WTC MOOC Week 4: Jesus  (@WTCTheology)

This week we’ll explore the story of Jesus Christ as revealed in the four Gospels, beginning with the testimony of face-to-face encounters with him.

John 20:11-18, 21:15-17

Matt 5:1-12

John 8:1-11


Jesus favoured indirect communication – appealing to the imagination/provoke thought. Asking questions without giving answers., using a range of styles (metaphors, similes, analogies, stories that mean what they say).

Also indirect communication via actions, and not just words, including symbolism in meals, action, riding in on a donkey, washing his disciples feet.

A common feature of indirect communication is creating a pause for thought between what is said and space for a realisation of what is meant.

Jesus does draw on the Hebrew Bible when talking with religious leaders, but otherwise “doesn’t engage in learned exegesis of Scripture”… otherwise used tales that were familiar to the world his hearers knew well… especially drawing on characters other than Kings – more regular ‘figures of authority’ that would have been meaningful to ordinary people in a rural context.

Narrative Parables: The stories were short, containing only what was needed in them to make the point, engaging, drawing their hearers into them – therefore popular. Let the story make an impact as a story, before seeking its message. Most are stories about the kingdom, rather than broad moral lessons or truths about God and the world

Aphorisms – short, tend to be skim read by modern readers, but are intended to be paused and pondered – and possibly memorised. Some are deliberately riddles/puzzles. All designed for an oral society – few off the cuff, but carefully prepared, repeated, and designed to be memorable. (Rote learning was common in the ancient world). As the gospels say, Jesus must have spoken at more length, but this is not what is recorded in the Bible (although a sense of this is given in the Gospel of John). He took every opportunity to teach and preach.

Jesus’ relationship with God ‘the father’ was core – God was clearly the God of the Hebrew scriptures. Jewish teachers constantly retold the story to bring out its relevance in the contemporary situation. Jesus = the start of re-establishment of God’s rule. He avoids direct reference to God’s action by using passive verbs, and although discussing ‘the kingdom of God’, never refers to God as ‘King’… likely because at that time, human kings offered oppressive rule. More frequent references to God as father gives more of an impression of a combination of authority and loving care (including loving correction). The importance of the word ‘Abba’ – typically used within Aramaic families from childhood to adulthood – evoking family intimacy, which Jesus is doing in his conversations to God… and then used by many non-Aramaic early Christians (whereas Jews had typically used YHWH). Note the compassionate face of Jesus, etc. does not remove the judgement of God – in fact his presence was testimony for the need to make a decision.

In Jewish tradition = 2 ways in which instructions on how to live were given. Interpretation of the law of Moses, or wisdom counsel on how to live. Jesus tended to offer radical interpretations … in answering which of the 613 commandments were most important = love God, love your neighbour (so 2 commandments), Loving ones neighbour was not the same as loving God, but loving God meant that one would love ones neighbour. Love is not emotional, but obedient… from the heart. In a conflict of laws, these 2 would be expected to override all (as demonstrated in the story of the Good Samaritan).

With an emphasis on oaths, Jesus was not banning ‘swearing’, but indicating that disciples should have no need to be ‘under oath’ to tell the truth, but should be telling the truth at all times. Even more challenging – do not retaliate. Jesus looks at motivation not outcome (e.g. murderous/adulterous/covetous thoughts). Pharisees were more concerned with ritual purity … at the expenses of moral demands. The Sabbath was to be a gift, not a burden – Jesus’ answer to an ongoing debate as to what work could be done on a Sunday. Many of these debates were not new, but Jesus exercised far more freedom in interpretation than other… and rarely argues but announces authoritatively. The integrity of the heart = the source of all true obedience to the law.

Jesus’ talking about current social structures/relationship – highlights a society in which the world’s current status/rank has no place… Fellow disciples become family … from which fathers are not listed, as fatherhood is reserved for God… Nothing (including feet washing) should be beneath a disciple’s dignity… the disciples were reduced to the lowest status, the ‘slave’ – none is more important than the others. To become like a child was not about trust, but about social status – as children had none… common thinking is subverted to do away with self-importance. Inviting the poor/destitute for meals, etc. was more than ‘generous charity’ but a well-recognised duty – treating as social equals. The beatitudes – the poor recognise their total dependence on God, whereas the rich feel self-sufficient. Jesus requires a day-by-day trust to ‘Give us this day our daily bread’.

What about Jesus’ position on Jewish political issues of the day? Again, indirectly. Protested at the markets in the Temple because the focus was on profit, which was hindering access to God’s presence, especially for the poor. The debates were religio-poltiical rather than fully political.

The story of the forgiveness of debt … the king demonstrated astonishing mercy, but the slave didn’t take the opportunity to change his world, but chose to remain where mercy is unknown – therefore the king retracted his mercy. The dark side is the seriousness with which Jesus warns of destruction for those who take the mercy and compassion of God but don’t own such extravagant generosity. The judgement therefore becomes self-imposed.


CRITIQUING Baukman – Eyewitnesses of gospel history – authoritative sources and guarantors of the traditions of Jesus.

‘The historical Jesus’ – relies on accessible material. If we don’t trust that material, how can we trust the gospels? Many have addressed these by seeking external verification to support (etc) the Gospel narratives… but can this substitute for the Gospels themselves as a way into the ‘reality of Jesus’.

The importance of testimony – to be trusted, not uncritically, but nor solely dependent upon independent verification. All history essentially relies upon testimony, and this a value and unique way of accessing historical reality. The Gospels were written within living memory – Mark early on, and the others were captured before they could be lost.

Papias – deliberately using the terminology of historiographical practice – the ‘living and surviving voice’, part of the ‘oral tradition’. He was more concerned with the voices of those who had directly connected with Jesus, rather than the collective memory of churches. Important to understand whose voices, and which names are used – what is the significance of those to ‘trust’ in the material. Evidence of commonly used names, but expected Biblical names were rare (e,g. Moses, etc.) as would have been seen as presumptuous to name ones child such. Names of the 12 disciples often given in a particular order – discrepancies across the Gospels possibly down to the way that distinctions between common names were made amongst the disciples.

Material relating to different writing devices by each gospel writer, and why some characters would need to have remained anonymous for their own safety. (especially within the early church). There are questions about what oral tradition look like, and how that helps us understand their veracity.

“Rather, given memorisation, possibly the use of writing, and the presence of eyewitness testimony, the (isolated) traditions underwent a particular kind of formal control  in their transmission.”

When these eyewitnesses started dying out ‘the Gospels will have stepped into the

role of the eyewitnesses … functioning as the guarantor of the traditions, as the eyewitnesses had in their lifetimes, and as controls on the tradition’.

Maurice Halbwach – collective memory…

In other words, ‘social memory or oral tradition has to be constantly negotiating the relationship of the present to the past. In this negotiation the past has a voice that has to be heard. It cannot be freely invented’.

Eyewitnesses would have been remembering inherently memorable events, reinforced and stablilised by frequent rehearsal soon after the event – therefore implicit reliability.

A particular focus on the Gospel of John, which appears to have been sidelined, highlighting the links between Prologue and Epilogue, showing connections.

Highlighting 2 types of discipleship – active service (Peter), and perceptive witness (John, the beloved disciple). Gospel’s interpretative nature appropriate for the subject matter. In a modern individualistic society, we need to understand more in communal or inter-subjective terms… Testimony invites trust, whereas modern historical methods come from a position of doubt… this is linked to how we can trust e.g. testimonies from the Holocaust – giving ‘truths’ in a way that other sources can’t. .. but access it as testimony.

Session 4.1: Jesus of the Gospels

‘The Word Became Flesh’ … 4 Gospels (see screenshot).


Lots of similarities, but different target audiences

  • Matthew – Jewish brethren, quotes Old Testament and how Jesus was the fulfillment of this, and the Jewishness of Jesus
  • Mark – shorter – action account, uses the word ‘immediately’ a lot. Stories revolving about Peter’s experiences. Focuses on Romans (see customs and words are explained/translated)
  • Luke – the Dr – travelled with Apostle Paul. Used many sources and researched carefully. Draws particularly on Mary (mother of Jesus) stories. Focuses on reaching the Greeks. Emphasis on healing ministry ofJesus.
  • John – 3 generations after other 3 gospels are written. Language shift – less focus on the Kingdom of God, and more about Jesus’ offer of eternal life. Jesus IS the gospel.

Session 4.2: Jesus: Face to Face

Jesus has many face-to-face, one-on-one meetings – it’s not all big mountaintop stories. They touch us because they are venues where we can also come face to face with Jesus.

JOHN 3 (NICODEMUS) – It doesn’t matter where you are born, where you come from – be born again – new life. Jesus is more than a ‘good teacher’, but the Son of God.

John 4 (Photini) – Meeting with the Woman at the Well –crossing lots of social boundaries. Evangelised, using her witness within Samaria until (probably) murdered.

John 20 – (Mary in the Garden) Mary Magdalene receives the revelation of Jesus in a garden (righting the wrongs of Eden).

John 21 (Peter on the beach) – ‘Do you Love Me?’ ‘Feed my sheep’. “I have a job for you to do” – qualifies him as a disciple and the one who would lead the story into the book of Acts.

Session 4:3 Jesus – Words of Life

‘The Sermon on the Mount’ – an introductory sermon for those who wanted to know what his core teaching was – his idea/revelation of the Torah. All of the law/prophecy – come into focus on Jesus.

The first half of each Beatitude = related to Jesus’ crucifixion, whilst the second half gives a glimpse of the resurrection. Bring into daily discipleship – what does it mean to take up your Cross daily and follow daily? What does it mean to die on the Cross but continue to live? Essentially in the Beatitudes (Matt 5-7) – not only ‘how to become a good Christian’ but how to become human. Gandhi said if we could but take up the Sermon on the Mount and live it .. many of the problems of the world would be solved.   The fine print of our Covenant with Christ – our sins are totally forgiven, and we are given the Holy Spirit as we continue on the earth.

The story of the Prodigal Son has been called the microcosm of the whole gospel. All who have wandered away are invited back – not to a retributative God, but to a welcoming God, with no need to jump through hoops for redemption. The story of the Good Samaritan is also key. Jesus picks up the broken – takes them to the Inn (church) – Jesus asks us to look after similar? If echoes today, maybe that’s a little what salt and light look like in the modern day.

Session 4:4: Jesus,: Works of Love & Power

Works of Love

John 8 – forgiving sin (woman caught in adultery) – challenging Jesus – will he obey the law of Moses or not? Law came through Moses, but grace and peace came through Jesus. (Jeremiah – writes in the dust). “Go and sin no more”, not an instruction or I’ll rescind, but because she’s been offered a fresh start (life of transformation)

Luke 8 – The demon removed from the man = a healing of his soul, not just a demon removal.

Works of Power

The miracles (signs) – including raising from the dead, healing, resurrection, calming the storm, etc.

The passion (the cross) – Matthew, Mark, Luke – seen as a humiliation/defeat until the resurrection, although John treats the Cross as the glorification of Christ at that stage.

The resurrection = at the heart of our gospel.

Session 4.5: Jesus & Beliefs

Who is Jesus? What did the church come to in the end? By the end, of Jesus’ ministry, he was seen as the Messiah, the Son of God. Fully man and fully God.

The early church – agreed on the Nicene Creed. Divine identity language – God brings everything together… God enfleshed in human form.

#CORPUSMOOC: Week 8: A Swearing Extravaganza

This week looking at ‘swearing’ as it is used within language .. so there’s a disclaimer, some of the comments:

The use of ‘bad language’ seems to me to be very cultural specific. For example, young people seems to use it more often than old people. And I see variation of what’s considered as ‘bad language’ between registers and dialects. For example, the same person would never use bad language at work but he probably uses it when he is with friends; and what’s considered bad in some areas would not have this consideration in others.

Of course, you have to define what is meant by ‘bad language'; obscenity is very culturally specific (Northern Europeans: body parts, coition and excrement, Southern Europeans religion, mothers, aspersions re sexuality – the Victorians found the phrase ‘what a cunning hat’ rather racy). The point is well put, though.

Oh dear, the warm up activity is to listen out for the use of bad language in conversation around us … probably more than you’d expect even in my own context! Interesting conversations online about whether language teachers should teach this, as students will come across it (don’t we all remember how funny it was once we learnt ‘merde’ in French classes!)

amazing what you can get used to after a while and how much these words lose their strength through over use.

Part 1: Looking at Bad Language

Why say ‘bad language’ and not ‘swearing’? Definitions of what is ‘swearing’ = complex!


Words developed for the Lancaster Corpus of abusive words – including animal, intelligence, sexuality focused insults. Then had to develop an annotation system for the material – including class, gender, age, etc. Can provide some quite useful distinctions that can be researched. Metalinguistic word – am not using the word, but I’m talking about it/describing it, or quoting someone else saying something.

Who knew there were so many different ways to use ‘fuck’ – fascinating…


Final category = a ‘dustbin category’ for those that didn’t fit any of these categories, and didn’t really need further work.

Commentator suggests that video helps gives further insights into the use of swearing in language – jocular, and ‘fillers’ have been mentioned by other commentators.

Another kind of ‘MOOC’ – – such dictionaries allows us to see language develop.

Part 2: Swearing and Gender

We can use such corpora to see how such language is actually used – but we’ll likely approach such questions with a number of assumptions – e.g. that men swear more than women. In early 1990s, there was no statistical difference in usage, but in looking at the individual words themselves, these are different… words used by men tended to be stronger. 


There are levels of ‘strength’ seen, but there are possibilities that these might be used differently … e.g. ‘religious people’ more offended by God/Jesus than the general population [Note to second year housemates, yes…]

Commentators mentioning encouraging people to rethink phrases that have become everyday

  • Someone being ‘a bit gay’
  • Someone having ‘a blonde moment’
  • Someone ‘running like a girl’

Is there ‘surgical cleaning’ where such words become sanitised? Corpus tools, of course, are good at identifying the change in language of words e.g. ‘gay’.

Different people will probably see some of the words as more offensive than others… e.g. people say ‘God’ without thinking – probably more offensive to ‘religious people’ than many realize.

Part 3: Swearing and Interaction

How do the genders interact when it comes to the use of ‘bad language’ words? Is there a difference between or across? Intra-gender use of swearing is the norm (e.g. men direct swearing at other men more than at females and vice-versa), but men do this much more than women (have they been cultured to swear less in front of women?

What kind of words are targeted? E.g. ‘cow’ exclusively at women…


Wow… so much complex!

Part 4: Strength of Swearing

Different categories of words (e.g. general annoyance) = much milder words, but ‘destinational category’ (reached end of tether = “go away”) = much stronger!

Discussions mentioning new British National Corpus coming this year, where it will be interested to see how words are used/re-used and reclaimed – e.g. African-Americans claiming ‘n****r’, gay people claiming ‘queer’ and women claiming ‘bitch’ as positive interaction words. Also lots of discussion as to regional/cultural differences and how the right corpus might help explore those.

Part 5: Swearing and Age

Assumption is that younger people tend to swear more, and data seems to bear that out:


Is it down to age? It’s not necessarily their age that is the issue. The cultural environment may have meant that swearing was less accepted, so don’t swear less as get older! Are they possibly using ‘swear words’ that are so mild that they’ve not been measured as swear words (e.g. golly, blimey), although this doesn’t exist, either. What about the strength of swear words/categories? Mirrors the distribution from the graph above. Frequency/strength distribution are similar.

Commentator notes: ‘When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear.’ (Mark Twain). Also questioning whether the extra drop-off is down to being in the presence of children/grandchildren, when people seek to reign themselves in.

Part 6: Swearing and Class

How do we draw out the nuances here? Do lower classes select stronger words, and higher class = weaker ones?

AB: 1.81, C1 1.76, C2 2.16, DE 2.47 (General pattern, but AB = stronger than C1)…

What about the type of bad language use? AB/C1 and C2/DE = inverted.

Lots of discussion about whether upper classes = rules don’t apply, and middle classes more cautious…

Part 7: Combining Factors

What happens when try and combine the data – e.g. male AB aged 25-34 = use most? BNC was balanced to get roughly similar amounts of data on single data. May be no examples combining particular factors… that particular group = 2,259 words uttered in the spoken BNC.

How many types of speakers are in the BNC? Not many, but we can combine particular types of data to give insights.

Part 8: Combining Factors – 2 Case Studies

Age/Gender combination:


Class/Gender combination:


Class/Gender/Age combination:


Do you want to argue – are women pre-disposed to use less swearwords? Surely socially constructed, it’s an artifact of the society within which these 2 genders are operating, nothing to do with genetics. Debate? Where did the distinctions come from? What were the social processes that constructed this?

Commentator: People are willing to say things in other languages they’re not prepared to say in their own –

Final Words from Tony

The start of a journey into language .. with an overview of the kind of things you should have learned, and in a position to build your own corpora [though I didn’t use the practical elements!]… and don’t think that this course has given you everything…

We often want to study language in their social contexts, rather than in isolation. Contemporary social issues or historical issues typically the most interesting.

WTC Mooc: Week 3: Living the Christian Story – Exodus (@WTCTheology)


Core Reading

Exodus 1:1-15 (or chapters 1-15, but there’s only 10!) through to the story of the Plagues … but overall a story of oppression leading to recreation?


Israel is becoming ‘many’ as ordained at creation… but there are several obstacles to be overcome first. Seen alone, misses the ‘new humanity’ destined to restore creation blessing to the world. With Moses, see how it harks back to e.g. Noah, and forward to Israelite experiences. Moses says ‘I am’, which has led to a lot of discussions as to whether he was divine – or God’s representative. Either way it’s important to understand that God was present.

Moving from a time of chromos to kairos (exile is almost over):

Such is the case with chronos and kairos. Both are Greek words which mean time, but they imply different things.

Chronos refers to minutes and seconds. It refers to time as a measurable resource.

Kairos is the word used for time in Ephesians 5:16 (which I examined in more detail here). Kairos means an appointed time, an opportune moment, or a due season.

Constant battle between Israel/Egypt, pre-ordination of what will happen when Jesus comes, and defining the Israelite nation – the importance of the ‘firstborn’ sons, the gradual admittance of the ‘superior power of Yahweh’. The parting of the waves of the ‘Reed Sea’ answers the question of who is in control. The goal of the journey to re-establish the Abrahamic covenant, having passed through the water, now to pass through the human gauntlet, to re-establish ‘Edenic sanctuary’, where God can dwell again with his people. The importance of Mount Sinai to the Torah… a new covenant with God – where obedience leads to blessing/fullness of life, disobedience to curse and death – set apart as a ‘holy nation’, imaging God to the nations. Moses as the mediator between God/the people as God is too powerful, a covenant marked by blood/a sacrifice. An important part of this covenant is to work and rest. The development of the Tabernacle = similarities with Eden, but even before the covenant is made, the Israelites have broken it with false idols. The freedom emphasised by the divine is ‘grace and mercy’. In the 10 commandments, the judgements are given first, but the ‘rear view’ of God emphasises mercy and forgiveness. The golden calf doesn’t represent God, but human beings in converse with him.


Pharaoh felt threatened by immigrants (such as Jacob’s family) – so became ruthless in the tasks they imposed upon them – but despite this – the numbers increased. Considers how this is in parallel with the Latin American experiences (of men currently in jail) – especially when they are given ‘education’ but not opportunities to take jobs, so go back to what they know – a life of crime – in order to live. The ‘baby boys’ were killed before they could become a problem. The Egyptians needed the immigrants because they did the work that the Egyptians didn’t want to do, but the general thinking was for deportation or down-trodden-ness. The midwives were expected to kill the boys, but refused, so were blessed by God. By worldly standards, Pharaoh was at the top, but God was on the side of the oppressed/weak (not the oppressors) and they survived.

Often when people read the Bible, they read it through oppressive interpretations, which can be subverted by careful reading of the text itself. Guided readings can question assumptions and invite unexpected identifications. When Moses impulsively kills a harsh taskmaster, he has to flee – originally a ‘saviour’ he is now absent from the scene, and failing to intervene – how many see God also… but a deeper reading can see a bigger picture coming to fruition.

When working with Latino prisoners, the author – a Caucasian pastor – representative of the prison system, and of God … many in the prison see God as hyper-sovereign – distant judge who has pre-ordained everything, so lives cannot be re-mapped… all negative aspects of their lives are ‘God’s will’. Their theology assumes that God is just/good and therefore that they must be bad/deserving of all the calamities that have befallen them. No redemption is expected. .. and people attend the sessions for reasons such as social interaction, especially once they find that ‘accepting Christ’ does not instantly solve all their problems. They may think that attending will give a lighter sentence. Belief is, however – people are hungry for an authentic encounter whatever the original reason.

The facilitator has a careful role, which subverts those barriers, replacing the old, paralysing theology. .. with a need to distance himself from ‘taskmasters’, and make the prisoners realise that he’s on their side. God’s will happens through covert disobedience, non-compliance, etc… God listened to the groans of slaves, but they remained slaves … author discusses his experience of working with those seeking to find liberation from e.g. heroin addiction – not in terms of the ‘heroic victor’, but weakness/ignorance on how to heal. In Mexico – often become violent – taking frustration out on someone – as Moses did – direct experience of poverty/oppression = violent. No long-term respect however… required for that = respect and humility. God shows up where Moses is (wherever that wilderness is). Moses when called to go back, said that he wasn’t worthy (he was human). “There’s another really important guy in Israel’s history who didn’t feel cut out for this. Look, God used him. God can use me too.” [Imposter syndrome?]

Session 3:1 Exodus: Setting up the Conflict (Matt Lynch)

Theology and Social Action…. Exodus – reflected in the way they rebuilt their society – institutionally built into their laws, etc. Moving from being a family, to becoming a nation. There was fear-based oppression … being fruitful and multiplying = in the wrong place/time = threatening to Egyptians. Pharaoh does not know God, and does not let the people rest. God cares and hears the cry of the afflicted. God hears it and responds.

Session 3:2: Exodus – The Plagues

God has power of creation, has concern for poor and the afflicted. Conflict between Pharaoh/God. God displays his power over Pharaoh and over creation with the boils. God “you can’t act this way towards my people and get off the hook.” Why does God harden Pharaoh’s heart? The plagues are not to get the Israelites out of Egypt, but to show his power to Pharaoh… who has fraudulent power… shows future generations his power?

Session 3:3 Exodus – Concern for the Vulnerable (Bob Ekblad)

What actions lead to liberation (Exodus 1)? Do we see the presence of God in this text? Confusing – God blesses people who lie in order to protect the innocent? [Makes me think of Corrie Ten Boom – ‘they are under the table’]. What does God do? He’s on the side of the underdog? How does God liberate? Who are the main characters from most powerful to weakest? Who is God with?


  • Shiprah and Puah (midwives) à non-compliance and deception
  • Moses’ Mother à Hides the baby not obey the law
  • Moses’ Sister à Spies for Moses (proactive)
  • Pharaoh’s Daughter à Seeing/having compassion

Session 3.4: Exodus: Liberation Today

Understanding contemporary law enforcement. A challenge to those who believe that deception is a sin – most characters are undertaking this in this story. What does the use of these weak characters tell us about God? How does God save now? It tends to indicate non-compliance. Pharaoh’s daughter uses her privilege to rescue. What would that look like today? Funding people to look after other people? Should we be giving work to denied asylum seekers? Educating them? What are the limits of compliance for us?

Session 3.5: Exodus: Seeing the Vulnerable

The importance of “seeing” human beings (rather than ‘the mass’). [Seeing individuals/telling people’s stories?]. Moses (and most on the margins) assume that God is on the side of law enforcement and the status quo, but Moses’ violence response doesn’t disqualify him from God’s mission to be an agent of liberation. God is looking for similar characters in contemporary culture.

WTC MOOC: TH49X1: Living the Christian Story: Sin & Redemption (Week 2) @WTCTheology


Core Reading

Genesis 3-4; 12: For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Romans 8: For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Revelation 21-22 : No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants[h] will worship him.

Tom Wright/Scripture

Scriptural authority – needs an integrated view, including listening, wresting with, obedience and proclamation.

Scriptural ‘reading’ may encompass a range of tasks but:

We read scripture in order to be refreshed in our memory and understanding of the story within which we ourselves are actors, to be reminded where it has come from and where it is going to be, and hence what our own part within it ought to be

The Bible (and not just the newspaper/latest political fashion) in hand, in which the church can go to work in the world – confident that Jesus is Lord, and Caesar is not. Not about ‘telling people what the Bible says’, but about radical transformation of life, a personalized faith. Can happen if just the Bible is read, but more commonly comes about through the work of God’s people – who understand it and apply it to their own lives. That authority works at the cosmic, political and personal level.

Church needs to pay attention to tradition, listening carefully/humbly/not uncritically to how read/lived scripture in the past… helps us understand what we read ‘naturally’. We should see the ‘living voice’ of the ‘very human church’ as it struggles with scripture… why this is a fresh challenge for each generation.

We need to pay attention to reason, to being attentive to context (especially our own biases), detail, etc. where public discussions and debates (NOT shouting matches) are so important… rather than trying to ‘wipe one’s opponent off the board’. Pay attention to the input of other subjects, such as science (which studies the repeatable) and history (which studies the unrepeatable?) – reason forms the language of understanding.

We need a multi-layered view of God, understanding genre, setting, literary style, etc… and take care when referring to The Bible as one book [especially when used for lifestyle understanding].

5-Act Hermeneutic: Creation, ‘Fall’, Israel, Jesus, the Church. Even if we don’t accept this model, we need some kind of overarching narrative, otherwise becomes mere ‘fuel for devotion’ – there is continuity with previous acts (as plays), but that continuity implies change. “We must be ferociously loyal to what has gone before and cheerfully open about what must come next.”

e.g. We can discuss how things were, but not directly change that (e.g. Garden of Eden) as it will be, as it will have been transformed and fulfilled. We should not imagine a world without redemption. We don’t need to rebuild [live by?] OT structures such as the Temple. We are not living in Gospel times so the rules may be different, but that is the foundation for our current lives – they are not relativized by the passing of time, or by cultural shifts. We are living in ‘the fifth act’, after which will come a new creation… we ‘improvising’, which doesn’t mean a ‘free for all’, but “a disciplined and careful listening to all the other voices around us, and a constant attention to the themes, rhythms, and harmonies of the complete performance so far, the performance which are now called to continue.” This may include ‘fresh expressions’ – all churches need to ‘play the same tune’, but may devise their own variations, though not from other tunes, or with a different ending … this understanding would lead to more respectful interactions.

Contextual reading of scripture – each word within a verse à within a chapter à within a book à within its historical, cultural and canonical setting. All is ‘culturally conditioned’, so cannot add/set some aspects aside. We need to understand both the culture of the time, and our own culture… this will be an ongoing project! Work with both the bigger picture and the detail.. read incarnationally – paying attention to both the humanity of the text and of its readers.

The key importance of corporate worship, where the Bible is read – we’re prepared for it, appreciate it, and given the opportunity to meditate further on it… not just to understand content, but to use the media to shape the mind and life of the community. The readings should be arranged so that glimpses into the story of both the OT and NT are seen, rather than lost as a pre-cursor to a sermon. At communion:

“Scripture forms God’s people, warming their hearts as with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, so that their eyes may then be opened to know him in the breaking of the bread.”

For life-changing transformations, then ordinary Christians need to read, encounter, and study scripture for themselves, in groups and individually. Since the enlightenment, the Western world has prioritised private reading, but Wright would emphasise communal reading/understanding. The church should understand what individual readers are discovering in the text, facilitating bringing a range of viewpoints to the wider body, enriching the larger community, and ensuring that maverick/misleading readings can be gentle/appropriately corrected. Fresh insights presented by churches should build up, rather than threaten – the mission and life of the church – scholarly research is encouraged, but the framework used should be taken with care, as scholars will always be working within a framework of some kind. The church needs to re-establish a hermeneutic of trust, rather than a hermeneutic of suspicion and anti-intellectualism.

Church leaders need to examine their practice, especially at the more senior levels, where life becomes so busy, there’s no time for fresh, careful, prayerful re-interpretation of the text, but rather an old sermon is shaken off… The importance of sermons as the place where heaven and earth meets .. as a time of sacrament.

Session 2:1 – Creation-Fall (Matt Lynch)

Act 1: Creational Shalom & Unfinished Tasks – humanity is not only to tend the garden, but to help it flourish and become what it has not yet become.

Act 2: Falling out between God, creation and humanity. Fallout was not just felt by humans, but by all parties involved. Not just humans implicated, but the serpent. Originally parity of humans, now we have hierarchy, plus shame, fear and hiding … complicating the ability of God to carry out his creational purposes. Sin as a theological problem – the serpent introduces the question of God’s goodness/abundance and blessing. As Adam/Eve questions this – they act in rebellion to God, as they seek an autonomous wisdom.

Sin and death are now in the picture, so how will God accomplish his purposes.

Session 2:1 Flood-Israel

Act 3: The floodwaters sent over the earth covered a world that was already ruined…. God (with Noah) is already preparing the way for a new creation. However, the ‘damaged’ humanity took their issues/damage onto the ark, so God promised never to destroy in the same way again – so what is he now going to do to uphold the integrity of creation? Creation post-flood is an act of grace.

Act 4: Most important part of this story is the calling of Abraham, as the start of the nation of Israel. In the Song of Songs we have a recapturing of the original equality, and – set in a garden – Eden can be recaptured if people live out God’s will in the world. Old, infertile couple to become immigrants in a foreign land as the solution to the fallen world… God chooses King David to represent Israel … Solomon is to build a temple – Kings has many high points with times of obedience, with glimpses of the Garden of Eden – but mixed with ongoing reaching for autonomy and idolatrous rebellion.

Session 2:3: Exile Jesus

Act 5: Exile and the death of Israel – back to Babylon – the land, the people, etc. were all devastated, so there was a question as to whether God was still good, and faithful to his people. Not a return just to the land, but the resurrection of a righteous people – God breathing in new life and becoming ‘covered with skin’. There is a return to the land – in Nehemiah, they are still in a condition of slavery.

Act 6: Jesus and the restoration of humanity. Previously was God focused on Israel? Is that scrapped to focus on the wider church? Think about the story in context of his Jewish identity. What is so significant as the Jewish story? He comes as the representative of Israel before God, but also the representative of humanity (what Israel couldn’t do on its own). With trust in Jesus, we get the benefits of his obedience.

Session 2:4: New Creation and Review

Act 7: The story of new creation … we as humanity have not yet reached this stage. We don’t know what this is going to look like – God isn’t go to start again, but burn off what doesn’t endure. Including the sea (seen as chaos in Biblical thinking).

Jesus came, as a human, to connect the past and the future … in this he accomplishes the tasks given to Adam and Eve in the beginning. By succeeding where humanity has failed, the reconciliation process begins, with the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit.

Col 1: 19-20 – Christ comes in weakness, something that we can see as a pattern of God, but works through them. The weak things of the world shame the wise. We need weaning off our idolatrous pretensions – our wish for fame, power, significance – our reaching after Godlikeness.

Now have a sense of the bigger picture, and next – unpacking the significance of living out this story as Christians in the world.

WTC MOOC: TH49X1: Living the Christian Story: Creation (Week 1) // @WTCTheology

So, I’m a little late starting this one, but I can see a two-fold benefit from it. 1) I do theology every day, but am “a little hazy” about the terminology, the core names (or ‘meaty theologians’ as someone put it earlier) 2) I get to see a second online course in action and think what works/what I’d improve:


Intro: Module Rationale and Overview: The premise of this module is that an enriched and engaged Christian life depends on engagement with the riches of the Christian story, a story told in the Old and New Testaments, and in the life of the early Church. This module explores that Christian story and then considers several ways that Christians can creatively and meaningfully live out that story in their everyday context.

Overview: Matthew Lynch – Biblical story in old/new testament, early testament creeds/doctrines, social practices/social justice and in the workplace and ministries.

Core Reading:

Genesis 1-2

‘The Drama of Scripture’ – the importance of the ‘name’(s) of God, the understanding that the moon/sun are created by God, so God the creator is to be worshipped rather than the sun/moon itself. Written particularly to help those in the ancient world who were promoting different worldviews.

The importance of understanding the way that the story is told is important, clearly crafted, with an overview of themes (pp10)

  • God is the divine source of all that is
  • He stands apart from all other things in the special relationship of Creator to creation.
  • The fashioning of humankind by God was intended to be the high point of all his work of making and forming.
  • God had in mind a very special relationship between himself and this last-formed of all his creatures.

We worry so much about how that we think less about the why, and of our own place in the divine story. The main ‘actors’ in the play are God and humanity, and the relationship between them.

Creation = an amazing piece of art, and Genesis introduces us to the artist. In OT times, there were lots of questions about ‘authority’, and God is introduced as the ultimate authority. There is a relationship between God and his subjects, and we are invited to partake in the task of filling/ordering the world, which is our home.

Whatever questions there are about evolution, etc. the important point is that we are not random products of time/chance. Augustine Confessions would say that we are made for God and ‘our hearts are restless until we find our rest in him’. We are distinct from God, but made in his image. We are not given authority for ruthless domination over nature/tyrannical exploitation, but to steward/caretake it well. It’s like being asked into the studio to finish one of Michelangelo’s designs, and ensure that his reputation will be enhanced by the finished product… God is revealed in work, art, music, life, etc… We are not fully human on our own, but built in a variety of relationships. The world is not something to be looked down upon by those who are ‘saved’, but described by God as ‘good’. We are God’s image bearers, but we are tarnished (unlike Jesus).

Session 1:1 (Introduction)

There are 2 creation stories, which help us understand (according to the Bible), what does it mean to be human? They are also ‘the background music’ to the rest of the Bible.

“God is at work creating a people and a place for his presence so that creation can share in his abundant life.”

There’s a people focus, but there’s also a place.

The Bible has given us 2 lenses through which to understand the stories – a liturgy of creation, and ‘the drama of dirt’.

Session 1:2 (Genesis 1 as Liturgical Poetry)

Genesis 1 is structured carefully/poetically, and therefore that should inform how we should read it.

What existed before Creation is not fit for any form of habitation by creatures. God ‘breathes’ creation into existence. Creation of domains, and the filling of those domains.

¼ Light/Dark // Create heavenly bodies

2/5 Waters above/below // birds/fish

3/6 Earth // humans

7 – Sabbath ‘a day set apart’.

This is to be emulated by God’s people, including animals. All creation is made for a rhythm of work and rest.

Materiality – God declares it ‘good’, it has a goodness apart from its usefulness to humans. Invites rhythm, and meditation upon the story itself, and our fundamental relationships in/within the world.

Other texts echo the idea of the importance of creation (the importance of the creation of the tabernacle), the number 7 is woven into other Biblical accounts. Ensure that creation is not squelched in its use.

Session 1:3 Humanity in Genesis 1

God does not make idols of himself elsewhere, but chooses to be present in “us” – in the Bible, with the exiles. God’s continual movement towards humanity, to be with them.

God shares his power/rule with humanity, which then has an enormous responsibility for both the environment, and to ensure that each human is dignified as an image bearer (OT – special concern for the poor). No such thing as ‘human-to-human’ encounter, are encountering the divine – so to oppress the poor is to oppress their maker.

God shares his abundant life through blessing and provision. It’s not just giving good things, but provisioning for a task, with male/female working together as equals.

Session 1:4 Humanity in Genesis 2

‘The drama of dirt’ – God gets his hands dirty in the creation of the world. This is an earth-oriented story, whereas 1:1 is heaven oriented. There was no human to cultivate the earth, til Gen 2:7, when God could begin to form humanity (unclear whether it was ‘a man’ or ‘a human’.

To be human means to live with ‘bounded freedom’. Eat from every tree (a generous, giving God), except the tree of good and evil. Important to hear that the first command is one of generous abundance, but there are constraints. If the playground is a place where everyone can play ‘freely’ (without rules) then there is no freedom to play within that space.

Humans are deeply connected to the earth – images are made in the image of God above, but formed from the ground below. Humanity has a God-given task, of work – not as cheap labour, but to tend the divine garden (in the OT East, an abundant garden was a sign of wealth).

Man & woman are made for co-equal relationship. There’s a belonging together, serving as partners in the task (not a subordinate). The term ‘helper’ is used elsewhere in the Bible to speak of God. The first words spoken about man/women spoken about how they are alike, rather than how they are different. Loneliness is not seen to be good in creation. The human need for relationship is not threatening to God, or a sign of weakness in human beings. We are made for community with others as well as with God. In the ancient world, women typically left their household to join the man, Genesis encourages the man to leave his household.

Session 1:5: Reading Genesis 1& 2 Together

Being human before God – we share God’s life, power and rule, but we are made from the earth – the two need to be taken together. If we’re feeling down, look up, if we’re feeling superior, look down…

Being human in Creation – we rule/subdue it, but we also serve and steward it. We’re to be kings, but also to be servants.

Being human in community- in relation to other humans. Gen 1 – corresponding to the divine, whilst Gen 2 – corresponding to one another. What does the Bible understand as the ideal purpose of humanity? Jesus is seen to come as the fulfilment of the perfect role model…

Next week: looking at the overall Biblical story, what happens when sin enters?

QUOTED: Former chief Rabbi blames social media for inflaming wars

220px-SirjonathansacksRuth Gledhill asked me for a quote earlier today re “The former Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, has warned of of the potential of social media to inflame wars to global proportions and said: “God himself weeps at the evils being committed in His name.” Here’s some of my response:

Dr Bex Lewis, research fellow with Codec, which explores the interfaces between the Bible, the digital world and contemporary culture at Durham University and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age, criticised Lord Sacks for a “technological determinist” position – that the technology is responsible for forcing a person to act in a particular way, rather than giving new opportunities which a person make choices around.

She said: “Social media can be considered like a brick – you can build houses with it, or you can throw it through people’s windows. People are doing both with it, as people have always done with every communications medium. Yes, social media allows messages to move faster globally, and those who speak loudest will often be listened to. Social media, however, gives the opportunity to speak back, particularly if people gather together.”

Read full article.

A Reflection on the First #MediaLit Course

“Have you ever wondered how the media works, or watched a TV programme and asked yourself what values underpin it? Ever pondered the ethics of media production and consumption?  Is there a theology of communication? How might the church engage with and support those who work in the media? Ever thought about how the national church engages with the media? How do church press offices work? Could your local church engage more effectively with the media? What might the digital future look like? How might social networking develop? Today Twitter and FaceBook,  tomorrow…?

MediaLit gave the opportunity to explore all these issues and more. Based in the wonderful setting of St John’s College, Durham,  MediaLit was a week long, intensive course – both hands on and theoretical – which brought together media practitioners, journalists, the Churches Media Council, those exploring how to use social media in relation to Christian faith, trainee ministers, vicars and other interested parties.”

Read the full reflection by Kate Bruce and indicate your interest in future MediaLit courses. Find Kate on Twitter:

Bex’s Bio for @bigbible

In my third day working for CODEC, I ensured that my bio was available on the CODEC site, so here’s my new role for St John’s College, University of Durham:

  • Bex Lewis  – Email ; Twitter ; Blog
  • Blended Learning Project Manager, ‘The Big Read 2011’

Bex has a background in history, completing her PhD in ‘British Home Front Propaganda Posters of the Second World War’in 2004 at the University of Winchester, where she’d done her first degree in History with Education Studies. Bex built her first website in 1997, has built many more, and has undertaken accessibility and usability projects. She, however, is more interested in people/ communication/ popular culture than programming, and therefore was delighted when social media took off, and she is the Director of ‘Digital Fingerprint’, a social media consultancy.

As well as a ‘digital resident’, Bex is a polymath – she is the social media consultant for ‘Super Fun Days Out’, and has promoted interdisciplinary research, undertaken the LICC Toolbox course, and written for Damaris Culturewatch. After 7 months travelling around the world (Asia, Australasia, South America), she worked a summer season as a Tour Leader with Oak Hall Expeditions in 2008. She continues to work at the University of Winchester, as a ‘Blended Learning Fellow’ (finding tools for teaching using an appropriate mix of technology and face-to-face) with Associate Lectureships in Media Studies (particularly digital literacy) and History, alongside funded projects in student-skills and change management.

Bex is working for CODEC for 50% of her time throughout the 2010/11 academic year to develop ‘The Big Read’ on from its successful launch in the North-East over Lent 2010. The project will look to use the best mix of tools from the online and the offline worlds to encourage more engagement with the Bible, and draws upon Tom Wright’s forthcoming book ‘Matthew for Lent’. The project is supported by The Methodist Church, Premier Radio and SPCK, and Bex can generally be found at the Premier Radio offices in Pimlico Tuesday/Wednesday.

Join the project on Twitter:

Guest Post on @thechurchmouse #medialit

“A few days ago Pete Phillips from CODEC guest blogged on the Church and Media Network Conference, and mentioned an upcoming course organised by CODEC and the Church and Media Network, called as MediaLit.  The course describes itself as “an opportunity for first class training and resources in media for ministry for those engaged in formal pre-ordination training, those already engaged in local or national ministry and anyone concerned to connect Christian faith with communication in a digital age. ”

MediaLit has now taken place, and Mouse wanted to bring it to your attention.  Below is a guest post from Dr Bex Lewis on what it was all about.  Bex has a PhD in Second World War posters (, teaches History & Media Studies, whilst working on Blended Learning projects for the Universities of Winchester & Durham.”

Read the full post here.

Review of #medialit

Key Learning Points & Actions

  • Should be important for all to take this, media is so central to our society.
  • Is it OK for all to have wi-fi when many still don’t have water?
  • If you can’t do something really well it’s better not to bother or pay others? If all that means is that noticeboard is smart, etc. and is all can manage, then go with that.
  • Given more confidence to use technology, especially new media.
  • Use simpler new media more effectively – use good values. Make own material that like – not just moan about Rob Bell, but make better.
  • Is it my fault that in The Times that Christians look stupid – so stop blaming the media & engage with existing, and stand up for own thoughts.
  • So many thoughts. Difficult to stay up to date & be savvy, and how naïve we are with broadcast radio/tv media. Would be good to have refreshers to keep people engaged. Need to step back from the computer screen & think what is this really showing/doing – the right tools!!
  • There’s a role for lots of people in our congregations, particularly those who find it difficult to get involved in other areas.  What can others bring to it.
  • Fun, creative & gets juices going. Much of the Church fairly joyless & hard work – how get some of this excitement across to congregations.
  • Preaching, etc.? What connects everyone in this room? Creativity – given by God. Whatever use of media (or any other role in the world) – do it well. Take more risks, leave space to fail!
  • So much creativity in the Christian community…  Politics of the Church tends to lock a lot of that down – so how do we find ways of releasing that?
  • The media is not the Messiah or the Devil.
  • Find different platforms for your own creativity.  All try – at least we’re going somewhere.

David Wilkinson

  • Take more risks…
  • Be honest about failure – breed confidence by honesty! When we get things wrong admit it & don’t try and involve the Holy Spirit as a justification!
  • Find a network of people you can trust & work with on collaborative projects.
  • Theology – so easy to get drawn into the mode of communication, and forget the theological basis for what you’re trying to achieve. Theological support or constraint you might have.  Remember the WHY and the HOW through a theological lens. Paul – justification for missionary movement moving on out..
  • Bringing together media professionals & theologians v. important.
  • What kind of support/encouragement, etc. are you going to offer to those e.g. making radio programmes on Sunday morning – and what are you going to learn from them. Theology & technology – keep it together.
  • God is much bigger than our laptops & there are more questions that just how we interact with media. Every initiative needs to be critiqued through issue of justice. Work out strategically what’s important – accept compromises/balance, but keep asking questions.
  • New Media – give access to information, etc. for both developed/developing nations. Africa – never be cabled, but mobile phone – making a huge difference!  What could you do that would serve the local community where you are? E.g. buying Wii for Friday night clubs, etc.
  • Do we need to take this on the road as a 2-3 day course? Can we identify those who are passionate and can lead this?  General congregation can get involved, but identify those with particular passions.
  • ?
  • How do we see God involved in this? Is media a gift (community, communication, being fully human in community)? Can be a gift that can be corrupted by us so need theological understanding. Similar questions between science/faith – until see science as a gift can’t deal with it theologically.
  • In our richness, how do we share in a way that isn’t patronising, but is liberating. JUSTICE issues… Divide between those who have access to free information, and those who  only have access to advertised information.

The Church and Media Network

  • Media understand Christians better
  • Help Christians understand the media better
  • Support Christians working in the media (
  • Pray for those working in the media?  If you hear them, pray for them – let them know you’re praying for them..


  • Individualism vs community nature of the gospel
  • Christian media vs Christians working in the media (Just say yes if asked to contribute. Sucks the talent out, and takes an “out” for mainstream media as “they have their own space” – mainstream – have to be GREAT to get it out there – so we should aim to be good enough to get on BBC1, rather than putting it on own channel; what about e.g. getting Delirious in the charts, what about e.g. Athlete – band happen to be Christians, but they’re not KNOWN as that. MAKE good TV (not  necessarily “Christian” TV) – maybe you’ll get asked further questions, maybe you won’t.  Do we have to know, do people have to wear a label?
  • How support those who we want to take on roles in the congregation – not “oh, the vicar does it”.  Digitally enabled laity (those who are keen to use, enable them)
  • Where to start in applying it. What are they ALREADY communicating through notice board/their physical presence, the people in it, etc..

You are the light of the world, not you might be.

Use the right TOOL for the job.

New Media vs Old Media – midweek that seemed to be the way… now that divide also seems not to be there…  Don’t be AFRAID, just experiment, take risks, think about the MESSAGE that you have.  Sharing and more COLLABORATIVE seems to be more of the mood that’s coming out..

Ethics in the Media? #medialit

Who’s telling the truth? (Jeremy Paxman, The West Wing, Have I Got News for You)

Ethical: Truth, privacy, exploitations, taste, popularity, fairness, hurt?

Is anyone concerned about ethics? 2 years ago lots of ethical debates, started with Richard & Judy (You Say We Pay) – viewers phone calls, but no one past first 10 minutes. Most of these programmes make their money from phone calls. Set off a big hoo-ha…  and – re-editing – changed the story (even though it wasn’t broadcast). Unleashed self-examination – with multiple scandals.

  • These edits must happen all the time, so why does it matter that it’s the Queen.
  • E.g. the whole of Big Brother – it tells the story you want..
  • Is it all mis-representation – e.g. Songs of Praise Easter Service filmed at Christmas?
  • Is it the celebration or the mediation?
  • Does it need e.g. “30 women in our survey”, do we need to sacrifice some entertainment for honesty?
  • Are we talking about levels of honesty?
  • Emma Watson’s boobs get bigger in the IMAX version of Harry Potter – is this any different from other models? Is the first image “real”? What assumptions are there about values about e.g. what makes people feel attractive, etc?
  • ; . I f take own photos try and take appropriately – so this is just like post-editing. Has it changed the meaning? Photo happened to catch a moment – so wasn’t set up? So does removing a fencepost from the image matter? What happens if we say one of the arguments is that students were unable to escape from the gunfire – the removal of the fencepost becomes significant?
  • – image doctored and used on the electoral leaflet. Hadn’t asked Anne Widdecome’s permission – and she was mad.
  • The Sun published a picture of Great White Shark (from Africa) –; – went national, who would check, and damages the tourist industry. Why did they publish if not tree – because it will sell newspapers.
  • Is it OK that we see The Sun as entertainment, it doesn’t matter?!
  • Churches are not immune, what kind of stories do we put forward?

If you’re a news editor – what would you do if this story landed on your desk?

  • Are there people who are easily exploited? Values are coming from “don’t expect the media to be ethical”. What do we say about others who are being hounded by the media – is it problematic? The audience are complicit in exploitation.
  • BNP included in local TV (material being produced nationally although includes local stories).  Issues of freedom of speech? Basis as a local channel. Did they stop producing the tapes? Open access community channel – would monitor more closely? Where is the dividing line?  Can’t show illegal but CAN be offensive.. e.g. local sermons can be offensive to some. Similar story:
  • This story? It’s right to deceive in who they are to get ‘the truth’.  There are legally appointed bodies that could deal with this – e.g. Trading Standards – so why did the BBC not work with them?! Is the question different (can you break the law to find a story “in the public interest”) for journalists than others? Journalists may lose their lives in pursuing “the truth”.
  • Footballer, convicted of fraud, commits suicide in front of the group/cameras, etc. 30 minutes to air – would you air the story – with what audio/video. Convention  is that we don’t show the moment of death, but it isn’t illegal. At what point do you cut the pictures or the sound? Usually using a reporter on sight – he’s just seen a man commit suicide – is he going to be calm? Pastoral issues for the staff…  Why so many journalists are harsh – asking them to make sensitive decisions. Talking local press..
  • Thought wouldn’t mention that she’d died – tell story by omission until knew more about the hostage situation – would ask for exclusive from the Police. What about other media (TV/radio/internet) likely to run the story – where does that leave you?  “Our job is to tell the truth, and to tell something as fully as you can” – if divert – on a slippery slope…

Are there still good news stories in the papers, etc? Journalists are SO lazy it tends to get in…

When researcher asks you to sign a contract, it’s a “blood chit”.

How naïve are we?! Does Christianity inform us – we can’t agree, so what about journalists, many of whom have no Christian value. However have high values on ‘truth’ & entertainment!

The Church of England #medialit

Interesting session on communications in the national church

What is the Church of England?”: “A Christian presence in every community”.

What is the CofE today?

Video created (no sound, add your own) explaining what the CofE is:

and interested in developing this.

The organisation is professional , proactive, integrated, and mission-orientated

Communications Strategy

External context scanning – communicate externally.  (EPISTLE)

  • Economic
  • Political
  • Informational
  • Social
  • Technological
  • Legal
  • Environmental

Once understand the issues that people are dealing with, can communicate more effectively.

The group had a discussion about what was the SWOT for the Church of England, and therefore how can it engage best?

6-7  million go to church regularly in the UK, of which 1 million CofE.

Website (Audience)

There’s both an internal (staff & regular churchgoers) and an external audience (including those looking for weddings/funerals, non-churchgoers and the press).  A very diverse audience, so it’s unlikely that people will agree with all.


Digital Engagement is key…  It used to be an extra optional layer, now it’s key, particularly for the external audience:

Most of these projects started small in a single church, and then the momentum grows – it’s not about picking big projects.

The group discussed a great project with regards to encouraging people to have ‘staycations’ and engage with the local community.

Andrew Whiteley, former BBC Producer, God Channel/UCB #medialit

Talking specifically about the use of Christian media.

Funding? Very expensive business…

  • Licence fees?
  • Charitable appeals & broadcasters.
  • Sky – 15 TV channels, 10 radio channels, promoting Christian media – more sophisticated – is big money
  • Caveat – I am not a huge fan of Christian only TV – think we need those skills in mainstream media, although with so many niche channels, I think there’s a place for these channels, but PLEASE don’t suck all the skilled Christians into a Christian-media-bubble-niche – those who watch those kind of TV – already “preaching to the converted”! I have also seen a number of people who watch only e.g. The God Channel and consume it uncritically – TV is produced by humans, and we need to critique as much as with everything else.
  • Advertising is key – have some mainstream audience, can be very targeted – especially with e.g. Spotify : ; webmail providers (browser history). Because of the internet – lots of media is converging – newspapers are only just getting involved with it. Masthead sponsorship have to watch before get to content.
  • Having to identify new funding models…
    • Development of hi-speed broadband = worst nightmare.
    • Are so many options for video – doesn’t take much to get the lighting right/2 cameras not 2 – so look to make a decent video rather than slapping it up! There’s many novelists, but there’s only  one JK Rowling – put the effort in.
    • Games – big pressure on independents
    • God TV was ahead of the game…

Compression on TV through digital (including HD, clear on analogue TV) means, especially if move too fast, difficult to see.

  • Labour intensive & expensive to film
  • Satellite time & transponding – even MORE expensive!
  • How do channels such The God Channel  survive in there?
    • Most Christian TV channels have ‘help fund us’ run across the base of programmes – helps  confirm the idea that most Christians are money-grubbing.
    • Yes, ‘ the first thing that draws your eye is “Donate Now’ on a big red area…
    • Lots of rules regulate what is on TV. Overseas can get away with doing certain things, not covered by the same rules.
    • God TV – “anti” what The God Channel is doing…
      • Common tactic – need money to keep them on air… etc
      • We’re saying that God is a provider so why are we asking for money?
      • It wouldn’t happen if it didn’t work. The problem Andrew sees is the implication that if you GIVE God will bless you…
      • Need to accept that TV costs money (especially TV) and may have to ask for money, but ask honestly. Once can do it on the internet – take out satellite costs & that will help. S
      • Define a Christian Documentary. Tod Bentley & Lakeland business.  Likes
      • Good news stories?
      • Positive news stories?
      • Some invest time/money  into producing their own content, etc.
      • What about e.g. Billy Graham always pointed people to local churches.
      • Here, UCB are the good guys – they will refer you to useful sources.

Most start in TV not to make money…

So what is an HONORABLE way to raise money for Christian TV? E.g. Church partnerships?

So SHOULD we even have Christian TV?

One of the impacts of American model – OFCOM has found there are certain things they can’t regulate as people will find other ways round them. So it’s becoming increasingly liberal, otherwise closing doors after horses have bolted!

Some secular funding comes because they think there’s some interesting stories in there…

Is the brand the product or is the packaging?

What are we trying to “sell” and should the label/what’s inside in the tin match? Are we ‘selling’ – what words should we use? How do you see the word ‘sell’ – maybe you’re giving people something they want… at a cost (to someone)?

How can we be enterprising at our level? Seek God first and pray…

Local Church Comms @RevArun #medialit

Arun Arora: Local Comms (used to work for Archbishop John Sentamu)

How do you get a story out when you know what you want to say?

  • God’s Rule
    • The media is something that can be redeemed by God’s Kingdom.
    • Traditionally in the church – relations with the media have been rocky, especially because the church can be quite anti “the media”.
      • OK if it’s The Times or The Telegraph, etc. but what about The Sun?!
  • Redeeming stories
  • Fear Stories
    • A Word on Digital Media
      • “Digital is not all it’s cracked up to be. I’m sick of seeing all this hi-def, hi-hi, super-hi… It just seems to be a trend. In reality we all want analogue experiences.” Kylie Minogue. Times 19/06/10.
        • There’s a relationship between “old” and “new” media – Twitter only works because you can link to greater understanding.
        • E.g. The Beatitudes – bit like Twitter without the bigger understanding.
        • “Which Media Do You Trust”. Photo (2 years ago) by The Newspaper Society
        • 80.4% of British adults read a regional newspaper, rather than 61% who read a national newspaper – are these figures out of date?
  • New Media: The Power of Localism.  Clay Shirky “Here Comes Everybody”.
  • The Potential & The Fear
  • News-What is It?
    • Is it everything? Do people want to read about cereal?
    • Something that’s new?
    • Something unusual?
    • Not defined by the audience?
    • 5 categories
      • Events (something happens, e.g. 9/11) – in big stories may be all we hear about = “hard news”
      • Response (e.g. “The Today Programme”) – respond on behalf of community to what was hard news earlier (e.g. Cumbria shootings)
      • Piggy Back (commenting on comments, responding to response, especially fills a “slow news day”) – in many ways this is what we understand by blogs.
      • Calendar (specific known events)
      • Image (1972 – – can’t see what has been cropped out of the image – other photographers & other soldiers)
  • So, if you want to get in the press – you need to fit in one of these criteria – the often is in the Response/Piggy Back category.
  • The role of the church as part of the event – e.g. repatriation of bodies, violent deaths, etc..
  • Editorials – don’t tend to make news… occasionally it may become an event.
  • Spot the Odd One Out
  • Interesting response:
  • Within full nuances, complex, hour’s lecture – it makes sense, but who actually reads the whole story…
  • C of E = a voluntary organisation, not a company. Term “Broad Church” comes from here. So can say “Don’t talk to Press without talking to your Comms Office”, but doesn’t work that way – but each vicar needs to think “does this empower the Kingdom”.
  • Assumption that this story is a bad thing… just because it got hot… Get 2 lots of coverage by putting out a statement & then the retraction.
  • A Priestly Parable?
    • What can we learn from Fr Tim Jones?
      • Possible to use media effectively in highlighting issues of faith –esp prophetic
      • Good relationships can/do exist – usually in the form of individuals continuing relationship
      • The adrenaline of ’15 minutes’ in 24/7 media world can be addictive (the first story was good, the 2nd a mistake)
      • Not all publicity is good publicity.
    • A Priestly Parable?
      • What can we learn from Fr Tim Jones?
        • Possible to use media effectively in highlighting issues of faith –esp prophetic
        • Good relationships can/do exist – usually in the form of individuals continuing relationship
        • The adrenaline of ’15 minutes’ in 24/7 media world can be addictive (the first story was good, the 2nd a mistake): – pushed story too far, lost, now legally binding on all.
        • Not all publicity is good publicity.
          • AB John Sentamu – prayed through all stories, was seen as key. Secret to strong leadership – being led by the Holy Spirit & discerning through prayer.
    • What Would Hosea Do?
      • How would you advise the prophet Hosea to use the media to proclaim his message?
        • The Sun or a gossip magazine could pick it up. But would this be positive?  Draw out the human story. Good news story – moving from prostitution to home?
      • What are the main issues that you face in getting across this message?
        • “God said to me…”
        • Not in CONTROL of exactly how the message will be portrayed – newspapers likely to promote negative image.
        • It’s NOT happened yet.
          • FACED
            • Culture – Theocracy v liberal democracy
            • Authority – God? Which? Whose?
            • Association – “God told me to do it”
            • Authenticity – Stunt v. Prophetic Act? (people are so CYNICAL)
            • People don’t buy into “God told me”, but if you say “it’s my story/it’s my faith” it works.
      • Think of a modern day Prophetic Act that media would cover positively.
        • Tony Campolo (lost the detail here)
      • Application
        • Be culturally relevant – know your pitch and know your audience. (Those who critique the church for reducing self to soundbites, need to see that Jesus often did this).
        • Authority – wide appeal
        • Association – nothing new under the sun. Dog bits man, man bits dog. (Understand the news values that operate)
        • Authenticity & Proclamations? As against Paul 1 Cor 19.22
        • NEVER be afraid to say I’ll ring you back (having taken the questions) – but do ring them back quickly!

Prayer Session #medialit

The groups divided into 3 tables, with around 4-5 papers per table. The prompts below were divided amongst the tables. Delegates were asked to return to the newspaper(s) and look for a story which fits the prompt: interpretation of the prompt is up to you; feel free to discuss; decide how you pray about it. After praying stories are posted on the wall for all groups to see.

  • “How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number-living things both large and small. (Psalm 104:24-25)
  • John 17:15: My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one
  • A story to do with “Social Media” (positive or negative)
  • A story that relates to Social Activism (positive or negative)
  • A positive message to take from a story that is presented negatively
  • An “ending”
  • A “beginning”
  • A ‘global’ story
  • Mark 14:38: Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
  • A ‘local’ story
  • For a story of ‘hope’
  • Evidence of God’s blessing
  • A situation that looks as though it is ‘beyond hope’
  • Matthew 5:44: But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
  • Find an image that really ‘speaks’
  • A story that relates to a friend
  • Numbers 25:12: Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him.
  • A date in history that has modern day resonance
  • A story related to “being creative”
  • Genesis 4:9: Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
  • A story of community
  • A story of healing
  • A story of inclusion
  • A story of exclusion
  • A story of “religion”
  • An image of “hope”

Breaking News, Kate Bruce (@johnschaplain), #medialit

1991 – fell in love with Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird.

  • Wise, thoughtful, courageous, etc. as Atticus Finch: “”You never understand a person until you consider things from his point of view until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.””
    • Old Media: Understand the skin that those using new media are in..
    • New Media: Be more open to those who are in a different world
  • What does life right now look like from the perspective of a Louisiana fisherman, etc.?  Maybe we can never really know. May have to undertake an ‘imaginative exercise’ which puts you in their shoes.
  • Whose news is it anyway?
    • What’s on the front page of the paper doesn’t necessarily have to form the front page of the church agenda.
    • Do we use national/local news as the focus (sometimes)? Does preaching help the congregation understand the news differently?
    • 16% say yes, isn’t that a shockingly low number?
  • What are the pastoral and prophetic modes of preaching?
    • Pastoral preaching – around empathy/arouse compassion;  a resonation with life experience for the hearer. See God in a situation, cry out in lament/not tidy & closed down as have to join in the pain where God doesn’t seem obvious – return to hope in God on the basis of past faithfulness.
    • Where does the power lie in this preaching? Who has been left nameless – Prophetic preaching, takes risks as it looks to uncover that.
  • Key features of the imagination.
    • Re-creative
    • Inventive (Story-telling relies on a vicarious retelling of other’s experiences. E.g. May have no experience of redundancy after a lifetime in the steelworks – would be patronising to say that you did understand, but can imagine – how far?)
    • Speculative (Intentional alternative – either/or; not an optional extra for ‘arty types’ – shape the content, otherwise naïve platitudes… )
    • Transformative
    • Preaching without imagination is just dull & they should be shot! Otherwise is less evocative, otherwise the hearers are left with “so what” questions?
  • In what sense id preaching imaginative vocation?
    • Rummage in the experience we’re talking about, find the living/breathing text that we’re talking into – from both texts (news story, congregation, Bible)
    • Pray, study & discuss – do we put as much effort into trying to “sit inside” news stories as we do inside the Biblical text? It’s in the interplay that the meaning comes alive. Preacher’s job is to “arc the spark” – otherwise reductionist/closed, church-to-church. Should be dramatic, artistic, open, daring & liberated! Have a life after the sermon – provoke conscience, etc.
  • What can we learn from Atticus and Ignatius in terms of how preaching might deal with news imaginatively?b
    • Atticus stepping into people’s lives, and Ignatius into the Gospels.
    • Read in different accounts, reading editorials, understanding the surrounding.
    • What’s the link between the 2, and where is God in this situation, or is there a sense of God’s absence?
    • [Cockermouth – heard stories, family connection, reflected on who’s where]
    • See themes start to draw out that you can start to see the links to the Bible
    • Is this traditional teaching/preaching?
    • What about not starting from the Lexionary, but from a news story which inspires a sermon?
      • The difficult descriptions – do we run away from them?
      • How do we join with secular agencies to bring hope to e.g. Niger?
    • Imagine, pray and act!
    • Is this problematic, starting in the scriptures & not leaving – so how does that speak to us. Why are people not starting from news/film, etc.
      • Is God revealed in the world at all?
      • What about the situations in which God’s absence is palpable?
      • Shouldn’t we always begin with the scriptures because God is uniquely revealed here? Are the questions that we ask the scriptures limiting the Biblical text, but that assumes that God isn’t with us as we work for him.  Are the Scriptures sitting hermetically sealed until we open them – living words that God can use.
        • “Bible in one hand and newspaper in the other” – is that possible? Indicates that the news can be seen through a Biblical lens, etc.
        • Be careful about what we label as grace…  Lament – name pain, etc. in the world.
  • What are the objections to this approach to preaching?
    • What is the starting point for preaching, does it indicate that it’s last minute?
    • Different ‘learning styles’ (different media)..  we learn different ways.. :
    • Every day, 140 character sermon on the day’s news! Takes the triteness out of you, as you’re essentially announcing it…

Christians on TV (Andrew Graystone) #medialit

  • General
    • Vicar of Dibley
    • Songs of Praise
    • Eastenders
    • Big Brother Contestants
    • Father Ted
    • Ned Flanders
    • Rev. Lovejoy
    • Emmerdale – Ashley Thomas
    • Pentecost Service (Chris Moyles: All the things he was expecting to Christians to be – was better – happy, enjoying, good music…)
    • The Manchester Passion (3 years ago)
    • The Liverpool Nativity (2 years ago)
    • The God Channel & that kind of TV
    • Peter Owen-Jones
    • Dermot McCullough
    • C4: The Bible in 8 Parts
    • What do we look like?
      • Sex scandals in the Roman Church
      • Ned Flanders
      • Traditional Songs of Praise
      • Vicar of Soham, Cumbria
      • Father Ted
      • E.g. Tim & Jeremy Vine – not portrayed “as Christians”
      • The Archbishops
      • Vicar of Dibley
      • How do we feel about that? What best represent?
        • Those who were real/flawed is OK?
        • On TV Christians are generally really ‘unattractive’.
        • Mostly make you cringe… caricature
        • Christian men – portrayed – weak willed, effeminate in dramas
        • Dull spoilsports/no engagement with the real world, apart from:
        • Why no positive ones – tension works for news?
          • “Christians all get on with each other”… ?
          • Church – works if you’re there (works well on radio), but on TV hard to portray on TV – looks dull, or looks odd… so does it work on TV?

Religious Broadcasting: What is it for?

  • Representing a proportion of licence payers (Christians & other religion) – the content tends to be the kind of material that offers discipleship, so what other kind of content is there?
  • Understanding other people’s worldviews? Does it help us understand ourselves as a Christian society?
  • Does it belong in the mainstream (for wide audience)?
  • Does it belong in narrowcasting (interest groups)?
  • Tension – are you servants of the church or the audience?
  • Do we object to atheists making “Christian programmes”? (what is that programme?)
  • Tension – offer entertainment, or whether it’s content that’s more important?

Rev John Mayo – Rector of Whitechapel. Christmas Eve 1922 – first to speak on radio.

  • Sunday – church services, or musics, or talks by religious professionals. Assumed that religious broadcasting was to build the faith of believers, and evangelise to non-believers.
    • Katherine Cordeaux – campaigned for daily act of worship, still continues today – was “New Every Morning”.
    • Ordained ministers saw themselves as Priests on the radio – along came WW2 – did they critique or support the war?
    • – The Man Born to Be King – lots of division as to how Jesus should be portrayed (a WASP).
    • C.S. Lewis “Mere Christianity” came out of broadcasts: Church complained as he was a layman, and also because talks were scheduled very late at night.
    • 1948 – BBC seen as continuous teaching mission.
    • 1950s – TV more widely available. Is it OK to watch people praying? Is it OK to record worship? What is the status of a prayer that is pre-recorded?
      • Closed period – Sunday evening, 70% on religion. Home of religion on BBC was seen to be Sunday evening/morning – the one time, when that specific audience is not really available.
  • 1961 – Thought for the Day
  • 1980s – House churches, etc. growing, so led to programmes led by lay people, e.g. “This is the Day”.  V. small audience, and people weren’t participating as the programme assumed… (ring in, etc.).
    • No specific religious matter – against
  • 1990s – Decided to set up Heaven and Earth – religious programming for those who are not religious
  • Now: “The Big Questions”:
  • No quota on religious broadcasting, aside from ITV, 52 hours (middle of night). BBC – part of its charter.
  • Watching Programmes:
    • As a Christian working the media, do you feel that you can use the medium to present evangelistic material? No, if wrote songs, wouldn’t only write Christian songs – just produce the best songs that I can…
    • How does the Christian community make itself relevant to the WIDER community?
    • As a Christian working the media, do you feel that you can use the medium to present evangelistic material? No, if wrote songs, wouldn’t only write Christian songs – just produce the best songs that I can…
    • It’s not prejudice against Christians, it’s ignorance!!  They don’t know many Christians, or the Christian faith, and Christians haven’t gone out of their way to make themselves understood, and have developed a lot of niche broadcasting, which has sucked the talent out and away from the mainstream medias. Feeling from some in the church that working in the media is a bit “dodgy” – e.g. Christians working in medical field and teaching, lots of networks and who supports the media – if you need it start it yourself:, but not a noticeable engagement with the media from the mainstream church.
      • So what can WE do if we don’t work in the media – with little budget, etc…
      • People still spend more time on TV, and we need to engage with that mass culture.
      • Just because New Media is here doesn’t mean we ignore old media.
      • Offer to be a news outlet to local radio, etc. – not just for the God Slot!
    • What’s happening that we seem to be polarising into new media & old media!!