I nominate these guys

baptismal candidates

Can you change the world by pouring water over someone?

Well, we had a go yesterday in St Mary’s with two lovely baptisms in a great service yesterday morning.

In the course of the service, we were reminded of Moses being scooped from the water of the River Nile and going on to set a whole people free from slavery. Then we heard a bit of St Paul which reminded us that transformation of the heart was connected with accepting that we all have gifts that differ. (What a fabulous reading for a baptism). Then we had a reading from the gospels which told us that in trying to work out who Jesus was, Peter the apostle actually found himself named and commissioned for service.

What will these children do in their lives?

There is so much trouble in the world at the moment that it is important to be reminded of the hope and the joy that isn’t just part of what happens when new life comes into a family with the birth of a child but also the new life  and hope which is intrinsic to our faith.

Yesterday morning was a little Easter for us at St Mary’s. And a packed church was buzzing with the ideas that new life, hope and love are real and for sharing.

I don’t know who is going to sort the world out and allow the kingdom of love to be seen for real. But I nominate these guys, freshly baptized, and all like them who are entering the world anew. May they be a generation that brings faith, hope and love to bear on a world that needs to be baptised with every drop of goodness it can get.

Slow Eucharist – Teaching Mass – Lord’s Supper with FAQ

I’m doing something a bit different on Monday. It happens to be the Feast of St Bartholomew and normally we would have a celebratory Eucharist in the morning instead of morning prayer. Now, I’m the master of having all the works in less than half an hour.  Clouds of smoke, a simple sung plainsong setting a wee homily and some prayers and off we go into the world refreshed by being inspired by the saint of the day. It all has to be sharp and to the point but it is fun none the less.

However on Monday I’ve shifted the Eucharist to the evening and instead of it being over before you can blink, I’ve advertised it as a slow eucharist.

The idea is that we’ll take time over it and I welcome questions throughout the service. I’ll probably have some questions to think about too.

I’ve done a few services like this in my time.

When I’ve done this before, it has been enjoyed by a range of people. It is particularly suitable for anyone who comes to the Eucharist and has been wondering about how the service hangs together. What do the individual bit mean? Why do we do it this way? I’ve also known parents who believe (in the face of the church telling them otherwise) that children should “understand” communion before receiving it enjoy bringing their kids. (My experience is that kids do understand it and adults have the questions, but that’s OK). It is particularly suitable for anyone of any age who wants to begin receiving communion but who hasn’t received so far because they don’t quite get it or have wondered whether or not they should.

The kinds of questions that have come up in the past have included…

  • Why do you wear that colour on that day and how do you know?
  • Why do we have wafers when other people have bread?
  • Why do you do that with your hands?
  • Why do we sometimes have three people at the altar – what are they all doing there?
  • How do you know who is who by what they are wearing?
  • What really happens to the bread and wine?
  • What do all Anglicans believe about this
  • What are the secret prayers that the priest says?
  • What do you mean secret prayers?!!!
  • Why do people have different names for the service – Eucharist, Lord’s Supper, Mass, which is it?
  • Can you receive communion if you’ve arrived at the last minute?
  • If Jesus only gave communion to men then why do we give it to women too?
  • Did Jesus know he was starting something that would go on and on through the centuries?
  • What’s that called?
  • Who is allowed to receive communion? Is there anyone you would refuse communion to?
  • Can you be excommunicated from the Scottish Episcopal Church?
  • Why did I have to be confirmed to receive communion and now people don’t?
  • Why? Just why?
  • Why do we do this, when we used to do that?

I’ll give plenty of time for questions and answers. Don’t presume I have all the answers. My hunch is that the best answers will come from the community that gathers.

It will be fun. It will be informal. It will be holy.

No question too silly.

All welcome on Monday at 6.30 pm. Depending on numbers, we may start with a sacristy safari to gether all the bits and pieces together. If there are too many of us, we’ll reschedule that bit for another day. We should be all out of the building by 8.30 pm so slow but not interminable. (Length depends on the number of questions).

Comments and questions welcome on here too.


On turning down Big Brother

This morning could have been so very different. I could have been waking in a room of sleeping pseudo-clebs and instead of writing a blog post I could have been called to the diary room.

The funniest telephone call I’ve taken in the last year was from an agent looking for candidates for the Big Brother House who was ringing to ask whether I would be interested in auditioning for Celebrity Big Brother. I didn’t stop laughing for days. It didn’t need a moment’s thought to know that the BB House was not the place for me.

I have to say that my first thought was that I wasn’t a celebrity but then looking down the list of those who have actually made it into the house, I’m not sure that should have been a worry.

I was never entirely sure why I got that call. The only thing I can think of is that they were going down the Pink List that the Independent kindly publish every year and asking everyone on it whether they might be interested. (The fact that they got to me would indicate that rather a lot of people turned them down before I got the chance to say no). Maybe this blog was a plus point in their minds too.

But how our lives have changed over the years that Big Brother has been in existence on our television screens. The blurring of the public and the private is one of the major themes of modern Western life and one that I think we still don’t quite understand. And the profusion of cameras in our lives is something that I didn’t see coming. I have a little one on top of my computer screen waiting for any moment when I want to make a video call or for when online evening prayer starts up again. As I walk to work, I’ve no idea how many cameras will record my movements nor who will look at the images.

And the idea of confessional diaries that all the world can read – well, blogging has become unremarkable now.

My hunch is that many of the people who started blogs have fallen by the wayside. Perhaps they’ve got bored, perhaps they have been bitten on the behind as things they have written have come back to haunt them and perhaps they just didn’t get the celebrity that they were hoping for. How painful to be a celebrity in your heart that no-one pays any attention to at all.

There’s still mileage in blogging but it is changing. We are seeing fewer bloggers stick it out but I think many of those who are keeping going for the long-term are learning how to do it successfully. The increasing ubiquity of social media means that it is hard to be a successful blogger without knowing one’s way around some of those platforms too.

But people still read blogs. The thousands of people who read my post last week about the offense caused to many by the Director of Communications of the Church of England in one little tweet, were clearly interested in a perspective that they wouldn’t find in the mainstream media.

Very happy to have turned down Big Brother. Very happy to still be on here.

Why Travelodge got it right in removing Gideon Bibles

I gather that the Travelodge hotel chain has decided to remove Gideon bibles from their hotel rooms.

I remember the last time I stayed in a Travelodge room being surprised that there was still a bible provided. It seemed something of an anachronism.

It is hard not to admire the tenacity and the determination by which the Gideons exercise their ministry. They give a lot of money and time into providing bibles in hotel rooms, schools and to other people and other places. However, as a Christian charity they’ve not really kept up with the times.

Here are the reasons that I think that Christians have nothing to fear in Travelodge removing the bibles.

  • The Gideons have remained fixed in their view that the New International Version is the most appropriate book to leave around for people. It is a determinedly Evangelical translation of the bible. (See this recent post for reasons I might have reservations about that: 10 Things Evangelicals Don’t Tell You at First). But not only that, the Gideons seem, so far as I can tell to remain wedded to an old version of the NIV which has the distinction of using language which makes the least attempt to treat men and women equally.
  • I wonder just how successful their ministry is. In all my years working in the church, I’ve never ever met anyone who talked about coming to faith as a result of reading a Gideon bible. Indeed, I’ve never encountered anyone who talked about ever reading a Gideon bible. Maybe I’m wrong but perhaps there might be strategies to get people reading the bible that might be more successful than simply leaving old fashioned bibles around.
  • It seems to me that the world is becoming a more secular place and less something that we can recognise as Christendom. That means that it can’t be assumed that Christianity is going to be privileged in particular ways in the future in ways that it has been in the past. I don’t think this is a bad thing. I also think that Christianity might stand more of a chance of thriving if it got on with telling people that God loves them rather than always seeming to be defending those privileges of old. Moaning about Gideon bibles being removed is not a strategy that is going to be successful or worthwhile and nor does it spread any kind of message that is going to leave anyone feeling better disposed towards Christianity.
  • Increasingly people who stay in hotel rooms are going to be unfamiliar with the idea of reading anything in a book.
  • If you do accept bibles as a hotel chain then you are really going to have to accept anything else offered. Does it really do the Christian message any use to have a New International Version of the Bible sitting there with Buddhist scriptures, Hindu Vedas and whatever the atheists are going to want to slip into the mix?
  • I think part of the point of most modern hotel chains is that the rooms are functional, comfortable and neutral. It is easy to see how having a bible changes that.

Whilst we are on the topic of the Gideons, did you know that you can’t become a Gideon if you are a woman? Or that you can’t become a Gideon if you are a Roman Catholic?  See here for details – http://www.gideons.org/FAQ/FAQ.aspx

I like to encourage people to read the bible. That’s why I published my Where to Get Started with the Bible post recently which a lot of people have seemed to find helpful.

However, I don’t feel inclined to lament Travelodge’s decision. Indeed, I’m surprised it has taken them so long. I think they’ve probably made a choice that was inevitable.

I’d rather stay in a hotel room unadorned by the beliefs of the hotel’s owners.

Travelodge have indicated that they’d be happy to supply bibles from their front desk. And anyway, anyone with a smartphone can access the bible.

Christians should be encouraging new ways of engaging with the text.

Christianity doesn’t depend on having bibles in hotel rooms. Bibles in hotel rooms depended on Christendom, but that is now gone.

I don’t think faith has much to fear.


A wee homily for Derek and Nelson

Derek and Nelson – you have come here to St Mary’s today to declare your love for one another and so that we can share your joy and give thanks with you.

Today is a feast day in the church. It is the Feast of St Mary – and here we all are in a church dedicated to her, St Mary’s Cathedral. And on a feast day we share in joy….and in thanksgiving.

Now, on this day the church remembers different events that happened in the Mary’s life. We remember her at the beginning of Jesus’s life sharing the joy of his birth and we remember her at the end of his life sharing her sorrows with others. And on this day, you’ve chosen a gospel reading all about another event in her life. You’ve chosen the reading about the wedding at Cana of Galilee.

As we’ve just heard, Mary was the guest at a wedding and at a given point in the proceedings, she nudged her son and declared that there needed to be more wine and that he should do something about it.

And sure enough, water was brought out and it was changed into wine and the party went on. No doubt there was joy, and considerable thanksgiving.

Looking around at all of you gathered here, I don’t know whether you believe in miracles or what you make of stories like that. I also don’t know how you all feel today – beyond being sure that you come here with a sense of joy and of thanksgiving and of love for Derek and Nelson. My guess is that many of you are sitting here surprised to find yourselves here – still surprised that such a ceremony like this is possible.

The truth is, for a lot of us who grew up as gay people, this was completely outside our expectations. We never expected to be able to celebrate a partnership in this way. It just wasn’t conceivable.

Yet here we all are.

I don’t know whether you believe in miracles. But for some of us here today, we have watched things change over the last few years. They have changed in ways that once we could never have believed. Those of us who are gay have watched water change into wine in front of our very eyes. And we have begun to drink. And the wine tastes absolutely wonderful.

Joy. And thanksgiving. And wonder.

Those are the things we celebrate here today.

Mary clearly wanted all the cups at the feast to be full, absolutely full to the brim. And running over.

And so it shall be.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Calling out Homophobia in the Church of England

It is very, very rare that I accuse someone of homophobia. Those who know me in Scotland, who happen to hold different views to me will know that it simply isn’t an accusation that I throw around.

However, I did make that accusation last night, against the Director of Communications of the Church of England.

Here’s the conversation. You need to know that Patrick Strud is the journalist to whom Christian rock musician Vicky Beeching told her coming out story which was printed in the Independent. Rev Arun Arora is the Director of Communications for the Church of England. Andrew Forshew-Cain is a priest in the Church of England.

In responding to a tweet about Vicky Beeching and the future of the Church of England, Arun Arora said that she was welcome in the church because all are broken. This is an entirely inadequate response to someone who has just come out. It is fine to say that all are broken – it isn’t fine to link that brokenness to the identity of groups of people who know prejudice at first hand. It wouldn’t be acceptable to say that black people are welcome in church because everyone is broken and so they are welcome – that would be racist. It is the same with those of us who are gay.

I think that Andrew Forshew-Cain and I might well be regarded as people well qualified to know what church sponsored homophobia looks like.

I’ve woken up today to many posts on facebook and on twitter from people agreeing that this tweet was unacceptable.

I’m absolutely prepared to agree that Arun Arora did not mean to be offensive in his post. However, he needs to learn from the people on facebook and twitter who have found it offensive.

[Read more...]

A blessing for Vicky Beeching

I see from my twitter feed that there is a big church story in the press just breaking as I write this. Vicky Beeching has talked about being a gay woman for the first time. It is a big story because she has a strong public profile which she has worked hard to build up and because a lot of her music is sung in big evangelical churches in the USA and elsewhere.

Earlier this year she revealed that she was supportive of LGBT people and causes and received both support from some and condemnation from others. Vicky’s situation seemed particularly poignant since her income partly depends on her songs continuing to be circulated and sung by some of the very people who might be inclined to condemn her.

At the time, she was quoted as saying:

It’s important to me to retain evangelicalism as part my Christian identity. I don’t think the two [evangelicalism and supporting same-sex relationships] are incompatible. I don’t want to lose what evangelical means; there are so many good aspects of it. The Bible is as important as ever; my LGBT theology comes from a high view of scripture, not throwing the Bible out the window. People have accused me of watering down what the Bible says, but for me it’s about using the brain God has given us to put the verses [about homosexuality] into their proper historical context.

I simply don’t know whether the attempt to retain evangelicalism as an identity whilst being lesbian or gay is possible – it wasn’t for me. However I’d want to wish her the very best in trying to work it out.

My own experience of coming out quite publicly (ie in the pulpit) at a similar age is that everyone I heard from was supportive. If there were any who were upset or critical they managed to keep it to themselves.

All this is highly pertinent to the post I wrote about what it means to be an Evangelical. There are people who attend Evangelical churches who wouldn’t recognise my description – for them the camaraderie and the music are far more definitive of who they are than anything about theology, the cross or the bible.

I don’t know what will happen to Vicky Beeching’s reputation amongst Evangelicals now.  However, just as Alan Bennett famously said that Cranmer didn’t die for English Prose, neither is Evangelicalism defined by the sexuality of who writes its choruses. At least, one hopes not.

I want to wish Vicky Beeching a blessing as she negotiates a new world. What she has done in being honest is a big thing. She must not be defined by whether others accept her or not. So, a big blessing for Vicky Beeching today, I say. She will have given lots of people a lot of hope and helped many to stay in touch with God simply by doing what she has done so publicly.

Eternal God of truth and love,
bless those who come out this day with joy and delight,
bless those who fear honesty with greater maturity,
bless those who look for love this day and every day.

10 things Evangelicals don’t tell you at first

I notice that one of my colleagues in the church, Malcolm Round has been trying to define what an Evangelical is.  Now, I’m very fond of Fr Malcolm and do believe he does a power of good though I have been surprised at how damning he has been in public about liberals in the church recently. One might think by reading his blog that he’s never read any good liberal theology and I’m sure that can’t be true.

However, I’ve been someone who has been an Evangelical and someone who has been greatly moved my much that people would label as liberal. Perhaps having heritage from both parts of the church I’m able to offer something helpful to the question of what it is that makes someone an Evangelical that Malcolm has been trying to answer. Those two strands, evangelical and liberal have contributed to who I am and how I live and how I try to spread the good news about Jesus.

I thought I might help Malcolm out with 10 things about Evangelicals that Evangelicals tend not to tell you when you first encounter them and when you first encounter an Evangelical church.

  1. Evangelicals believe in hell. By that, I mean that they generally believe that there is a real existence beyond this life where individual souls will be punished because of the choices that they made in this life – particularly the choice of whether or not to accept that Jesus is their personal Saviour and Lord. [Evangelicals are not the only people to believe in hell but that very personal view of salvation is pretty distinctive].
    I tend to share the view of the mystic, Mother Julian of Norwich, who had a vision in which she said she had seen hell, knew that it was real but found it to be empty.
  2. Evangelicals claim to read the bible and claim to take it very seriously but curiously, they don’t read much of it in their churches. I think this is one of the oddest things – if you come to a church like mine you’ll find a place where the bible is read out loud every day – a couple of readings and some psalms on weekdays and Sunday evenings and three readings and a psalm on Sunday mornings.
    I think that one of the reasons that Evangelicals differ from other Christians on issues like sexuality is that other Christians are used to hearing passages of scripture read in the context of other passages which leads them to do a lot of compare and contrast thinking about different things in the bible.
  3. Evangelicals tend to view only one theory of the atonement as valid. The atonement is the business by which we are saved, put right with God etc. I’ve already indicated above in #1  what that view of atonement is.
    I find different, sometimes competing views of what can put us in right relationship with God in the bible. (This isn’t surprising since different people wrote different bits of it at different times in history).  I find different people today speak of coming into relationship with God in different ways. I sing hymns in which that diversity is recognised. I am moved by different views of the atonement at different times in my life. I can’t see how only one can be true. God doesn’t seem to be in that business.
  4. Many Evangelicals believe the modern State of Israel to be a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. The idea is that God promised the land to the Hebrew tribes of old, preferring them over other tribes who once lived in that land. Pressure from American Evangelicals causes this view to directly influence US policy.
    I think this view directly contributes to deaths in the Middle East and persecution for Palestinian Christians and Muslims. I’m aware that not all Evangelicals hold to it but I’d like to hear Evangelical leaders who do not subscribe to this view call out those who do.
  5. It is a common view amongst Evangelicals that it is only Evangelicals who are the real Christians. After all, if you only believe that there’s one way to put yourself right with God, you are only going to accept those who take that road.
    I think that there’s a wideness in God’s mercy and that it isn’t my business speculating on who is in and who is out.
  6. Despite reading the bible and claiming to believe it, many evangelicals believe simony to be a legitimate way of getting what they want in the church. Simony is the practise of trying to buy and sell religious favours, posts or power for money. The term comes from Acts chapter 8 where a character called Simon Magus tries to buy a holy spirit experience. You don’t have to delve far into the current politics of most denominations without being told that if the denomination is nicer to gay people then the Evangelicals will withhold their financial contributions.
    I think simony is a sin. In contrast with the God of Acts chapter 8, I don’t think it should be punished by instant death, however I think it is a sin that shouldn’t be indulged.
  7. Evangelicals form the core of the opposition to lesbian and gay people in many denominations. They claim that this is because “it says so in the bible”. Other Christians who also read the bible don’t think the bible says this and/or don’t think this is a legitimate way of reading the bible.
    I think that accepting that gay and lesbian relationships are as legitimate as straight relationships does indeed cause many of the presumptions on which Evangelicalism is built to begin to feel very shakey. I’m interested in the new emergence of gay-friendly Evangelicals but I struggle to see how that works. Once I’d accepted that I thought that gay relationships could show forth the love of God as much as straight relationships then, for me, a lot of the rest of Evangelicalism crumbled. There are good theological reasons for this. Evangelicals have very good reason to be very frightened of the inevitable move towards accepting gay people and gay relationships in churches.
  8. Evangelicalism tends to follow the cultural trends of society 30 years later than other types of Christianity. Once upon a time, the examples above would have been about women in leadership in the church – now lots of Evangelicals have got over that. In 10 or 15 years time the examples relating to sexuality will be obsolete as large numbers of Evangelical churches will somehow have come to accept that gay people are OK. However, by that time they will be arguing furiously that other Christians have gone too far in accepting, loving and embracing people of other faiths. Expect “the uniqueness of Christ” to be something you hear a good deal more about.
    I think that Evangelicals need to learn from their own experience of thinking about divorce and about the ministry of women. I wish someone within Evangelicalism would write a history of how Evangelicals have changed their minds.
  9. Evangelicals tend to think that the personal is more important than God’s good news for society. It is another consequence of that dogged adherence to one view of the atonement. The paradox is that Evangelicals are suspicious of those social movements such as feminism or gay rights which have emphasized that the personal is political.
    I think that God’s love for the world is never merely personal and that’s part of what I was preaching about on Sunday.
  10. Evangelicals are a modern phenomenon. Evangelicals think that they are getting back to the original (authentic?) version of Christianity practiced by the early, first Christians and that there has tended to be a faithful remnant through the ages who have believed what they have believed. They tend to be ignorant or suspicious of histories which show modern Evangelical views to be responses to rationalist thinking emerging amongst, for example, Renaissance humanists or the new rationalists of the Enlightenment.
    I think that I’m a child of the Enlightenment and I think that God still loves me. I think that most of the tenets of Evangelicalism would have been completely incomprehensible to most Christians during most of Christendom.

I hope this is helpful to Malcolm and to others who wonder what Evangelicalism is all about. Sometimes you can’t see things clearly whilst you are very close to them. That’s certainly my experience of Evangelicalism. Notwithstanding all the things above, Evangelicalism remains the place where I learned to love Jesus and where I met a God who loves me still. It also feeds many other churches – we’ve lots of people at St Mary’s who have been touched greatly by Evangelicalism but who now need to find somewhere to work out what bits of the Christian faith are true because they know that what they’ve learned so far is inadequate for them at the moment. I have much for which to be thankful to Evangelicalism.

The above list is a list of generalizations. That means that there are exceptions to just about all of them. Trust me, I’m aware of that.

But are any of those generalizations downright wrong?

And does this help explain Evangelicalism to those who encounter it from the outside.

You are welcome to chip in with a comment.

Not drowning but thriving – sermon from 10 August 2014


Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace


When I was growing up – that’s exactly the kind of thing that I would have been singing on a Sunday morning.

And it came to mind when I was starting to think about what to say about the gospel this morning.

You see, the gospel reading that we have today tends to lead to sermons which represent that kind of mawkish sentimentality that suggests that Jesus will solve everything.

I’ve found in life that Jesus doesn’t solve everything. If he did, the world would already be a very different place.

I’ve learned that if Jesus does anything he calls us to build that better place not simply with him but with people of goodwill wherever we find them.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.

That’s the thing about this passage – the evangelist lays on that sentiment with a trowel. Peter leaps out of the boat and starts to sink – only when he looks at Jesus is he safe. And thus, so many sermons will say – we need to fix our eyes on the saviour and all will be well.

Well, I certainly think that Jesus can be a brilliant inspiration and I look on him as Saviour and Lord.

But when I look at Jesus I find that he is looking at the world and asking me to gaze with compassion upon it with him. [Read more...]

Social Media and Ministry – Will I be your friend?

Here’s where I’m at with social media.


You’ll find me here: www.twitter.com/thurible

I follow whoever I like and I let anyone who wants to follow me. Twitter is the wild west – you do what you like. Part of the fun is following people who wouldn’t dream of following you back.

There are just over 500 accounts that I follow. These show up in my timeline and I keep a reasonable watch on what is going on. I miss some things in my timeline but I check twitter every day. Indeed, for some parts of my day, twitter is open in another monitor on my desk. Some of the people I follow are people who are close to me but most are not. I follow some people because they telegraph news that I’m interested in far quicker than any other media. I know things far sooner by following twitter than I would otherwise. Because I use it in this way, it is my responsibility to learn to sift and sort out what is likely to be true and what can be discarded as speculation or downright lies. As in other forms of communication, reputation is principally what determines whether I trust someone and I have huge responsibilities in working all this out. I need to be familiar with the genre to understand what I am reading.

[An example of that has just happened whilst I'm writing this post - a journalist I trust has just tweeted that Baroness Warsi has resigned over Gaza. I'm interested in that and I'm seeing that some time before  I will hear it on the news.]

People ask me whether this takes a lot of time. My answer is that it takes hardly any time. And it takes all my time. It is just going on. It is part of life.

I tweet @thurible and I tweet on behalf of St Mary’s @thecathedral. The latter account doesn’t have my personality, but reflects the institution. The former account does reflect my personality. That means you get to hear what I think about God and what I think about Kylie’s head-dress. I also retweet things from people I find interesting and people I generally trust. You might hear things from me that you won’t hear in the newspapers and some people follow me for that reason. Some people presumably follow me because what I say entertains them in some way. But it is a free for all – those who want to follow get to do so without me bothering much about who they are. Three times as many people follow me as the number of people I follow.

If my tweets are retweeted by others, and they often are, then they will reach tens of thousands of people. What I think or say about the Scottish Episcopal Church, Kylie’s head-dress or Baroness Warsi could reach very many people. This is so powerful I have to think about what I say. Believe me, I do.

If I know you, or if you interact with me in ways that are clever, funny, witty, amusing, intelligent or even belligerent, there is a reasonable chance that I’ll follow you.


Well, facebook used to be the social network to build up vast lists of friends. I’m not interested in that any more. Since twitter came along, I’ve no particular interest in adding people as friends unless I’ve got good reason to do so. I get quite a few friend requests from people I don’t know at all and I realised a few months ago that I just wasn’t interested.

You see, if I accept you as a friend, I’ll see what you have to say in my timeline. Experience suggests that those whom I don’t know will be reposting lots of things from other people that I think of as drivel.

I’m interested in you on facebook if I know you or if I’m interested in what you’ve got to say. I am far less interested in your kitten picture. However, if I know your kittens, I’m beguiled. I’m much more interested in what you have to say or in in the picture that you have taken than in things that you have reposted from other “clever” people.

A while ago, Facebook introduced the concept of following. This is more sophisticated than twitter. You can follow me without me having to be your friend and a bunch of people do that. It means you can see all my public postings but I don’t have to see the photograph of your kitten. Everyone wins.

I work fairly carefully to keep my facebook connections in good order. I use the “lists” facility to make sure I know who is receiving what I’m posting. Thus, I can continue to use Facebook when I’m on holiday but don’t let members of the congregation see my postings whilst I’m away because a holiday is a holiday and we need time off from one another. It isn’t difficult to do that with Facebook. Most people who complain about facebook haven’t bothered to learn how to use it.

[I'm starting to see comment from politicians, journalists and friends about Baroness Warsi's resignation - some see it as principled, some see it as opportunist - I sit and think about it.]

I’m more than aware that “friends” are not friends. However, I think that it is silly for people to say that “friends” have nothing to do with real friendship and community. (As the Church of Scotland Moderator appeared to do at the end of the General Assembly). I get lots of my community online. I like living that way. Some of the people I am closest to relate to me in this way. I have known them for many years and enjoy the daily company of good friends whom I would have lost touch with years ago without this way of communicating. I’ll be praying this morning at Morning Prayer for someone whom I’ve known since 1989 whom I see from Facebook is waiting news from a significant MRI scan. Don’t tell me that’s not real.

I’m on facebook at www.facebook.com/thurible – if you are someone I know, are in my congregation, are someone I’ve met in my ministry then yes, I am likely to add you as a friend if you request that. I don’t generally befriend people in the congregation who are under 16. I don’t generally befriend people whom I don’t know at all. I get regular requests from people who have a number of mutual friends in common. I’m afriad if I see that our only mutual friends are a few of the dozen or so LGBT activists that I know well then you probably need to follow me rather than expect me to befriend you.

[BBC have a Breaking News note on their website saying that Baroness Warsi has resigned - nothing else].


I’m only on Google+ because it gets you access to google’s video hangouts and we host online evening prayer there. I only know one person who regularly posts on Google+ and they post their photographs elsewhere too. I don’t monitor Google+ and I’m unlikely to add you to my account. Not because I don’t want to be your friend but because there is no-one there. You are not there asking me to be your friend anyway. Presumably google will one day pull the plug on some of this – they can’t be making money out of it.


Oh, I do love pinterest and I’m on that sporadically. (You’ll find my profile here: http://www.pinterest.com/kelvinthurible)
It allows you to build up collections of pics that are on the web.If you want to see my collection of Religious Hat pictures you need to find me there. If you want to gaze in wonder at my board of Baldacchinos, ombrellinos, and religious shades then there’s nowhere else to go. And as for my carefully curated moodboard of TISECesque worship – then if you’ve not seen it you don’t know what you are missing. No friends here – if I pin something on a public board you are welcome to pin it to yours. We’ll hope that pinterest have plenty of well paid lawyers to sort out the copyright issues. And we’ll enjoy it whilst it lasts – again I don’t see how they are making any money. This is the social media network of choice if I’m off sick.

Interestingly, Pinterest is a social network with significantly more women on it than men. I keep an eye on some of the “Dream Wedding” stuff for fear of what is coming my way.


Flickr is a social network I have a profile on but hardly ever post to. I’m much more likely to post pictures to facebook. However I do use Flickr for finding pictures which people have already given their permission to be copied. I use these on the cathedral website sometimes. For example, when Peter Tatchell was with us recently I needed a good pic of him and found one on Flickr that had the appropriate copyright permissions allowing me to use it so long as I acknowledged where it had come from. Such generosity is a blessing unto us all.


I always think I ought to love LinkedIn more than I do. I have a profile but don’t know what to do with it. Maybe it just doesn’t work for the church.


I don’t have an instagram account but I might do one day. I don’t have any accounts on scruff, grindr, blendr or anything else which attempts to find me something carnal 300 ft from where I am. I also don’t think regular online dating can work for me but that is perhaps a post for another day. I don’t do social bookmarking though I can see the point. I don’t run any micro social networks of my own though from time to time I explore the options for the congregation. I use email so much that I’ve forgotten that it is a social media network though I’m quite sure that it is. I used to have a profile on Friends Reunited and presume it is still there but have to admit that Facebook beat it hands down. I have a spotify profile and think that it is very clever to try to make music into social media but resist most of their attempts to do so.

[The BBC now have a full report on Baroness Warsi's resignation - pictures and responses from other people. I look at it and feel I've seen it all before. No-0ne links to it.]


Social Media and Ministry mix rather well. I don’t know what I’d do without some of it. It undoubtedly drives people to my blog and to the church website and both of those push some people towards the church. (They will push some people away too, but that’s OK – why waste the time of those who won’t be interested). Personality and ethos are gloriously muddled online. That’s the way the world is and I like it.

So that’s what I’m using social media for.