Church blogging – all may, none must, some should

The injunction “all may, none must, some should” is the classic prescription for how Anglicans deal with confession. However, it is worth thinking of it as a helpful way of thinking about church blogging too. The recent speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury in which he acknowledged the significance (and one suspects, in his mind, the malevolence) of those are able to comment instantly on matters affecting the Anglican Communion is a significant recognition of the importance for good or for ill of those who write online. Now, skating over the possibility that there’s some connection between blogging and the confessional, it is maybe worth thinking about where we’re at when it comes to church bloggery.

I made a prediction at the start of the year that the number of church bloggers would probably decline but the significance of those who continued would probably continue to rise. The archbishop’s comments, which I’ll come to in a moment certainly bear that out the latter half of that prediction but what about the decline in those blogging from a church perspective. What’s that all about?

Well, the rise of social media has changed the way a lot of people engage online. At one time blogging was an obvious way of connecting in an online environment. Nowadays you’ve got to work for your community if you are keeping a blog and saying what you want to say in the short telegraph messages of social media gives you an almost instant community and the instant gratification that goes along with saying something and getting a response from others very quickly.

I happen to think that the arrival of social media is a good thing. Indeed, I think it is an excellent thing. Its power is yet to be fully understood and it has completely changed the relationship of individuals with power and hierarchy. This is something that church leaders have often found difficult to believe, never mind difficult to stomach.

Of course, social media is deeply connected to the blogosphere. At one time I used to get most of my readership for this blog from links on other people’s blogs. That is certainly no more the case. Nowadays most of the readership comes from links on social media. That’s people sharing links on Facebook or Twitter mostly. I seed those links and try to attract people. I do so at different times of the day to attract a world-wide audience and sometimes it pays off with a strong readership from all around the world. The post I put up about what local churches might learn from cathedral ministry is a case in point. It has now had an audience of thousands. I posted a few links to it on social media and people were interested enough in what I was saying to like the post, comment on the post and recommend it to their friends.

But social media has another function for me too – it is where I discover those random gems from around the internet that I’d never find otherwise. Things other people have posted that catch my eye. As I write this, I’m aware from reading Facebook in another screen on my desk of this article which is a fascinating perspective that enriches my life: This Atheist is Thankful for the Clergy. I’d never had found that without an American friend pointing me towards it online.

But back to blogging – all may, none must, some should – what am I trying to get at?

Well the great thing about blogging is that it is open to such a wide pool of people. The entry levels for publishing have fallen to almost nothing. Get regular access to the internet and you can write a blog for no financial cost which can change the world. But the amazing thing is that you can also write a blog that doesn’t change the world too. You can write a blog for the shear job of sharing something that gives you shear joy – like Freda’s post this week of a jolly cairn terrier. Bloggers don’t need to be trying to change the world all the time. There’s a world of people wanting to know what inspires you, delights you and makes you laugh. Isn’t that worth taking part in?

Mind you, changing the world is always an option.

Here’s what the Archbishop of Canterbury said in a recent address to the Church of England Synod.

In an age of near instant communication, because the Communion exists, and is full of life, vigour and growth, of faith and trust in Jesus Christ, and love for him, everything that one Province does echoes around the world. Every sermon or speech here is heard within minutes and analysed half to death. Every careless phrase in an interview is seen as a considered policy statement. And what is true of all Provinces is ten times more so for us, and especially us in this Synod. We never speak only to each other, and the weight of that responsibility, if we love each other and the world as we should, must affect our actions and our words.

Sadly, that does not come close to an apology for the Archbishop’s disastrous comments during his LBC interview earlier in the year. However, it does show that he is coming to understand how significant online comments are.

It is rather a pity, I think, that he can see so little good in those who comment online. After all the online Anglican Communion is in some sense rather more real than the Anglican Communion that exists in distant committees and Primates’ Meetings. It is immediate, feisty and not quite so divided along doctrinal lines as people might suspect. Indeed, it is one of the few opportunities that people have to see what people think who don’t share their own theological pecadillos. I keep reading what people who don’t agree with me write not simply to keep an eye on them but because I’m interested in them and care about what they have to say. Sometimes I change my mind about things. That side of the blogosphere isn’t celebrated enough.

I’m still in love with an online world which can move me too. Things like Kate’s reports recently from the Holy Land give me a human perspective on aspects of that part of the world that would otherwise go unreported to me. Or John McLuckie’s generous piece about the Scottish Episcopal Church’s Cascade Process. That deserves to be read widely.

I think that it is probably the case that a few more people will try blogging again over the year that is to come. I suspect it rewards those who can think about why they are blogging and make a bit of a plan as to what they are hoping for.

I think that there’s good reasons for people to blog some of the small stuff too. The pictures from parish life that show how much life and laughter there is in your own congregation. The sermon with that one line that will touch someone unknown on the other side of the world and which will make the person from round the corner decide you might be worth trying out at Christmas.

Maybe the turn of the liturgical year this weekend is worth marking. Maybe one or two would want to give it another go or revive their blogging resolve as an advent resolution.

There’s virtual territory here that needs virtual missionaries.

Real ones.

Comments

  1. Thank you, Fr. Kelvin, for speaking your mind on your own blog. I follow you with interest – as I do other people’s blog posts, including the U.K.-based ‘Thinking Anglicans’. My own blogging, under the title ‘kiwianglo’, is often a pot-pouri from other people’s efforts, which I then presume to comment on. This is one way of getting one’s point across to fellow members of the world-wide Anglican Communion. Thanks for your encouragement here.
    – from the Anglican world of the South Pacific! (ACANZP).

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