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Category: Social Media

Changing Worship is One Egg Heavier

Holy Nativity is in the middle of running a mindfulness course.  Two clinical psychologists are offering their time and expertise as part of their faith giving.  I am doing the course for my own wellbeing.  Some of you at this point will have no idea what I’m going on about.

Mindfulness means: “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally.”

(Jon Kabat-Zinn)

Part of mindfulness is to regularly pay intense attention to what you are doing.  This could be anything but I have found eating something to be something I find beneficial.  Every morning I eat eggs from the churchwarden’s chickens.  And each morning I cook them in a rush, and wolf them down as I am half way out of the door.  Sometimes, my eating is so bad that I forget to chew something and have to drink something to stop myself from choking.  I rush.  I rush everywhere and rush everything I don’t think is important (like eating breakfast) so that I can live 1.643 lives simultaneously.  “How do you manage to do so many things Robb?”  Well if I’m honest, it is by missing out a lot of other things.  Like chewing.

So I am an egg heavier.  I selected my small pan and put it on the heat.  I selected an egg.  I chose a large brown one with several pieces of straw still stuck to it.  I cracked it on the side of the pan and watched as it slide into a slight dip in the metal base.  I watched as it slowly changed from clear to white.  I opened the packed, avoided the crust and selected two sliced of bread.  Then I decided which sauce to use (Bourbon BBQ for breakfast because I’m that edgy).  As I sat down and looked at my breakfast I smelled fried egg for the first time in years.  Considering I eat this same breakfast most days, that is a revelation.  How have I not noticed what fried egg smells like for so long?  I savoured every bite.  Then the inevitable happened, it dribbled down my chin.  And I realise as I held the small side plate that I leave a lot more mess with a fried egg butty than I do at communion.  And then I realised I was praying.  And had been praying for the last ten minutes.  I had been praying about something as mundane as an egg.  I wasn’t relating to myself so much as relating to the divine, the other, that which is not part of me, the holy:  God.

And I kept on praying.  About family, friends, the community I’m part of at Holy Nativity and the hundreds of concerns I have for people.

An egg led me to prayer because I paid attention to it.

Yes, that sounds weird to me as well.

So what keeps me from paying attention to what I’m eating?  What gets in the way of praying?  The times my mind wandered off of the mindfulness exercise, I was thinking about one thing and one thing only:  Facebook.  “I’ll have to change my status to “Robb is one egg heavier, chuckle”.  How has Social Media become such an important part of our lives that it can stop us from living them?

I am an early adopter.  I love Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and even Myspace (Currently residing in our where are they now files).  Social media is a great thing.  Social media keeps us connected with each other in ways that we could only dream of ten years ago.  It connect us with friends and family who are far off.  We must be careful not to allow it to stop us from connecting with those who are near.  We must be careful not to allow it to stop us connecting with the divine.

Robb is one egg heavier.

The Big Benefits Row

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I’m always cutting edge and up to date, never several days behind.  No no no.

I recorded The Big Benefits Row the other night because I’d had a bad day.  A well informed individual from the local area was using Facebook to inform everyone that Foodbanks were just a way for “trendy, dogooder, left wing, anti government Christians” to “feel good about themselves”.  Having given real examples of real lives from the food drop in and St George’s Crypt, it was clearly going around in circles as “all money for the homeless is spent on drugs and booze”. I did not really fancy The Big Benefits Row:  The clue is in the title,  more of the same.

If I’m honest, I turned it off after Edwina Currie.  I grew tired of Edwina Currie and Katie Hopkins’ plum accents shouting down the regional accents of the “poor people” and refusing to let them speak.  It was exhausting to watch.  Like watching a pack of dogs tearing a puppy to pieces in a dingy cellar somewhere in the East End of London as a sweaty man takes screwed up five pound notes from a baying crowd whilst going on about the savings he’ll now make on Winalot.  So I turned it off.

Hey Vicar: Who Are You Writing That For?

blogThis morning I blogged about how The Church ™ so often fail to engage with people in the age bracket 20-40.  Statistically The Church ™ is not good with people in this age group.  A small group of us met to discuss how we could connect people to the ongoing story of God without worrying particularly about The Church ™ side of things.  For lots of people it can feel like engaging with The Church ™ is a bit like jumping on a moving train whereas there is often an openness to “faith”.

Whilst we were discussing how to do this through online content I had an epiphany that starts at a bit of a tangent.  I have been designing the new website for our church, Holy Nativity.  When stuck in the car for 5 hours Ruth and I were discussing content for it.  The essential information began to come together but we kept dreaming up epic descriptions and justifications to add to each page.  A description of “morning prayer” began a conversation about “why we pray, what we pray, how we pray”….

“Why are we putting this on the website?  It feels more like we’re putting it up to justify ourselves to other Christians in the area rather than for people who are just discovering us for the first time.  We seem to be saying that we are ‘sound’”.

You have been to websites dear reader.  How many times do you find opening phrases like “we are a bible believing church…” or other long phrases in christianese and jargon?  Perhaps the front page has giant lettering of Revd Kirk’s bold statement: “Our ongoing mission to make disciples of Christ where no one has made disciples of Christ before”.  Things that are purely designed to show how ‘sound’ we are to the other Christians.  We probably don’t even realise we are doing it.  And it doesn’t matter which particular flavour of “sound” we are – just so long as other Christians know it!  “We are a forward in mission shaped, biblically based, congregation of the Father’s heart”.

As I recounted this to our small gathering I searched the annals of my mind for content I’ve encountered that is purely for engaging people outside of The Church ™ with God’s story.  Surely there must be some good straightforward online content for people of no faith background that invites us and our modern context to engage with Jesus life and this strange thing we call ‘faith’.

I couldn’t think of anything.  When we engage, we tend to engage with each other.  Christian Leaders blogging for other Christian leaders.  Pontificating for the approval of our peers.  Vicars blogging for other vicars to show how good we are at being vicars.  Heck, I’m doing it right now. 

You dear reader, YES YOU!:  if you have got this far you are a Christian leader of some shape or form or you are very strange indeed.  I mean, why would anyone else read this content?  It’s a vicar talking about vicaring.

When I reflect on what I have written, I have written stuff for other Christians.  I talk about engaging with people outside of the church but what I write is in essence an instruction manual or theological reflection for other leaders.  OK, probably 90%.

But it is not all doom and gloom!!  Whilst this epiphany took place during our meeting, we did look at how we can buck the trend and create meaningful encounters for people online.  In the next few weeks I will ask you for your help to bring the story of God to life in the modern world.

Personalisation – The Internet Filter Bubble and Facebook

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This Ted Talk came from Carole reminding me of a blog I wrote for the Big Bible site about Theological Ghettos.  The way the internet works at the moment disturbs me as it edits out the things it believes I don’t want to see.  Google shows me what I want to see.  An algorithm decides what my world should look like.  Google essentially feeds me pictures of Mother Theresa, Desmond Tutu and Eddie Van Halen.  That kind of thing.  Give the people what they want!  And why not?

Facebook recently introduced a change to the way it works.  It has started to push content to your friends when you click “like” or comment upon a post.  I assume this means that every time I click like on a Star Wars meme is is pushed through to some of my friends.  As they are friends with me they must clearly be interested in the same things as I am – this is the logic that Facebook is employing.

This has shattered my internet filter bubble.  The world now looks a little different than before.  In the past week I have discovered that a “friend” of a “friend” likes the EDL.  I’ve seen numerous racist memes.  I’ve discovered that there is a more unpleasant underbelly to the society I am part of.  A less pleasant world that I was happily living without.  No doubt my friends have discovered that I talk about ‘vicar things’ a lot more than they thought previously.

It won’t come as a surprise to you to discover that I am “politically liberal” and so are a large proportion of my friends.  However, Facebook has just let everyone’s guard down.  Everyone is now less able to hide “the real you” from the world of Facebook unless they choose not to engage with it.  Every click potentially outs you as the person who “likes” pictures of fluffy kittens.  Alternatively you may find your more sinister side on display for the world to see as you are “outed” as a secret Belieber.