Archive for the ‘Computers’ Category

New Zealand: Holy Week radio broadcasts chart new territory

Posted on: March 31st, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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[Anglican Taonga] Christian radio station Star is launching itself into uncharted waters for the duration of Holy Week by running adapted versions of the NZPB Morning and Evening Prayer.

The services – of seven minute duration, and broadcast at 5.30am and 11.45pm – are being read by the Rev David Guthrie, the Anglican priest who, in early 2007, began to post the daily prayer offices online.

“This is a major departure for the station,” says David, “and they are interested in gauging what the response of listeners might be to this. The services are developed from my online offices which are broadcast on my website, david.guthrie.net.nz .”

David says the online ministry on his website has grown “exponentially” over the past year, especially in North America and the United Kingdom.

His site is offering the daily morning and evening prayer, Night Prayer, a weekly sermon and semi-regular blogs. He says he is planning to add Midday Prayer to the offering shortly and will make further developments as he can resource them.

“The emails that I receive almost daily,” says David, “tell a story of extraordinary impact that the daily offices are having on people’s lives. They are becoming cornerstones of spirituality.

“Over and over again, people tell me how they are telling everyone in their church about them.

“One priest with an international ministry said that he speaks of them wherever he is in the world. One of the significant features of the offices is that they bring together the whole spectrum of the theological positions.

“I think that two factors are causing this sudden explosion of growth.

“One is the development of data devices that enable people to tune in on phones, iPads as well as computers, wherever they may be.

“The other reason may be deeper: I believe that there is, especially in the United States, a very clear and quite dramatic return to liturgically-based spirituality, especially among the young.”

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Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), March 30, 2015

Digital disciples

Posted on: March 29th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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iStock/londoneye

 

A Lutheran pastor in Pennsylvania uses social media to engage youth in the ancient teachings of the church, a reflection of his deep belief that God is everywhere, including online.

Twenty-six teenagers dillydally on smartphones, sending instant messages, scrolling through news feeds, liking statuses and posting updates on social media sites Twitter, Facebook and Instagram while intermittently gazing at farmland images beaming from a digital projector. New Age tunes echo through the room courtesy of online music service Spotify.

Despite the tech-rich environment, these youths aren’t meeting at an urban cybercafe or taking a class at an Apple store. They are congregating at the Upper Dublin Lutheran Church fellowship hall in the Rev. Keith Anderson’s weekly catechism class. The day’s focus is on the third commandment: Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

But Anderson sees no irony in allowing his students to noodle around online as part of a discussion on God’s rules of rest. Indeed, this is their Sabbath.

“When we were planning this class, we debated whether or not we would let them use their smartphones during the 20-minute in-class Sabbath time,” said Anderson, the 39-year-old pastor of Upper Dublin Lutheran, a 1,000-member church family in Ambler, Penn.

“And then we decided, yes we should. This is how they relax. This is what they would do to relax. This is how they experience Sabbath,” he said.

Keith AndersonOver the last five years, Anderson has built a national reputation in Christian circles as a social media expert — especially as the technology relates to teens and tweens. He is best-known for the 192-page paperback “Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible,” (link is external) which he co-wrote with Elizabeth Drescher, a professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University.

More than a gimmick to spark the teens’ interest, Anderson says, social media can be used as a tool to convey the ancient teachings of the church in the formation of a new generation of Christians. It can help break down barriers, reach across fractures in teens’ lives and engage teens in the spaces — digital or otherwise — where they live.

“How do we equip them to take care of themselves in this space, and be people of faith, if we aren’t in this space?” he said.

In his own church, he is incorporating technology and social media into the everyday life of faith, including youth formation. It’s more than just letting the students text during breaks; as part of the class’s fall Ten Commandments project (link is external), Anderson asked his students to Instagram pictures of their ideal forms of Sabbath. They’ve discussed Christlike behavior on the Internet, and what it means to be a “digital disciple.”

“We are all inspired by what we see online in our faith community,” said 18-year-old Will Thornton. “It’s another way for us to learn and connect with other people in our faith, whether we are having good days or bad days.”

God in the Twitterverse

Anderson’s social media philosophy is simple: God is everywhere, even in the Twitterverse. And if the church fails to embrace that, it stands to lose its future members.

“We remember a time before email, before there was social media,” said Anderson, pointing out that even email is an outdated form of communication for today’s teens. “These kids will never know that time.”

“[Social media] isn’t just a tool you can use in formation, like the way we used a slide show in the 1960s and ’70s,” said Drescher, Anderson’s co-author. Drescher, an Episcopal scholar, also wrote “Tweet If You Heart Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation.” (link is external)

“The church is slowly starting to acknowledge that social media is the landscape of communication,” Drescher said. “This is the medium where spiritual growth is happening, so we have to be working in that medium.”

Drescher points to the New York-based liturgical organization Digital Formation (link is external) as an example of embracing social media for formation. The educational group seeks to help clergy and laypeople in the Episcopal Church use social media through webinars and Twitter.

These organizations “are drawing on the most positive potential of the new media landscape,” Drescher said.

Last fall, Drescher asked students in her Christian tradition course to post images of ideas, themes and people relevant to the history of Christianity on the social media site Pinterest. There are more than 1,000 pins on the resulting “Seeing the Christian Tradition” Pinterest board, ranging from depictions of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus to photographs of Nelson Mandela.

Like Anderson, Drescher sees a parallel with an older form of church teaching.

“Pinterest is a modern-day stained-glass window,” Drescher explained. But unlike the stained-glass windows in a given church, which are accessible only to the people in that region, Pinterest boards are accessible from any computer with Internet access.

Formation for digital natives

A Gen Xer, Anderson dresses in fitted jeans, a cardigan and black-rimmed Buddy Holly-style glasses.

His workspace reflects the merging of old and new. In the church’s front office, white-haired parishioners staple programs. Some are on Facebook to keep up with the grandkids, but for the most part, they say it’s not really for them. On the bookcase in Anderson’s office are round-faced statues of Martin Luther and Luther’s wife, Katharina. On his desk is a silver MacBook Pro — Twitter screen up and running. The iPhone 5 next to it buzzes every seven minutes or so.

“In some ways, I’m a cultural translator,” Anderson said. “I’m very much aware that I minister to people who are not online as well as people who are online a lot. Part of my role is to tell them that even though the technologies are different, [the people] aren’t that different.”

He was first introduced to Facebook in 2006, when he was assigned to the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Woburn, Mass. Anderson was a little apprehensive of new media but slowly realized how it helped him connect with his congregation.

“I would post things about my life and my runs, and people would ask me how my running is going,” Anderson said. “People really started interacting around the content that was shared. I thought, ‘This is amazing. I’m getting a window into people’s lives, and I get to communicate with them throughout the week.’

“It was slowly becoming a valuable thing, and people were just delighted by it.”

In 2008, the Church of the Redeemer held a retreat during which they decided to bolster communication with the congregation through social media — then still in its infancy. Anderson began blogging his sermons and podcasting them as well. He also started filming a two-minute Bible series and posting it on YouTube.

“He had an incredible impact,” said Carolyn Rahal, the parish administrator at the Church of the Redeemer, who refers to Anderson as a “rock star.” “He was so innovative. During a time when our community was on lockdown because of robbers in the area, he tweeted prayers.”

In the fall of 2012, Anderson moved to Ambler with his wife, Jennifer, and four children, and his social media presence has continued to expand.

Last June, Anderson completed the 10-mile Tough Mudder Race in Philadelphia. Where did he post his accomplishment? On Facebook, of course. In December, he celebrated his 10-year anniversary as an ordained minister by posting a series of Instagram photos.

And each Sunday morning, Anderson asks congregants to check in on Facebook, telling the world they are at Sunday morning worship. He has also started a Theology Pub series, with Facebook and Twitter accounts and a blog called God on Tap.

“You can try to keep [teens] off Facebook for as long as you want, but this is the world they are living in. They are native to it,” Anderson said. “So instead of saying, ‘It’s the devil; stay away from it,’ I’m here to show them faith has a role in it. God has a role in everything.

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Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, March 17, 2015

Lenten video meditations find God’s presence in darkness

Posted on: February 14th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Burning candle

A contemplative video series is set to take viewers on a journey through the dark this Lenten season, highlighting God’s enduring presence en route to the joy of Easter morning.

Produced by the Rev. Tay Moss of the Church of the Messiah in Toronto for the Anglican Church of Canada, Like Watchmen for the Morning is a series of video meditations that use stories, poetry, images and music to evoke the dark watch leading up to the dawn of the Resurrection.

Each short video is focused around a particular Lenten theme such as temptation, anger, sacrifice, service and death. To guide worshippers through the season, Moss has produced one video for each Sunday of Lent as well as Ash Wednesday and the Paschal Triduum, the three-day period encompassing Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

An enthusiastic advocate of new media, Moss has produced numerous videos for the Diocese of Toronto, leading the Church of the Messiah in its pioneering role as the first Anglican church in Canada to livestream its Sunday worship service.

His outlook and body of work made the Lenten video project a natural progression.

“I’m a big believer that we need to use new forms of communications to reach people where they’re at,” Moss said.

“If people are existing or consuming media in the space of the Internet—like videos and podcasts and things like that—then the church needs to go there, too. The church has always embraced new technologies for communication and this is just another example of that.”

To illustrate Lenten themes and help the viewer reflect, Moss has embraced the use of techniques such as time-lapse photography, as in one 30-second clip that depicts a candle completely burning down in front of an icon. A similar visual metaphor can be seen in the image of ashes sifting through someone’s hands for the Ash Wednesday meditation.

In other cases, Moss has drawn upon personal stories he has experienced or witnessed in his ministry, such as in the video exploring the theme of death.

Through the contemplation of such dark and quiet times, he hopes the video meditations will provide viewers with an opportunity to delve deeper into the shadow life of the spirit.

“To say that we’re going to be exploring themes of darkness and the shadow times does not necessarily mean that it’ll be in any way negative,” Moss said. “I think a lot of people then imagine that they’re going to be feeling sad and things like that, but not necessarily.

“When people sit in the dark, in the quiet, I think they often find an incredible kind of warmth there. There’s a kind of peacefulness about it…I guess I’m hoping that people will experience something of the presence of God in the shadows of our lives.”

Like Watchmen for the Morning will be available through Facebook and Twitter and on the Anglican Church of Canada website. Users may also subscribe to the videos via email.

Dates for the video meditations, with themes, are as follows:

  • February 18, Ash Wednesday: Invitation
  • February 22, First Sunday in Lent: Temptation
  • March 1, Second Sunday in Lent: Pain
  • March 8, Third Sunday in Lent: Anger
  • March 15, Fourth Sunday in Lent: Evil
  • March 22, Fifth Sunday in Lent: Sacrifice
  • March 29, Palm Sunday: Death
  • April 2, Maundy Thursday: Service
  • April 3, Good Friday: Crucifixion
  • April 4, Holy Saturday: Resurrection
  • April 5, Easter Sunday: New Life

Additional online Lenten resources from the Anglican Church of Canada and its partners can be found at www.anglican.ca/resources/lent2015.

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Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, February 12, 2015

Disconnect to reconnect

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Computers

 

By Michael Lapointe

 

BOOK REVIEW

The End of Absence

Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection

By Michael Harris

HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2014

ISBN 9781443426275

243 pages

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The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Communication (winner of the 2014 Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction) explores how the digital revolution now dictating so much of our day-to-day activity unfolded, what it entails for our personal and professional lives—and why we should at least try to resist the temptations constantly on offer from the blinking screens in our homes, offices and in our own pockets.

It’s an ambitious book, and the author, Michael Harris, a journalist from Vancouver, has done his homework. His account is packed with personal anecdotes, interviews with neuroscientists, psychiatrists, business gurus and fellow journalists, and includes a wide range of excerpts from historical and literary sources.

Harris puts the digital revolution squarely within the larger history of other technological advances that have shaken established social orders to their core, most notably by comparing the emergence of the Internet to the appearance of Gutenberg’s printing press in the 15th century.

There is an element of zero-sum thinking in Harris’s analysis, where the benefits of technology come with inevitable costs to patterns of life previously taken for granted.

“The gains the press yielded are mammoth and essential to our lives,” Harris writes, who explains the “Gutenberg shift” as a change “so total that it even became the screen through which we view the world.

“But we forget: Every revolution in communication technology—from papyrus to the printing press to Twitter—is as much an opportunity to be drawn away from something as it is to be drawn toward something.”

One of the most interesting chapters appears early, and explores the effects of the digital shift on those who have no memory of life prior to cell phones and social media. Harris bemoans the effects of constant multitasking and how smartphones “banish the wide-open possibilities of boredom” for huge swathes of society that may have never experienced the benefits of an unencumbered, wandering mind.

The author puts himself squarely within the critique, using many examples of how the Internet has encroached upon his own personal and social habits, including how difficult it has become for him to simply sit down and enjoy a good book without the distraction of checking his inbox.

However, there are parts within the author’s analysis that fall a bit too closely into elitism. In his chapter on public opinion, Harris points out how the Internet has diluted the influence of “expert” opinion, and that previous generations “never dealt with such a glut of information or such a horde of folk eager to misrepresent it.”

But his argument that “commensurate with the devaluing of expert opinion is the hyper-valuing of amateur, public opinion” may exaggerate just how “bad” things have actually become. The shift toward the democratization of information may well be worth the costs facing professional critics, who are forced to increasingly compete against “amateurism” for the attention of the masses.

For the most part, however, Harris’s analysis calls attention to what many of us already know: the digital revolution has arrived, it is here to stay and it will continue to shape our lives in unimaginable ways.

Ultimately, The End of Absence proposes that removing ourselves from the grid, even temporarily, can actually help us regain what makes us fundamentally human—despite how increasingly difficult disconnecting may actually be.

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Anglican Journal News, January 28, 2015

Twitter, facebook, and Getting your church online (Resources)

Posted on: January 8th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Resources

Twitter, facebook, and Getting your church online

Social media can seem overwhelming, especially to faith community leaders and members who are not familiar with the internet and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. However, social media is an increasingly important outreach tool that can play a significant role in evangelism, in communicating your community’s values, and in organizing your community and its activities. Whether you are coordinating a local congregational event, inaugurating a wider community program, or seeking to connect with the world to promote a cause or value, social media tools and techniques can be used for both secular and sacred purposes, and by individuals or communities across the faith, social, and political spectrum. All that you need to get started is an introduction to social media as a communication tool. The New Media Project at Christian Theological Seminary offers that introduction in a 7-week series called “Social Justice and Social Media.” Although the series is presented to support a specific theological intention, both the first and final installments note, “social media is what we make of it — content and usage are key.” Learning how to use social media empowers individuals and communities to communicate directly with potentially significant power and authority. To learn more, access the 7-week series, posted weekly on the New Media blog between August 13, 2013, and September 24, 2013. The New Media Project also offers a set of resources called “Recommendations for Using Social Media” that help congregations think through a social media theology, strategy, and use policy. If your faith community is just considering going online, read our feature articles, “Congregations Embracing Technology,” Social Media Goes Spiritual,” and “Do You Tweet? Here’s Why Your Church Needs to be Online.”

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Insights into Religion, Resources and info from Insights into Religion,  01/08/2015

“Amazing” response to Anglican Communion’s global advent calendar

Posted on: December 10th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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The Global Advent Calendar has crowdsourced more than 7,000 images posted by upward of 1,500 people worldwide
Photo Credit: ACNS
By ACNS staff

The Anglican Communion Office and the monks of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE) have been astounded and delighted by the response to their invitation to create a crowdsourced, global Advent calendar on Social Media.

In November an invitation went out to the worldwide Anglican family to sign up for a daily email from SSJE during Advent with a word and short meditation for people to reflect on and pray about.

Br. Geoffrey Tristram, Superior of SSJE said, “We also asked people to respond to the meditation with an image of their own taken on their smartphone and posted on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook with the hashtag #Adventword and the word of the day. All the resultant images have combined to create the Communion’s first ever global advent calendar on the Anglican Communion website www.aco.org/adventword.cfm.

“We have been amazed at the response,” he said. “Watching the calendar is watching global prayer unfolding before your eyes.”

Director for Communications at the Anglican Communion Office Jan Butter said, “In just 10 days, the Global Advent Calendar has crowdsourced more than 7,000 images posted by upward of 1,500 people worldwide. 18,000 people have signed up to receive the daily emails.

“The Advent calendar has had more than 30,000 views and posts with the #adventword hashtag across Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook have had more than 1m views.

“While many are from North America, posts have been coming in from right around the world. This demonstrates that the Internet is truly a space where members of the Anglican Communion enjoy fellowshipping, praying and expressing their faith regardless of their location or cultural background.

“It’s also exciting to learn that Christians from other traditions have been taking part.”

#AdventWord is an initiative developed with the ideas and support of the Anglican Communion Office, The Episcopal Diocese of Texas, the Office of Communication of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican/Episcopal monks of the Massachusetts based Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE). #Adventword is an expansion of SSJE’s daily meditation “Brother, Give Us a Word”.

SSJE posts a new day’s meditation on #AdventWord at 8am New Zealand time every day. The emails that go out with the seed meditation from the SSJE Brothers are “time warped” so they arrive at 5am local time all over the world.

The success of this initiative in such a short space of time has prompted the project team to consider how this might be repeated next year with even greater involvement from Member Churches right across the Anglican Communion.

 

Adventword

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), December 10, 2014

Congregations embracing technology, study finds

Posted on: November 25th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Computers

 

Websites, Facebook and other tools are helping churches stay connected to their members and reach out to the wider community.

Community Congregational United Church of Christ in Pullman, Wash., decided to go digital this Lenten season.

Through email and Facebook, members of the church have engaged in Words for the Journey. Each morning a word, an image and a related reflection are posted, igniting an online discussion that lasts throughout the day.

The church isn’t alone in its innovative use of technology. According to “Virtually Religious: Technology and Internet Use in American Congregations,” a report by Faith Communities Today, the use of websites and email by congregations has more than doubled in the past decade and more than 40 percent of congregations say they use Facebook.

“Ordinary members’ lives are enmeshed in technology. If their faith isn’t also, then it is less relevant in modern American society,” the report reads.

Until last year, Community Congregational had a static Web page — a never-changing, online billboard. Since the church redesigned the site, using a WordPress template, more guests have come through the doors. About 90 percent of Community Congregational visitors have checked out the church online before attending a worship service.

And through online projects like Words for the Journey, communication among those already regularly attending the church has increased.

“It [the Web] is an outreach tool and way to tell the wider world who we are and what we’re interested in,” said the Rev. Chip Laird, associate pastor.

Additionally, by using email and Facebook, church members are able to interact with one another at their own leisure. One member is even chiming in to the conversation from Hawaii, where she’s on vacation.

“People are getting to know things about people in the congregation that they otherwise wouldn’t know,” Laird said. “And that’s precious.”

Dr. Scott Thumma, author of the report, said Community Congregational’s experience isn’t uncommon.

“Properly employed, technology can make members’ daily lives outside of the worship service richer with religious meaning. It can function as a medium to carry one’s faithful living into everyday life – whether sharing prayer requests on Facebook, tweeting about a recent sermon, surfing to religious websites or actually participating in online worship services,” he said.

Community Congregational’s online work makes it a “hybrid congregation,” according to Thumma’s study.

“Ministry should be, even must be, a technological hybrid venture in this day and age,” the report reads. “Increased use of tech is strongly related to the congregation being characterized by willingness to change to meet new challenges.”

Laird agreed, noting his church’s digital efforts reflect its readiness to evolve and to “change and try to exist in this strange new world.”

Though websites and Facebook pages remain the most popular interactive tools used by congregations, the report shows more than 10 percent of faith communities use blogs or podcasts.

The pastors at Community Congregational plan to start a blog, though they haven’t yet, and they don’t technically have a podcast. However, MP3s of the sermons are uploaded weekly to the website.

“We want to start a blog because it [the website] is something that should be tweaked and changed regularly,” Laird said. “It’s a new mindset.”

A congregation’s ability to interact online tends to make it more spiritually vital, according to the study. Laird has seen that to be true, particularly with the Words for the Journey experiment. Because people have the opportunity to share with one another outside of the church’s walls, and because they get feedback, relationships are built, which Laird said has spiked the congregation’s energy.

However, Community Congregational doesn’t exactly fit the mold when it comes to digital trends in faith communities. The church doesn’t use a projector screen or have contemporary worship, and it’s a mostly female congregation.

“As the use of technology in a congregation increases so too does the likelihood that it will use drums and electric guitars…” the survey report states. “The larger the percentage of female members, the less likely the congregation is to employ a wide array of technology.”

Researchers also found predominantly white congregations are more likely to embrace technology than black congregations, and the wealthier the community is, the more likely it is to advance digitally.

Nevertheless, Community’s example shows that you don’t have to embrace technology in a stereotypical manner; rather, church leaders must strategize how best to use it in their context and to advance their unique ministry goals.

The Insights into Religion portal and its affiliates offer a wide array of resources and research on the use of technology by churches, including the New Media Project at Christian Theological Seminary, the Center for Congregations and the U.S. Congregational Life Survey. Check out all these fine resources and help bring your congregation into the 21st century.

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Insights into Religion for 10/30/2014

Invitation to the Anglican Communion: “Celebrate Advent using your camera phones”

Posted on: November 14th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Computers

 

The monks are inviting Anglicans and Episcopalians to join them in prayer, meditation and taking photos during Advent                          Photo Credit: SSJE

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By ACNS staff

Members of Anglican Communion Churches worldwide are being invited to celebrate Advent through prayer, meditation and by contributing to a global Advent calendar on Instagram.

Advent—from November 30 to December 24—is the season when Christians observe a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas.

The Anglican Communion Office and the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE) are teaming up to offer Anglicans and Episcopalians around the world a daily word, meditation and beautiful image sent to their email inboxes.

Playing around with time.

Cleverly the Brothers use technology that allows their daily Advent email to arrive in people’s inboxes at 5am wherever in the world the recipient is.

“5am is about the time we get up to pray,” said SSJE’s Brother Jim Woodrum. “Of course you can look at your email after 5am, but we want to make sure it’s there when you wake up.”

Though people are used to the idea of monks involved in prayer and meditation, they might be surprised to know that monks have camera phones too.

“We are hoping that people will join us in praying with their phone this Advent,” said Br Jim. “After reading the meditation, we’d love for people to snap a picture that reflects the theme or their response to it and post it to Instagram.”

#Adventword

Participants are invited to take a photo with their phone or tablet to share their interpretation of the word for that day – these include #Abide, #Thrive, #Become, #Imagine – and post the picture to Instagram adding the day’s tag plus #Adventword.

“People need help with their daily spiritual practice,” said Brother Geoffrey Tristram, SSJE, Superior. “During Advent, we anticipate the coming of Christ, an event that awakens our deepest desires and longings. This Advent, we are inviting you to join us in looking clearly and honestly at our lives and taking action.”

Director for Communications at the Anglican Communion Office, Jan Butter, said, “It’s all too easy for Christians to be consumers in today’s world—especially during the Advent season. Here we have a chance to not only receive during Advent, but also take part in a global action; to give back to other Anglicans and Episcopalians worldwide by sharing our photos with each other.

“This is also a chance for people who might never have connected with an Anglican religious community before to benefit from the deep thought, meditation and prayer that emanates from such communities all around the world.” (Visit http://communities.anglicancommunion.org/ for a list of other Anglican Communion religious communities.)

To be part of this global Advent initiative, sign up at http://www.aco.org/adventword.cfm. The initiative starts on November 30. To learn more about SSJE visit www.ssje.org/adventword

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Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), November 13, 2014

Dare not to share

Posted on: October 18th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Computers

 

 

By Meghan Murphy-Gill

 

Social media is great for keeping in touch, but some moments are more meaningful when experienced offline.

This summer I became well acquainted with the value of white noise. I quickly learned there’s nothing worse than a quiet house when you have a brand-new baby. So, we run fans. PBS is constantly playing on our TV. We never wait to run the dishwasher, and we encourage normal talking when we have visitors.

The noisier our house, the better. This works out to our advantage: When our son won’t settle down in the late afternoon (I now fully understand the term “witching hour”), we meet with friends at our favorite bar for a beer and a burger, where we encounter several other in-the-know couples with young children. The din of conversation and clatter of plates and glasses does little to wake our sleeping kids. I’m convinced my son gets his best sleep in these situations. Now if only I could figure out how to achieve such restfulness for myself.

The sight of my sleeping child is as close as I’ve come to bliss in these first few months. In these moments, I occasionally reach for my phone to snap a photo or capture him on video. The sound of his baby snore will surely make my friends laugh. Certainly, my parents and in-laws will want to see their grandson’s sweet face as he learns to giggle.

Last year, The Telegraph reported that parents who upload photos of their newborns to social media do so on average within 57.9 minutes of birth. That was according to a poll by a company that helps parents share photos digitally and in print. We waited hours, but shared a photo on the day of our son’s birth nonetheless. If you spend any time on Facebook, you know that baby photos make up a large percentage of the regularly updated content, so much so that there are apps for those who wish not to see their acquaintances’ kids so regularly.

Modern modes of communication make sharing our lives extraordinarily simple. There is Facebook, yes, but also Twitter, text messages, Instagram, and FaceTime. I remember being excited by free long-distance calls when I first got a cell phone in 2002. Nearly a decade and a half later, we introduced our baby to his aunts and uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents via video chat. We announced his arrival to our friends—some of whom we last saw when we were small children ourselves—on Facebook. My sister and I regularly exchange pictures of our sons via text messages. For family who’ve chosen to avoid smartphones, I turn to e-mail for updates and photos. In a technological twist of irony, this has become the modern “snail mail.”

Yet somehow all this sharing isn’t enough. When my husband was on parental leave, his coworkers wanted to know why they hadn’t seen more pictures of our new arrival. Family members regularly ask me why I’m not posting more on Facebook, despite the fact that I’ve already eased up on the “no social media” rule I’d instituted before the baby arrived. Admittedly, it’s hard not to share more; the effect of 100 “likes” on a photo of our little boy is intoxicating and addictive. And when I am experiencing one of life’s most beautiful offerings, why wouldn’t I want to tell everyone I know about it?

The reason? Sure, I’m wary of the long-term results of publicly documenting my son’s life. I’d rather he not become an amalgamation of data to a nameless, faceless marketing machine. Much of that seems inevitable to some extent, however, for anyone who wants to participate in modern life.

The reason is more because the constant concern for documenting and sharing can prevent my active presence in the moments that matter most. When my son offered us his first smiles, his dad and I were so captivated that neither of us thought to grab a camera. After I told my sister-in-law that he’d started smiling, she asked if we took any photos. “Nope,” I responded. “We were too busy taking in the experience.” There will be more smiles to share but those very first ones belong just to us, our little family of three.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the value of social media. I’ve received sincere notes of congratulations on the birth of my son from people who otherwise would be faint memories. I also hope close friends and family have the opportunity to share in my son’s life.

What bothers me most about the constant presence of social media is just how noisy it is. Like with the white noise that can coax a baby into sound sleep, the perpetual din of social media can lull us into complacency. Advertisements show up alongside prayer requests, jokes, and vacation photos. You can scroll from some spectacular and meaningful personal revelation or beautiful photo of an old friend’s daughter to a tongue-in-cheek BuzzFeed quiz or a politically charged rant by someone you knew in high school. There’s no differentiating the kinds of things people share. Messages are easily forgotten. Communication becomes passive.

It just doesn’t matter to me whether every person from my social circle has unlimited access to those moments. By limiting how much social sharing I do (while not avoiding it entirely), it’s easier to be fully present in my new son’s life as well as in my husband’s. We can enjoy family moments without concern for how they translate to film and video. And thanks to a private photo stream, our extended family gets more access than an old high school friend. By being more intentional about how we use social media—and keeping it personal—we’ve managed to keep the way we communicate more meaningful, something especially important in these earliest months of our son’s life.

This article appeared in the October 2014 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 79, No. 10, pages 40-41).

Image: Flickr cc by David Camerer

 

Meghan Murphy-Gill is a writer living in Chicago.

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Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, October 17, 2014

 

Watch-wearing and pew-sitting

Posted on: September 20th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Computers

watch and pewThere have been many, many, many blogs and articles written attempting to define why the younger generation (known as ‘millennials’) are leaving the institutional church. Most of these articles attempt to tackle some point of church practice, or a perceived rigidity in current religiosity, while suggesting that Millennials have a different temperament regarding spirituality and religious practice. Millennials, it is argued, contain certain defining characteristics that make the current practices of mainline churches unattractive. It’s not that what the church is doing is wrong per se, it’s just that millennials think and act differently than the generations that have gone before them.

Case in point: millennials do not wear watches.

I’m not making this up. The lack of watch-wearing amongst millennials is the classic example given when describing this generation. It is stated over and over again, almost as if it is a point of scientific fact. Leonard Sweet makes this claim in his popular book Viral: How Social networking is poised to ignite revival – although he uses the language of “Googler” instead of ‘millennial”. Sweet writes “One way you can tell Gutenbergs from Googlers? Check their wrists. Googlers rarely wear a watch.” (pg. 135) Watches, apparently like sitting on hard wooden pews, are things of the past and shunned by this more tech-savvy and less traditional generation. This fact is seen as essential to any understanding of this generation, particularly when attempting to understand their lack of church attendance, or the need to enact new models for ministry. Thus, we in the church have had to think our way through a very curious relationship between the absence of watches and the lack of church attendance. Watch wearing and pew sitting are apparently intimately connected.

watchI had to laugh, then, when I saw a promoted post on Facebook which advertised one of the newest advances in the realm of mobile technology. With a tagline that read “Tired of constantly checking your phone?” the company known as “Pebble” advertised its latest product . . . a watch! Sure it may have the possibility to connect with Facebook and read text messages, but let’s be honest here: it’s a watch. It has a face which is able to display time; it has a strap which wraps around one’s wrist. It’s a watch, a fancy shamncy watch. Apparently, that which was exalted as the go-to example of what it meant to be a millennial is now seen as a nuisance.

Screenshot taken from Apple's website

This advertisement, however, promoted on Facebook, is not a random post from a random company trying to repurpose an old idea. The development of a mobile device that you strap to your wrist is one of newest things to hit the mobile market. Apple is launching its own version of this very idea in early 2015. The “iwatch” will hit the market, and no doubt the watch-less generation will become a watch-wearing generation and then all our definitions of who is who will come crashing down.

It may seem trite, to make such a big deal about the resurgence of watch wearing, but it is a big deal. The fact is, for years there has been a push to engage in ‘new’ ministries under the rhetoric that millennials are fundamentally ‘different’ than previous generations. There is truth, in part, to this statement, and by no means do I advocate a church which does not connect to the current culture. However, the question now is, if ministries in the church were based on certain assumptions about millennials–exemplified through the lack of watch-wearing–what does it mean for the ‘new models’ of ministry if such assumptions are no longer valid?

There is a common saying that states “Everything old is new again”, and we see this truth in other areas of our lives. We see it in the fashion industry when old looks come back in style; Movie houses launch reboots and prequels with a varying degree of success; Instead of getting smaller, cell phone makers now strive to produce the largest phone; and apparently watches are again becoming cool.

Perhaps we need to reclaim this truth as it relates to our church life. Instead of thinking about the newest trend to which the church must capitalize, perhaps we need to dive in to some of the old, time-honoured practices that have informed the church’s worship for centuries. I wonder if striving to squeeze ourselves into the jam-packed schedules of today’s family has meant that we have forsaken some ancient practices like sitting in silence and meditation. Have we sought too much to accommodate the current ‘diminishing attention span’ that we have drifted into a style of church which moves frenetically from one thing to the next without any time to be quiet or still? Have we become so enamoured with having a ‘contemporary’ sound to our musicality that we effectively drown out the worship that emanates from the heart and voice of our congregations?

The danger in always attempting to address the ‘newest’ trend or concept is that we inadvertently find ourselves deleting some of our oldest spiritual practices from current christian spirituality. Do we know, for example, how to meditate on God’s word day and night? Do we understand what it means to be still in the presence of the Lord? How do we pray without ceasing? Do we know how to come to God and listen and learn the fear of the Lord? (Psalm 34:1). If the life of our communities are never given to such things, how will Christians today ever learn or develop such holy and faith enriching habits?

I am sure there are many reasons why millennials, and others, are choosing to leave the church. And, I am sure that blogs written before this one, and better than this one, will have useful insights into that issue. I am simply suggesting that we may want to stop and consider that people may be leaving the church not because it is ‘too old’, but because we have thrown too much at it.  Amid all the sounds, screens and moving parts of our church life today, have lost that basic premise of coming together to worship our Lord?

If millennials can once again strap watches to their wrists, then maybe we don’t need the newest thing; Maybe we need the oldest.

What are some of the ‘old practices’ that the church has lost? Are there other ‘old traditions’ that are making a resurgence in contemporary churches today?

Kyle Norman

About Kyle Norman

I am a Priest in the Diocese of Calgary, serving the wonderful people of Holy Cross, Calgary. I watch reality television, I drink Starbucks coffee, and I read celebrity gossip columns. I am also a magician and often use magic tricks to teach the children at church the lessons of the Bible. I believe that God is present in the intricacy of our lives, and thus I believe that Pop Culture can provide intriguing lessons, examples, and challenges for our lives of faith. Connect with Kyle on

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The Community, Weekly update from The Community, September 19, 2014