fill my 640 x 480 Netscape browser window. Slowly is no joke — you could make a sandwich and call your mom during the wait. For perspective, the average household now expects a minimum broadband connection of 9 mbps (that is, more than 90,000 bits per second compared to my 300 back then) and the average screen resolution is currently 1366 x 768 (meaning more than twice as much in view at once). OK, I’m a nerd, but technicalities aside, suffice to say that as I began to exchange correspondence with closet poets all over the globe, the power of technology to connect people with common interests was a uniquely gripping epiphany. I was quickly motivated in learning to write HTML from scratch so I could create a website as hitching post gathering spot for my newfound poet friends, and in 1998 was privileged to travel with a couple of them from Texas on a roadtrip throughout the western states where we met others from the group face-to-face. We all called each other Cousin — Family by Choice. I remain in touch with some, and continue to make new online friends by maintaining poetry websites and facilitating an online workshop/discussion group.

Commercial interests didn’t really wake up to embrace the web’s potential in force until the late 90s, so we had a few years of interactive bliss in an arena primarily devoted to educational, altruistic purposes, relatively free of carpetbaggers and scalawags, and that benign spirit is still alive online if you know where to look.

All that to say that, despite various twists, turns, and personal upheavals along my spiritual journey, this love for the Internet (warts and all) has never wavered. It has taken about 20 years for traditional church outreach methods to catch up with technology, but the possibilities for connecting people through media are greater than ever envisioned. My three passions — poetry, technology, and community-building — have finally converged in a true homecoming here Unity of New Braunfels. Although a member here since 2007, I’ll confess to a bit of church-hopping in recent years in search of metaphorical nourishment closer to the physical residence where Charley and I park our bodies. Robert Frost wrote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” And brother/sister, did you, with loving arms! I would add, “Home is the place that never stops calling you back.” I now belong to this spiritual community with all my heart and soul, and yearn to know everyone in it or touched by it. Acknowledging that many are understandably reluctant to share of themselves with “the world”, or that minuscule fraction of its going-on-8-billion inhabitants who might find their way to our cyber-door, I have laid the groundwork for fellow congregants to reach out publicly through this blog, if willing, and/or connect with one another privately through our password-protected member forum. I am deeply grateful for the stretching opportunities provided to me by a supportive church staff open to innovation and experimentation.

A few encouragers are poised to nudge along and pass along the stories begging to be told, and we welcome more Communications Team volunteers as we hit the ground running in 2019. One of the jobs on my checkered resumé involved tech support, in which the basic tenet for frustrated clients is (1) reboot or (2) walk away from the computer and do something enjoyable for a few minutes, then call back if necessary. More often than not, that second call didn’t come in. Love your computer; it can smell fear! Unity principles bear this out, in that what we focus on, we attract. For any UNB member or regular attender within a 30 mile radius of the Boren house, I’ll gladly come to yours to help with a PC (not experienced with Mac), show you a few techniques for navigating cyberspace safely, and/or interview you for a blog article, and if you’re a Scrabble buff like me, I’ll challenge you to a game. If you like to write, follow the link above to the Submission Form from any page to send your own blog post. In seeking out ways to expand our web presence, we can each have a part in fulfilling our collective vision of “A world powerfully transformed through the growing movement of shared spiritual awakening.”

Scroll on down to send me a private message or make a public comment. If you have suggestions for improvement on this site I’m all ears. I’ve been learning to edit videos so I can help church family and poet friends take their voice recordings to the next level, and would greatly appreciate some feedback on the video as well. My book, Metaphysical Musings, is available in our Sacred Corner Bookstore, all proceeds staying with the church.

Send Mary a private message or leave a public reply below the form.

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