Bishops and Bloggers

There is a way out of this impasse.

'It is hard to find a bishop in England and Wales with a good word to say about Catholic blogs'


Pope Francis: The Internet Is A Gift From God

Pope Francis has said that we should be Good Samaritans on the internet (CNS)In the Catholic Herald today:

Pope Francis has said that the internet is “a gift from God” in his first World Communications Day message.

… Pope Francis said: “Media can help us greatly in this, especially nowadays, when the networks of human communication have made unprecedented advances.

“The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity.  This is something truly good, a gift from God.”

… By means of the internet, the Christian message can reach “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  Keeping the doors of our churches open also means keeping them open in the digital environment so that people, whatever their situation in life, can enter, and so that the Gospel can go out to reach everyone.  We are called to show that the Church is the home of all…

The full text of Pope Francis’s message is here.


10 Most Visiting Countries…

To the blog this past week are:

Country Position
United States FlagUnited States 1
United Kingdom FlagUnited Kingdom 2
Australia FlagAustralia 3
Canada FlagCanada 4
South Africa FlagSouth Africa 5
Italy FlagItaly 6
New Zealand FlagNew Zealand 7
Germany FlagGermany 8
Philippines FlagPhilippines 9
Netherlands FlagNetherlands 10

We are in a Post-Website World

Time to get those heads out of the old dusty Churchmanship books… again.

It’s a post-website world, but you still need a website. A church website is still essential, but the primary ways your church will interact with people are through numerous streams of communication, including e-mail, texting, and social media. Some will find your church through its website, but more than likely, they’ll find it through a friend on Facebook or Twitter who recommends the church, points to a video or story on the church’s website, or some other form of word-of-mouth communication…

Rest here.

Too many Church leaders are only beginning to discover what the Internet really is, what it means, and how it is to be used in and for the cause of the Gospel.

So, for starters: Blog = Social Media.

Bishops, blog.

Priests, blog (!)

Deacons, blog.

Do not fear.

All God’s people: Go forth into the digital world and proclaim the good news!


Stats for the Day…

So far… (Just in case you thought this blog wasn’t that widely read.)


Nice to be back.

Sorry if that disappoints some…


Modern Friendship

Patriarch Kirill: Sow Wheat Among the Web-tares

On the eChurch Blog:

Last month Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill lamented Orthodox bloggers publicly insulting each other, which I can only imagine must be an Orthodox phenomenon as it doesn’t happen in Catholic or Protestant Internet circles:

…that the diversity of ideas inherent in church circles sometimes assumes absurd forms in the Internet environment.

“In the web space groups of church liberals and conservatives are appearing that are not looking for the truth, divine truth but a means of finding fault, stinging each other. This is a very sad tendency,” he said at a diocesan assembly in Moscow ahead of New Year.

He said that divisions and feuds within the church “are evidence of infantility, childishness in faith which sometimes assumes ruffian forms.”

It would now seem the good Patriarch is advocating the strategy of sowing wheat among the web-tares:

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia on Saturday lamented a high number of antichurch internet posts and said the Russian Orthodox Church he leads should be present in social networks to tell the truth to its audience.

“Blogs and social networks give us new opportunities for the Christian mission” at a time when the Church comes under attacks more often than before, the patriarch said. “Not to be present there means to display our helplessness and lack of care for the salvation of our brothers.”

“Now that social media shows a huge interest, although not always a sound one, in church life, our duty is to convert it for a good cause, to create conditions for young people to know about Christ, know the truth about the life of people inside the Church,” Patriarch Kirill said.

“When a person makes a query on church life in an internet search engine, he finds a lot of lies, hypocrisy and hatred,” the patriarch said at a meeting of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Bishops Council in downtown Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.

“These are the visible results of activity by the enemy of mankind,” he said.

This of course comes hot on the heals of the superb address given by the Pope on social media, which I think can be summed up as follows:

“Go into all the digital world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15 with slight modification)

Interesting in that the Patriarch and the Pope are of the greatest Christian spiritual leaders of our time, and they have seen and identified the potential of social media for the good; unlike others who would simply suppress and basically wish away social media in its various forms like the blogs. Perhaps it is time to elevate our  thinking and realise the ‘new opportunities for the Christian mission’, and not simply sit around with our heads buried in some dusty old liturgical books. The cause of Christ and his Gospel must be furthered. There are souls to be saved. And the Church should be making good use of the opportunity for building platforms of social influence that extend well beyond the four walls of the Sunday experience.


Pope’s Twitter Success Praised as Evangelisation Breakthrough


Pope Benedict’s mass of 2.5 million followers in eight languages during his first month on Twitter has one Vatican priest calling the pontiff’s online presence “a new frontier” of evangelization.

Father Paolo Padrini, a collaborator of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said it is good that the Pope has so many followers, but it even more important that the Pope “seeks to co-exist and share on Twitter.”

“Being present in social media is evangelizing, if just for the fact that he is present with his words,” he told CNA Jan. 11.

“It’s a great joy to see the Pope’s words being disseminated, a joy that is held by all believers.”

Twitter is a social media service that allows users to send out 140-character messages, called “tweets,” to other users who follow their accounts. Followers and others may then share these tweets with their own followers with a “re-tweet.”

The Pope’s first tweet on his personal account went out on Dec. 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Over 64,000 people retweeted his introductory message on his English-language account “Pontifex,” while over 33,000 did so for his Spanish-language account “Pontifex_es.”

As of Jan. 11, he has sent out only 21 tweets. He has shared his favorite memory of Christmas, asked for prayers for an end to the Syria conflict and exhorted others to look to Jesus Christ.

“Following Christ’s example, we have to learn to give ourselves completely,” the Pope said on Twitter Jan. 9. “Anything else is not enough.”

Anyone on Twitter may interact with any other user. Those who have replied to the Pope range from the devout, the appreciative and the inquisitive to the flippant, irreverent and even obscene.

The Pope’s followers are numerous indeed. His English-language account has over 1.4 million subscribers, his Spanish-language account has 575,000 and his Italian-language account has 265,000.

His tweets also go out in French, German, Polish, Portuguese and Arabic. His Arabic-language account is the least popular but still has a respectable 18,000 followers.

By comparison, President Barack Obama has acquired 25 million followers in almost five years. The Dalai Lama has about six million followers on Twitter…

The Pope’s Twitter following quickly surpassed Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who has 72,000 followers.

Claire Diaz Ortiz, Manager of Social Innovation at Twitter, said the company is “thrilled” any time a leader joins their network to connect with his or her followers.

“For the Pope, the decision will be a way for him to better connect his flock of 1.2 billion. That many of those interactions can now take place on Twitter is an inspiring fact for believers everywhere,” she told CNA Jan. 11.

She said that the company has seen a wide range of spiritual leaders form large followings on Twitter.

“Many religious leaders have embraced Twitter to minister to their community, listen to their concerns and share meaningful content,” she said.

Diaz said the Pope’s Twitter debut showed an “incredible emphasis” on internationalization…

Fr. Padrini, who has developed and implemented pontifical council communications initiatives like the website and the iPhone app iBreviary, said that he thinks the Pope’s success on Twitter is “major.”

“It has really warmed my heart. It’s a beautiful thing. But I didn’t have any doubt in my mind that it would be successful,” he said.

Judging from what he has read and heard in informal conversations, he thinks the Pontifical Council for Social Communications must be “very happy” that Pope Benedict’s communications are “more widespread than ever thanks to social media.”

The priest was optimistic about Twitter as a medium, even though little can be said in a single tweet.

“One hundred and forty characters are few but the number of years of Jesus on earth were also few,” he said. “The important thing is to be present and to do so with quality.”

Fr. Padrini added that the Pope has helped inspire others on the internet.

“I feel that because of the Pope’s presence online, all of the work of all of us who work in evangelization online is also valued.”


Psalm-sung Galaxy?

Creideamh (pronounced ‘kray-jif’), Gaelic for ‘Faith’:

Since losing the bulk of my books in my study fire a couple of years ago, I have become increasingly appreciative of the amount of material suitable for a preacher’s library which is available online.

In particular, Amazon Kindle and Logos have been regular friends of mine in the past couple of years. Not only does e-publishing allow me to carry my library with me almost anywhere, but it affords me the ability to compress a thousand volumes into the size of a handheld mobile phone.

Not, of course, that there is any substitute whatsoever for the printed page. I still find myself searching for the hardcopies of books which I imagine still to be on my shelves, only to find that they are gone; I am still grieving their loss. On the other hand, with a couple of clicks on a keyboard, books can be located, searched and incorporated into great sermons. And into bad ones too, of course.

But I recently received notification from Logos – an oustanding developer of Bible software – that they are to make it possible for congregations to participate in the worship experience from their seat via their mobile phone.

I kid you not. Picture this scenario: I am in full flow unpacking the depths of the biblical narrative, with a power point presentation to accompany my sermon (and make it more interesting). I could stop at a slide and survey the congregation; a piece of software in my computer could send a signal to a special app on the mobile phones of my technologically-savvy congregation; they, in turn could feed back their answers to me in a milli-second and I could incorporate their views into my presentation!

Great, no?

Well … much as I appreciate the power of technology and the revolution that has taken place in the electronic processing of information, I do want to pause for a moment. I’m not convinced that power point is an aid to worship in the first place; and nor do I think that the time it consumes to prepare the slides necessary for a sermon-accompanying presentation is worth it.

I may be old-fashioned, but if a sermon is good it needs no visual aid to support it; and if it is bad, no power point presentation can salvage it. This is not to decry those who feel that it is a necessary aid to worship in the twenty-first century; no doubt some preachers use it very effectively. I know I could not, and will not be in a hurry to introduce it to my church services.

And as for audience participation via mobile phone? I think not. For one thing, such a thing would require everyone to possess the proper equipment; how shall the have nots be included in the electronic participation? I am not sure that the costs of keeping abreast with all the technology and incorporating them into worship services are worth it. It is a bit like fighting Goliath in Saul’s armour.

But I would be afraid that the whole thing would spiral out of control. What’s to stop people being distracted by their handheld computers while the preacher is engaged in the the art of sacred rhetoric? Could the provision for audience participation via mobile technology become a cover for listening to some other, more attractive preacher? And what if the congregational feedback was not what you expected? The ability to adapt quickly to the response of the congregation is not anywhere listed in the New Testament as a requirement for ministry.

And nor is expertise in the use of modern technology (although I guess St Paul’s wish to become all things to all men comes close). Helpful as the new science is, it can be a good servant but a bad master. It demands financial investment, technical expertise and patient preparation if it is to function as a means of communication rather than an end in itself.

Now that I am in my fiftieth year, I can start sentences with ‘I remember when….’; and I certainly remember when bulky tape recorders – in the churches that were prepared to admit them – made their first appearance. That was as much of a concession to technology as some churches were willing to make. And it was a good concession, extending ministry to the housebound, as well as preserving an archive of the best material.

I just wonder whether, in our modern age, we have allowed our gadgets to dictate our behaviours, even in so fundamental a matter as worship. I have a copy of the Psalms and several versions of the Bible on my phone; I would have no hesitation in using it as my pew Bible. But that’s all. Faith comes by hearing, and I would still rather have my mind stretched by articulate, fluent, logical preaching, than achieve my self-worth in worship through the use of my mobile phone just for the sake of belonging to a cutting-edge church.

Having said all that, I shall now go away and see what is happening on Twitter; I may even come across a quotation or two for next Sunday’s sermons, and add a couple of books to my electronic library before the week is out. But when it comes to morning worship next Lord’s Day, I shall enter the pulpit as a herald of heavenly things, not a connoisseur of modern mobile technology.


Twitter Christmas Sermons for Anglican Bishops

What’s next?!

Britain’s senior Anglican bishops will be tweeting their Christmas Day sermons for the first time this year.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the archbishop-designate, as well as clergy and congregations around the UK, will be celebrating the birth of Jesus in a campaign making use of social media.

Worshippers in the Church’s 16,000 parishes are being encouraged to tweet on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The Archbishops’ Council said it was a chance to spread Christmas “good news”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, his soon-to-be successor the Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu will be tweeting.

They are likely to tweet from carol, crib and midnight services, before carrying on into Christmas morning when the highlights of the sermons at Canterbury Cathedral, York Minster and Durham Cathedral will be tweeted.

The campaign will use the hashtag #ChristmasStartsWithChrist.

Rev Arun Arora, of the Archbishops’ Council, said: “This is a brilliant opportunity for parishes to take the good news of the first Christmas out of churches and into people’s lives and homes.”



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