Online Mission and Ministry: A Theological and Practical Guide by @revpamsmith

pam-smith-mission-ministry“Many clergy and churches are now taking to the internet and social media to promote their churches or ministries, but few have thought through some of the difficult pastoral and theological issues that may arise.’Virtual vicar’ Revd Pam Smith guides both new and experienced practitioners through setting up online ministries and considers some of the issues that may arise, such as:Are relationships online as valid as those offline? Is it possible to participate in a ‘virtual’ communion service? How do you deal with ‘trolls’ in a Christian way? What is it appropriate for a clergyperson to say on social media?”

I reviewed this book before publication, and here’s what I wrote:

‘Pam Smith has an enthusiasm for sharing the gospel of God rather than worshipping technology. She challenges those who fear online ministry both theologically, and with practical advice, identifying opportunities and areas that need respectful thought. In order to meet people where they are online – Pam emphasizes the need for resilience in our own Christian development, and highlights quality interactions over quantity. I recommend it to all who are interested in or involved in online mission and ministry.’ –Dr Bex Lewis, Research Fellow in Social Media and Online Learning, The CODEC Research Centre for Digital Theology

Officially out on 19th Feb, but already available in ‘certain online stores‘.

‘Fathomless Riches’ by @RevRichardColes

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I was given Fathomless Riches: Or how I went from Pop to Pulpit at the Church and Media Network Conference earlier this year (even got a signed copy!). I read it last week, splitting it over about 4 evenings. Here’s a handful of sections that I grabbed screenshots of:

The unwisdom of loving a particular institution, whether that be the BBC or the Church of England:

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The dangers of returning to study in such an intensive place as ordination training college: IMG_20141204_080011

There’s some thoughts on the body here … what it would be discover one’s own body in all its”loveliness”:IMG_20141207_140524

Hah, everyone thinks they are going to be found at at some point! (Imposter syndrome – acknowledge it and move on)

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A modern day take on the story of the Samaritans – beautiful:

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And this piece on the care that must be taken re: how we know each other (also possible re e.g. support groups!)

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Thank you Richard, I enjoyed it, and recommend it to other people – it’s a real. honest account of a life lived in the spotlight in different ways, and in continuing on the discipleship journey, as we all are – just some do it more publicly than others!

‘Citizen’ by @AwakenRob

1794824_10154732177950161_9058088988011595710_nSo, I met Rob earlier this year at Spring Harvest, and it was a nice surprise to receive this in the post a few weeks ago with an invitation to read/review… this morning I picked it up, and read it quickly, and appreciatively!

The overall question that Rob is asking is what does it mean to live as a citizen of God’s kingdom, living as ‘resident aliens’ (Hauerwas’s term) on earth?

I was struck by Rob’s questioning of what was a ‘successful’ life, as he sought to live a life true to God’s leaning, discern his passions, and to ensure that prayer was accompanied by action, challenging the gospel of individualism – aka ‘Golden Ticket Theology’ (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory style), which focuses the question on ‘if I died today, where would I go?’, and doesn’t challenge our life on earth too much. Using the character of Frank:

He has not allowed Jesus’ gospel to permeate his being. Instead, Jesus has become an add-on when Frank has run out of options on his own, a go-to in times of trouble. Frank is trying to live the “Western dream” and bring Jesus along for the ride as well. (p27)

Rob’s emphasis is that yes, Jesus died to save you from something, but also for something. We are looking for transformational living, not just of our own, but also as a part of community (especially those who wouldn’t set foot in a ‘traditional’ church). We are called to reimagine our lives, reposition our values, re-identify who we are, and re-centre on Jesus (p29) – and in this – lose our fear – we should be the biggest risk takers on the planet… but we prefer safety, comfort, routine, etc (p100)

We long to be noticed, to be listened to, to be known and understood, and our identity – the way in which we see ourselves – is affect by all of these things. (p49)

Giving us a sense of citizenship through both his own journey from the States to the UK, and notions of citizenship in Jesus’ time, as they affect our identity – although this ideally should not be dictated by our present circumstances. As we claim our identity in Christ, we claim a solid identity – which breeds security. We gain an understanding of the word ‘ecclesia’ as it was in Roman times – an exclusive, and how Christians reclaimed the word to make it an inclusive meeting. Rob emphasises the importance of friendship in identifying the beauty of others, but also in ourselves, and cautions that in a modern world, it’s easy to have many friends and be incredibly busy, but avoid deep friendships.

On p70-71 Rob highlights the difference in the way we introduce ourselves. In Biblical times (and still in many cultures) people are introduced as part of a clan and identified as part of a line of descendants, whereas in contemporary Western culture we are introduced by what we do. What we do achieves us certain material goods and lifestyle, but we, as Christians, are unlikely to be satisfied by this because we were not made for this (and you know, having decluttered strongly, and done a lot of work on values, etc. this is far more satisfying = less things to maintain/upkeep!). Rob also challenges the denominational model that so many align themselves with: “What matters is that each of has found Jesus, and our citizenship is now in heaven” – however much the denominational lenses may differ. We spend too much time and energy arguing about our differences, than focusing on our unity… and that much of church growth is done at the expense of other churches, rather than a joint venture. Christlikeness does not happen by osmosis, but by practice… note Mahatma Gandhi… if we are Christians, it is part of our identity and therefore should inform how we live (see some thoughts on this from a talk I gave at Spring Harvest) – see also p139 re sacred/secular divide.

Rob talks about the dangers of inoculating the world with mild Christianity – we give the impression it doesn’t matter to us/makes not difference to our lives, so they go about their business. If we compartmentalise our lives, we end up living Pharisaical or secret lives. We like taking the benefits of living with Jesus – but often don’t see the full picture, thinking nuns/monks, etc. are those who need to do the full thing. This is all part of a process of sanctification of ‘becoming more like Jesus’.. a proactive, not a reactive process – one that involves spending time with other ‘citizens’, being honest, asking hard questions and examine your motives with more mature Christians. On pp 127-129 Rob calls on Rich Wilson’s session on discipleship in a digital age – noting that what people feed on tends to dictate who they become, that the world/information moves so fast that we have no time for questioning the ethics and impact. The top 0.05% of users on Twitter are celebrities, but are read by approximately 50% of users. They become ‘the cultural disciples of our day’.

I love Rob’s example of counter-cultural notions of success as p142 outlines – when choosing what grade to aim for at theological seminary, the tutor noted that those with other responsibilities such as family, should not be aiming for an A, as family was a higher priority. We are challenged as to whether we have an ‘association’ or a ‘relationship’ with Jesus – have we given into the priorities of the world? If we follow religion rather than faith, we echo actions and behaviours of others and feel that we are ‘doing it right’. WE need a life of intentionality.

These disciples became citizens and observers of the Kingdom way of life as they walked and lived with Jesus. He modelled for them what heaven on earth was to look like, and then he took them aside to explain it to them. (p158)

We are challenged that we should not be ‘outsourcing’ evangelism, but looking at what we as a community can do. We need to consider how many programmes, activities and Bible studies we are involved in, giving us no opportunities to be part of the wider world. The gospel is not just something you speak/profess, but something that you live and act upon. We need to identify what is broken in our world and begin righting the wrongs, even if it is at our own cost – God continually identified with the poor, and so must we. See Isaiah 58:3-9 in The Message.

Inspired? You should be … to read the whole book!

Singleness in Church?

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AT a time when the majority of householders will soon be single people, the church remains obsessed with being family friendly.

That’s one of the key findings from a major new survey on singleness in the UK church, completed by more than 3000 single Christians – the largest-ever on the subject. Starting next week (Thu 11 Apr), three talks will take place in London to present the initial findings.

After more than a decade serving single people through Christian Connection, founder Jackie Elton became increasingly concerned both by the lack of thinking in churches around singles and the difficulties her members experienced. Many have simply given up on church.

‘The world is changing, but churches aren’t learning how to reflect these changes,’ explains Jackie. ‘I was amazed at the huge response the survey received. The floodgates opened. The survey proves many churches are not meeting the needs of the growing number of single people.’

The 2011 Census revealed that, for the first time, married-couple households are in the minority at 47 per cent. Single-person households are increasing at a staggering rate of 166,000 a year. Yet many church services are often explicitly family orientated, in a way that can often marginalise single people.

‘In many churches, theology around singleness seems rooted somewhere in the 1950s,’ maintains Jackie.

The Christian Connection survey, which reflects the views of Christian singles of all ages across the denominations, discovered a major shift of attitude when a single person reaches 30 years.

‘He or she moves from being in the majority to the minority in friendship groups,’ explains Jackie. ‘This ushers in a number of vexing  questions.’

  • What if ‘God’s plan for my life’ mean being permanently single?
  • Am I as much part of the church as I used to be?
  • If so, where do I now fit?
‘We discovered single people, particularly those between 30 and 60 years, feel less accepted as they get older,’ said Jackie. ‘They would like more advice and teaching on being single and more social opportunities within church circles but in a way that affirms them and doesn’t pigeonhole them. At worst, some single women feel they are deemed a threatening presence by some married couples.’
They would also like to be affirmed in leadership roles.
‘Their “singleness” should not prevent them from being consulted and valued within church, but many believe it does,’ says Jackie.
Findings from the survey will be discussed at three events at Moot, St Mary Aldermary, Watling Street, London, led by David Pullinger who has spent the last three months analysing the responses to the survey. Until very recently, David was a single Christian who has written and spoken on the subject to Christian groups and festivals.  He also worked at a senior level for the Office of National Statistics and in strategic roles for both Church and Central Government.  He will speak about the findings of the survey around the following areas.
  • Online dating: How to make it work for Christians – April 11th
  • How to be happy as a single in Church (and outside) – April 23rd
  • Will God provide? The theologies of singleness – May 2nd
David will present stories from individuals with a varied set of perspectives and experiences and will point to answers as well as questions.
‘We hope these talks will be an inspiration, not just to singles but to all others in the Church – leaders and married couples who want to understand how single members can be welcomed and affirmed.’
PRESS RELEASE FROM CHRISTIAN CONNECTION.CO

A service of celebration to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible (@wabbey)

After a year or so creating/working on The Big Bible Project, tomorrow, I will be taking up my invitation to attend:

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16 November 2011 at NoonHer Majesty The Queen accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales will attend a service of celebration, in association with the King James Bible Trust, to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible at Westminster Abbey on 16 November at 12 noon.

The place of the King James Bible in our culture and the continuing significance of the Word will be celebrated in the service.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Rowan Williams will give the Address. A new composition by one of the winners of the King James Bible Trust Composition Awards, Out of the South Cometh the Whirlwind by American composer, Zachary Wadsworth will be performed by the Choir of Westminster Abbey, conducted by James O’Donnell.

Following the service the Abbey’s bells will be rung to a peal of Stedman Caters comprising 5,400 changes.

Lancelot Andrewes, Dean of Westminster 1601-1605, was Director of the first Westminster Company responsible for translating part of the Old Testament. It is believed that the translators met in the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster Abbey, a room also used by subsequent translators.

The service is part of a series of Abbey events marking the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

Taken from Westminster Abbey website and read more on the King James Bible Trust.

I’m a little concerned that we (Pete Phillips & I) have a meeting at 1.30pm, and it doesn’t start til 12 … we can get there from 10am. I’ll be getting the 854 I think – guess I should decide what to wear, and not forget my 2 forms of ID…

Chatting on @bbcmerseyside this morning #flashevensong

After blogging about @flashevensong on this blog the other day, and subsequent conversations on Facebook/Twitter, Wayne Clarke invited me to speak (at 7.40am!) on BBC Radio Merseyside about my experiences of being there.

  • Listen again, from around 1.32, to the stories about St Paul’s (around 1.37 for my stuff)
  • And I’ve collected a version for posterity…
If you want to read more about The Big Bible Project, just click in… and we’d love it if you join the conversation! And if you want to comment on what I said, be interested…