Monday, 16 May 2011

Church (Behind The) Times?

Perusing the Church Times this week – yes, I know, it is hard being this cool – and I saw one of the comment sections was from a blogging Bishop, Alan Wilson. Bishop Alan blogs about all manner of things, but his comment section in the CT was about new media in general.

I thought it was a great article. It laid out clearly the different varieties of social media: social networking, content-based, and blogs. He then described the challenges that these forms bring about, particularly for the Church. Your average CT reader would have found it helpful, informative, and probably quite baffling. But the essence of the piece was to tell the Church to get in on the act – there is a wealth of possibility within Web 2.0.

I commend the article, and I think Bishop Alan pitched it just right. However, I find it sad that we’re in 2011, and the CT gets round to publishing an explanatory article about new media. Sure, it needed to be done. But it’s a little discomforting that only when the ball is well and truly rolling, and very much in danger of rolling away, does the Church think its time to get involved.

Of course, there are your fringe types, who have always been involved. Krish Kandiah, Johnny Baker, Bishop Alan, and others. There are others who have seen the bandwagon, and successfully jumped upon it because they saw the need and importance of engaging with the internet. And then, unfortunately, there are still a whole host of people who decry the internet as a passing fad. This third group make up the majority of the Church.

Perhaps I’m being unfair to both the CT and the Church, and my opinion is coloured by experience with a variety of Luddites I have known over the years. Not necessarily people who are stubbornly refusing to get involved, but people who just don’t know how. I suspect their main fear is that any attempt to engage will be seen as half-hearted, uncool or neglecting ‘what they should be doing’. I suppose in that sense, that’s where things like Digimission, and Premier Christian Media’s involvement comes in, with their attempt to provide the church with a training ground for using new media.

I just worry that the Church has a habit of arriving to the party late, investing a lot of time and energy getting involved (or completely hammered, if you’ll follow the metaphor) then waking up in the early hours with no money and the mother-of-all-headaches, to find that everyone has already left. I hope for our sake – that is, the Church – we don’t do that. We’ve got a gospel to tell, and an internet ready to be told.


Lay Anglicana said...

I couldn't agree with you more!
But, leaping in with both feet, maybe you are the person to do what you are bewailing the fact that the Church has not yet done, or is just getting round to thinking about?
I see you are 23 years old - from my sexagenarian vantage point, I would urge you to seize the social media banner and lead us forward (I was going to say 'into battle' but I know the church militant is out of fashion!)

Emma said...

Using the internet as a means for mission receives a real mixed bag response in my experience. I have seen a 70+plus yr old passionate about up-keeping a website for his church yet finding it belittled. I created a website for a group of 'fresh expression' Christians to aid community development but have found none really use it accept for the the emailing list. They are just not internet savvy people.
Over ten years ago I attended a diocesan training day on explaining websites and email. There, the communication officer stated that "Email would never be used for formal communication".
Sadly this attitude is still prevalent in the church. I can't help wondering if the increase in retired priests running churches is holding back our congregations?

Edward Green said...

I have been on the web for years, Usenet, Alt.Worship sites, a regular contributor on Ship-of-Fools, LiveJournal, occasional blogging etc.

But I am cautious about Web 2.

As a parish priest I am honest enough to say that I conduct myself in a slightly different way with the early club in my local pub, to visits to Mrs Miggins, to work as a school Governor, to friends and colleagues.

As do all Christians I suspect.

We may be a family but even in a natural family you might have a different style of conversation with your brother and sister in law about trying for children than with your mum and dad or great Aunty Hilda!

Web 2 blows this open. Not just for the clergy but for all of us.

When my best friend from my 20's posts a joke on my wall that would not make it through the sermon filter and Mrs Miggins takes offence (or Aunty Hilda) we are presented with a range of exciting new pastoral challenges.

Alternatively when those in the village ask to be friends on Facebook and I palm them off with a 'professional' profile then they tend to take offence.

To use a biblical allusion Web 2 displays our own personal 'Sacrificial Meats' to all the 'Weaker Sisters and Brothers'.

I have already seen a degree of 'drama' in Web 2 connected communities that would have passed everyone by 10 years ago.

David said...

First of all, thank you for all stopping by, I appreciate it!

Lay Anglicana: You could be right. However, it's difficult to do with my current job. I endeavour to do what I can. But it's hard (as you can probably imagine!) to grasp the feeling of the entirety of the Anglican Church.

Emma: You're right. We're such a mixed bag: saints, sinners and technophobes. I'm not sure I particularly have the answer, I (like the rest of the Church) just like pointing out the problem.

Edward: I love your honesty, thank you! I really appreciate it. Web 2.0 does create a problem of our public and private identities, and blurs those lines significantly. I hope it makes us much more conscious of our actions. But I also hope it shows disciples of Christ in a great light, as we show ourselves as honest, broken, gracious and human, even online.