Tag Archives: social media

Unlocking – The Realities

Covid-19: The UK Government's Communications Own Goal

I am continuing to reflect on why I am finding coming out of lockdown and shielding much harder that I found being in it.

When we were all locked down, there was a huge element of ‘all being in it together’. No one could go anywhere (that was not medical or food shopping), because there was nowhere else to go. That fact that my illness and disability means that I could not go out made little difference, because no one could. I was no longer ‘missing out’ on anything, because everyone was. There was nothing really to miss out on. Though I realise it must have been far more frustrating for the able bodied with energy to burn and social contacts and hobbies to maintain.

(I am acutely aware that many people did have to continue going to work to keep what was needed in society going, who could not choose, or be instructed to stay at home. They had to go out, risked their lives doing so – and I am incredibly grateful to them.)

There was much talk at the time among the chronically ill community about how now everyone knew what it was like for us being stuck at home pretty much all day every day, relying only on the internet for social interaction. Hopefully that part of the experience that will be remembered.

Then as lockdown began to ease, places began to open, possibilities were there again. And along with the dilemmas coming out of shielding brought, were the knock backs.

As other people begin to return to A Normal, came the whole new realisation that I was left out again, remembering how isolated life with chronic illness can be. Things are happening that I cannot go to, however much I want to. In the online support that had grown, even if just in text messages or social media posts, people are missing because they have gone to find their new normal. I absolutely do not begrudge them that, they have lives to be getting on with and I would be if I could, society has to get back to some way of functioning – but it is beginning to make a massive difference to those of us ‘left behind’.

It is a reminder, if I needed it, of what I am excluded from, what I miss, what I can no longer do. None of this is helped by the fact that my health has deteriorated, unrelated to lockdown, but concurrent with it. I cannot even begin to return to my normal, because my normal is a different, lower, level now. But even if I could, the risks of coronavirus feels too risky for some of what I might have been able to enjoy before, like a trip to a coffee shop, unless I can sit outside away from a crowd.

So, all power to those who are finding a way to get back to some kind of life. I genuinely am delighted, but please don’t forget those of us whose lifestyle and restrictions you had a glimpse of for a few months. We are not your responsibility, and you should not feel bad for living what life you can again.

But perhaps there are some lessons that have been learned that can be carried onwards:

  • remember something of what it was like to be stuck at home with nowhere to go
  • remember the connections you made and don’t leave them behind,
  • remember all those useful tools you have discovered that enable people to connect with what is happening from wherever they are and continue to use them with those still locked at home.

Meanwhile, I have to find again, the value and worth of my restricted life, outside of what everyone else is, or is not, doing. And I am very grateful to all those who are a part of my world and the life that they can get on and live.

The World Wide Web is My Parish – Zoom Edition(part 1)

Difference between Internet and Web - WWW and its services | Websites Management | The Internet is a network of connected devices that covers the entire world. The Web is a service that supports it, such as browsers, emails, FTP, etc

There is now a video version of this blog available at:

Twenty one years ago, as part of my ministerial training, I wrote my dissertation.  It was called ‘The World Wide Web is My Parish’. Focused on whether and how churches should be using the, then relatively new to general use, internet.  At that time the big question was mainly about churches having websites, whether they should and if they did how they used them – was it mainly as a notice board, or for interaction.

All these years later, the internet is a very different place and the advent of social media has brought much more space for the church to consider how it uses.  And in 2020 a global pandemic has brought a whole new slant, opportunity and, for some, questions. Zoom worship is now a pretty established thing that has, in my opinion, been a great blessing to the church, particularly as it has the ability for people to phone in to via a landline phone, which means most of the population of the UK could access it.  How awesome it has been in a time of isolation to be able to ‘meet’ together, to share fellowship with one another and to worship God together.

But as lookdown eases and the possibility of churches re-opening their buildings for worship, even with restrictions, the question is raised of what happens to zoom worship. Perhaps now is the time to look at some theology of online and our place in it…

In June 1739, John Wesley wrote in his journal:

“I look upon all the world as my parish. I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it, meet, right and my bounden duty to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation.  This is the work that I know God has called me to; and sure I am that His blessing attends it.”

Jesus parting words to his disciples, which includes us, were:

“Jesus drew near and said to them, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Online, in all its forms, whether we like it or not, is very much a part of our world, and therefore an entirely legitimate place to be in worship, mission, discipleship.

In his book Mission and Dialogue, Michael Nazir-Ali reminds us that the Church is called to “proclaim the gospel afresh in every age”  Part of being christian and being church is to live out our experience of God where we are, within our community.  To do this the church needs to be a part of its community and not hide in a “holy huddle” in the safe place.  If we are to bring the gospel to the world we have to be where the people are. 

Historically Methodism plays its part by breaking out of imposed structures and boundaries, when necessary, to be where people are.  John Wesley left the buildings and preached in the streets and fields to reach people.  To believe in God incarnate is to want to see the church incarnate in the world, not just clinging to its familiar ways.  Unless we express church in a way our community understands, we are failing to be Christ’s body to them.

We could question if there is is a need to liberate Jesus from clutches of a church focussed on institutional buildings, so that he can be experienced and encountered anew for each generation – relevant to their experience and understanding.

Throughout history, particularly by the church, there have been profound misgivings about machines and technology and the effect they may have on the social and spiritual wellbeing of the nation. The printing press and television were both seen as highly dubious in their time!

Frank Wright in his book, The Pastoral Nature of Ministry asks the pertinent question if we have so conceptualised faith that we have forgotten it is primarily an invitation to see (1980, p15)? Have we become to hung up on our buildings that we forget what God can do, or even that he exists outside them?  Buildings very much have their place, but they are not the only place. For the Church to fulfil its mission, it has to be changed and learn new things (as Leslie Newbigin asks in his book The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, 1989, p124), not to move from its core foundation and principles, but reinterpret the way it expresses them.  The church can join the search for new community, taking its place in it, and not missing its voice in the discussion. 

The Church is a place for people searching for truth, love, peace and wholeness.  We have that to offer and should seek to make that offer in any place where people are.  Online is such a significant part of the lives of so many people, the first place to which they turn.  The church is failing to fulfil its mission to go into all the world if it is not in that part of technology that covers the whole world, regardless of any political, geographical or physical boundaries.

In part 2, I will follow up with questions about where we are today, what lockdown has taught the churches about an online presence and where we go from here.

We pray Lord
for those whose lives have been so upset
by the Corona virus pandemic,
those whose certainties and sureties
have been taken away.

We pray for those isolated,
who feel that they have lost their community,
those who feel that they have lost what they held dear,
those who have lost their routine
and those who feel they have lost their connection with you.

We thank you Lord for all the ways we have been able to connect
whilst being aware that those ways are not for everyone,
but we thank you for the gift and the blessing that we have found
in services in Facebook Live, zoom, in the Daily Devotions,
in things that we have time to read,
that we wouldn’t have had time for before.

Thank you Lord
for meeting us in so many ways,
in the place where we have found ourselves.

We pray that you will continue to bless us,
that you will continue to meet with us,
as we begin to be able to meet together as we are able
and for those who still want to meet online.

We pray for all those seeking to find a place
where they can meet you
and know the reality of you.

We pray
not just for those who know and love you
but for those who are seeking
and for those who don’t even know
they are looking,
may they encounter you
in the place and in a way that they need to,
that all the world may know,
that all the world will hear,
that all the world may fall in love with you.

For we ask it in Jesus name

Amen

Desperately Seeking Community

My post for this month over on BigBible can be found here.

In a small departure from the norm, I wanted to unpack a bit more personally here.

My break from Twitter has made me reflect and ask myself several questions, some of which I mentioned on BigBible, some I didn’t:

  • Have I been expecting more than is possible?
  • Have I put more faith in Social Media than is sensible or right?
  • Is social media doing me more harm than good in the place where I am at the moment?
  • Have I actually even really missed it?
  • Have I even been missed?
  • Do I want to return?

I maintain wholeheartedly that the church should have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and anywhere and everywhere else it can – for wherever people are, is where God is – and where God is, is where we should be.  My reflections here are more on a personal level.

I found myself with this pressing question, in the way only The Clash can express it

So I am grappling.

Have I been artificially trying to construct a community for myself, given the rootlessness that I feel, being in a place I have not chosen to be in a way I would prefer not to be? It has been a hard experience moving to new physical surroundings without being able to utilise any of the usual tools of ‘fitting in’ because I can’t get out much and put the energy into getting to know people in the way I would have in the past.  There are activities, but I can’t join many of them.  That doesn’t mean people don’t want me, or I them, just my limitations make it restrictive.  And that in turn makes life very lonely.

So, what am I actually looking for social media to do? To give me comfort? Company?  Somewhere to have a place to inhabit and be?  Am I in it out of sheer nosiness?  Or a true exploration of a ministry and calling – in which case I cannot step away…

But is social media the place to find any of that?  Twitter is very transitory and relatively shallow.  It moves on very quickly.  Facebook has more of a community feel to it, as recent experience has shown, but it has its limitations.  As I’ve dipped back in to Twitter, I have found it rather overwhelming, and very quickly come across some of the things that made me step away in the first place.  I accept that some of this is where I find myself at the moment.

Yet for those who have  no other source of community, do they offer a solution?  There can be a tendency to  ‘look at me’ on social media, whether we recognise it as that are not, and maybe that is what I don’t need right here, right now (and that’s about me not you!) – though I recognise that as also part of people seeking community and connections. But there is also a lot of great depth, much humour and some good people to know.  I think the great lesson is to not put more faith in something than it can return to you – that way leads pain and disillusionment in all things.  But if we (I), take social media for what it is, accept what it can offer and not be disappointed by what it can’t, then it has much to offer.  Community – yes of a kind; lots of fun – yes; and the rest, well don’t take it or myself too seriously 🙂

I’m still thinking – what do you think?  It’s a conversation I want to have, so please join in.