We had a lovely new family in church last Sunday all the way from Belfast. It was great to meet them and at the same time slightly odd.
In the midst of all the warnings about meeting people on the internet it is worth remembering that we often make friends in real life by hanging out where people hang out and going back there to continue the conversation.
If you go to the same cafe at the same time every week you will probably make some acquaintances. Likewise health clubs, holidays and holding sporting season tickets.
Ali and I bumped into each other about ten years ago (we can't remember exactly when). We were both bloggers in the relatively early days of blogging and left comments on posts each other had written.
As Facebook came along we became Facebook friends. I recall being vaguely aware that I ought to meet people I had taken this step with. But in the sense that Facebook is a place to share more personal information we began to see photos of each other, become aware of each other's families and, in a gesture of absolute connection, Ali took Jesus on Wheels on a few adventures. (He now has an alarming habit of singing Irish rugby songs when bored.)
So, in this new way the world works, we became friends before we had met. And although we could never be certain, we became pretty sure that we would like to meet, that neither of us was an axe-murderer using an alter-ego, and that this had somehow become a 'proper' friendship before we had ever been in the same room.
And of course, seeing as how I am male and she is female and we are both married, it was important to involve our partners in knowledge of this friendship.
So Ali and her family came to town, being nearby for a rugby match, and afterwards we shared a hasty lunch before they had to get a plane back.
I'm sort of writing this as a corrective to the idea that you should never meet people you bump into on the internet. We got on well, it was a bit like old friends and a bit like new ones.