I started blogging for a very specific reason. There were things that I wanted to say that I couldn’t communicate in a better way. I guess that’s why people write in any medium. You somehow know that you need to use a particular form to get something across, to communicate, to share. So you have a go.
My first blog post was born when I realised that there were things that I wanted to say about the Occupy protest at St Paul’s that did not belong in the pulpit (I was preparing a sermon at the time) and which were not being said by others.
So I stopped writing a sermon, set up this blog and created my first post.
Shortly after that I started to tweet. I saw it as a tiny noticeboard. I could advertise my blogs there. But as time went by I began to realise that there was far more to Twitter than putting up little notices, and far more to blogging than making slightly edgy sermons. I was beginning to see that social media are not only a new way of doing old things but also a new way of doing new things.
Yesterday I helped lead a day of training on the use of Social Media for Ministry with Keith Blundy, @stiltwalk, Communications Adviser for the Diocese of Durham. It was a great day. There was real energy in the room. People walked in full of anxiety about what they might be getting into and went out smiling and signed up with new Twitter and blog accounts.
There are lots of reasons for blogging and tweeting but two come near the top of my list. The first is that you have something to say, something to share, a perspective to offer, a comment to make. The second is that you want to engage and connect with people where they are.
These two reasons lie at the heart of all communicating, but also at the heart of all ministry.
What makes social media social is its capacity for interaction and immediacy. It’s relational. It’s when the comments begin to come in that the blog begins to live. It’s when tweets lead to new conversations that life is enriched.
When his appointment was announced (and it went out first on Twitter) Justin Welby said he would continue to tweet as Archbishop of Canterbury – unless forcibly stopped. He had got the point. Tweeting is a way of communicating and connecting which makes sense for people today. It is a way of being part of the human community – of joining in.
Would Jesus tweet? At our training day yesterday someone said he definitely would. Others disagreed. I myself have no idea.
But I do know that he was great with pithy one-liners and many of his more memorable sayings fit easily within 140 characters.
And I do think that it is a good thing for his followers and ministers to get involved and communicate in the idiom, and with the media, of the day.
Christians tend to like books. Christian ministers like many books (ask any removal company what its like to move a family from a vicarage and they will grumble about the endless boxes of them). I like books too – reading and writing them, buying them, having them on shelves around me, talking about them etc etc.. but they can’t do all the things that social media can do.
People say Twitter is lightweight, ephemeral and inconsequential. And so it can be. But so too can books. But I have learnt an enormous amount via Twitter, especially when I have followed up on links to articles or blogs or when drawn into following a hashtag. Earlier this week I discovered #mhchat (mental health chat) and was drawn into a discussion about emotions with @thomasdixon2012 and @sadgrovem. That was much more fun than reading an article, and while quick and banter-like it really set me thinking, and I will read around the subject more in the future. May even blog about it…
Jesus did not tweet but those who have something to say about what he stood for, what he was, what it means to live in the light he revealed, what it means to do justice and love mercy, what it means to reflect both grace and truth… such people – let’s call them ministers, whether lay or ordained – have in social media a real godsend. Here are means of communicating which are open, generous, democratic, relational, rich, informative, flexible and fun.
What a gift!
It’s time to get out of the pulpit (a much over-rated place of communication) and onto the hashtag.
Tweet for Jesus – and blog like an apostle.