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making your brain ache

Image of woman's legs and feet, backlit, wearing high heels

Some time ago, I marked out an article from a fellow Curate and fellow blogger for further reflection. The problem is that each time I sit down with it, I’m just left with my brain dribbling out my ears. As Rob says at the conclusion of the article… ‘sometimes, I just don’t know what to think … ‘

So rather than wait for a day that never seems to come, I’m just going to point you in Rob’s direction and say go read for yourself. The article in question concerns pioneer minister, Rob Ryan, and his conversation with a lap-dancing Christian who was passing through town. It’s a fascinating and heart-rending story.

CofE falls foul of digital switchover

An image of a microphone on fire

You know how you sometimes bookmark news stories and websites that you think ‘I must blog about that’ and then never get round to it? No, may just be me then.

Anyway, here is my oldest ‘must blog about this’ story that I never got around to that stems from 2007. The BBC ran a story in February that year about the Government’s plans to auction off the spectrum of frequencies controlled by Ofcom. They noted that the auction could threaten the use of radio mics in theatres, festivals, concerts and other special events because they were not being ring-fenced in the proposals. Use of such frequencies could either get more expensive (much more expensive), they might cease to function entirely, or, at the very least, if they did work, interference could be a real issue.

I took note of the story because the obvious thing to say from a church perspective is that a lot of churches would be affected as well. I can’t remember a time when I visited a church (even fairly high, traditional churches) where the leader of the service and/or the preacher was not mic’d up. Indeed, more often than not the microphones were radio mics. Churches, in that sense, are obvious users of such technology since as a president of a Holy Communion service or a preacher, you’re going to need a fair bit of freedom of movement that a static microphone is going to find much harder to accomodate.

Read more

What I’ve been reading this weekend

Pausing and wrestling

Coldplay album cover

Well, that was a hectic week last week of blogging! For those that have been counting and watching, yes I know that I still haven’t said anything about my ongoing wrestling match with membership of New Wine. I guess it’s testament to the wrestling and struggling that I’ve yet to get any thoughts down on (e-)paper. So you’ll have to watch this space on that one.

Clearly I can’t sustain the daily habit long-term with the demands of parish ministry but this is one of the shorter posts that I intend to do in between the mini-essays!

The Future of CHP posts have generated a lot of interest and the ‘ol blog stats took a bit of a ballistic hit upwards on Saturday which was a slightly nervy surprise. I must admit that initially I didn’t think anyone was watching since my blog platform only looks for trackbacks and so hadn’t picked up on Dave Walker’s Twitter post until someone mentioned it here. Thus far I’ve avoided Twitter although that’s another story and another blog post altogether!

Anyway, the debate continues so please do comment on those posts if you have something to say or just lend your support. There’s more to say on that whole subject of CHP and one or two other things have occurred to me since writing those two posts so watch this space for more on that too. I am kinda wondering what, if anything, can be done about it though. Anyone got any thoughts?

In the meantime, if you need something of a soundtrack to which you can do your own pausing and wrestling, then Coldplay have just released a live album of nine songs totally free online for people to download as ‘a thank you to our fans’. I know my youth group don’t think I’m very cool for liking Coldplay but I like them, so shoot me. Heartily recommended.

The day Giles Fraser got it wrong and exploding pumice

Burning pumice rock

Giles Fraser, Church Times columnist and parish priest, is kind of like my journalistic equivalent of Marmite. You either love what he writes or you hate it. Frequently I find myself from week to week doing both… one week he gives you hope that there is indeed a God, seven days later and I’m wondering about cancelling my subscription to the Church Times again.

I read a column from Giles a week or two back that seemed to contain both love and hate in the same article – ‘Why blogs can be bad for the soul‘. Giles laid into the all-too-common blogs where the comments are so nasty, extreme and hateful that they positively ought to carry a health warning. I have some sympathy. I’ve read a good few blogs and comment threads myself which have been enough to put me off for life. As much as I keep an eye on Thinking Anglicans, Anglican Mainstream, Fulcrum and more for a wide variety of news and views, I very rarely if ever read the comments because I know what I’m going to find and frequently find the same people (often disguised safely behind a pseudonym which seems to give them licence to be extremely rude) letting rip with their usual guff. So I don’t bother. I read the blogs and ignore the comments.

Maggi Dawn has already responded as to why blogs can be good for the soul. I couldn’t agree more. I have a number of people that I’d consider colleagues and friends now because of meeting first on the Internet. There are one or two that I have yet to meet but who I am really looking forward to meeting in person when opportunity allows. It’ll be weird meeting an ‘old friend’ for the first time!

But I’ve also had an object lesson this week in why it’s good to read the comments. Read more

Catching up and moving forward

Illustrative image for moving forward and back

I can’t quite understand where the time goes. To not blog at all throughout April demands an apology should there be anyone out there who happens to be passing or, indeed, if anyone has me in their RSS feed of whatever kind and has wondered why the silence. I certainly know some of you have wondered because you’ve emailed me to say so.

Of course, April saw me pass through my first Easter as a clergyman and I was surprised after my first Christmas as to how busy I was. Christmas seemed, to me anyway, quite manageable. I was all set for a similar cushy number while the world assumes you’re madly busy. I was surprised. Easter was hectic.

I’ve had some time off in that mix as well, but there are no excuses and I’ve actually come to a resolution. One of the things I seem to struggle with in the whole blogging process is that when I sit down to write a post, it ends up being a mini-essay and I don’t have time regularly to write them. Therefore, each week, and most probably on Sundays, I’m going to aim to blog one of my usual ‘lengthy’ posts and then sporadically in between times, shorter, one-line even, or a few lines in the manner of an extended Facebook to cover all sorts of things that I want to mention but don’t get a chance to say more about.

As it so happens, the last few days have brought a variety of events in my own life and news stories in the wider world that have really caught my attention and I promise that in the coming days, they are going to get covered here but I’ve got to break it down into manageable chunks. In no particular order and covering a wide variety of interests, they are:

So there you go, a preview of forthcoming attractions. Watch this space and as I actually write these posts, I’ll link them back to here to prove I did do them after all!

I’ve been banned by YouTube!

Image of my YouTube screen

Here’s an odd thing. I’m not a big user of YouTube. I occasionally watch video clips that people send me links for – everything from Cristiano Ronaldo doing something amazing with a football to funny advertisements to things I might be able to use in church.

I have also uploaded ONE video clip myself – of the Ridley Hall Gospel Choir singing at the Christmas service in 2006 and which I blogged about.

I logged on to my rarely used YouTube account today to find out that my account has been permanently disabled! When I tried to investigate, it turns out YouTube has got hot on copyright recently and lots of people who uploaded films or songs under copyright have been banned. I can understand that. Problem is – I didn’t do that. All I did was upload a home video that my wife a fellow ordinand shot on my behalf of me and a group of fellow ordinands singing.

So was it that our singing was so bad we deserved to be banned? Was it that I needed express written permission from each singer before uploading? Is it because I is religious, innit? I really can’t work out exactly what it is I’m supposed to have done wrong.

The YouTube help site is useless. Basically people saying you got banned because you deserve to be banned but no kind of explanation as to what the problem might have been.

Heeere’s Davey!

Jack Nicholson in 'The Shining'

Yes, I think it’s time to get Wannabepriest back in the saddle. For those that are really bad at updating their RSS readers and so have been provided with this blogpost out of the blue after nearly 18 months of silence and a pretty firm decision (at the time) to not blog anymore, I’m back blogging – try not to fall off your chair!

For those discovering this blog for the first time, welcome. I hope you enjoy the musings.

By way of a return, I guess I ought to explain why I put a halt to my blog fairly unceremoniously in the Summer last year and why I have decided now at this juncture to actually get back into it and revive it.

Firstly, why I called a halt. Well, it was a number of reasons really. Read more

It’s all gone quiet over there…

Sshh. Image from Dumb and Dumber

I am highly conscious of having gone quiet on this blog. There are two main reasons…

The first is that I am ruminating on whether to shut this site down. I have an idea in my head for another site I would like to do but it all tends to take a bit of a back-burner behind the demands of my studies, family life and existing web commitments. So I am thinking that by shutting this down, I might free some time for new projects.

On the other hand, I think I would miss having this space to ruminate and have other people comment on my ruminations… so maybe it won’t shut down. Decisions, decisions.

The other main reason is that what blogging I am doing is going into my ongoing account of how I am getting on during Lent using the Church of England’s Love Life, Live Lent campaign. In short, it is going okay although I think I am only really being successful in completing the challenges about two days in three. Still, it’s all making me think which is a good thing.

Wine and wineskins

Wooden laptop

When I was still working for the National Church Institutions, I decided one day to get myself in with the digital Jones’ and set up a blog. As I’ve mentioned before, I was a few posts in when the kindly Dave Walker dropped me an email and suggested I might like to check out whether I was okay to be blogging and whether the NCI’s had any rules about staff blogging about church related matters.

The staff handbook was silent on the matter. So I cc’d an email to certain overseers who I thought might be best to ask. They responded by asking me ‘what’s a blog?’. So I explained blogging to them and then it all went silent for a week or two until an announcement was made via the internal weekly ‘All Staff’ web page. The announcement made it clear that any member of staff who blogged about their work or the Church would be considered to be in breach of contract in just the same way as if they had spoken without authorization to a member of the press. The announcement went on to say that there were some staff members who blogged as part of their job (like national youth officers and the like) which was fine, but if that wasn’t you… keep your grubby little fingers off your keyboards (I’m paraphrasing at this point of course).

I can understand why they came down as heavy as they did, but as term ends here at Ridley and the numbers of ordinands blogging here at Ridley and around the country in other colleges creeps up and up and up, I have been led to think about how institutions sometimes react to new things and how they might react to the rising numbers of bloggers in college life.

I guess there is always the danger that the powers-that-be decide to nip things in the bud and come down heavy on us bloggers. We do have a tendency to sound off a little (some of us more than others) and criticism can creep into our posts from time to time. Let’s face it – we have a fair list of ‘powers-that-be’ to choose from; any of whom could decide to make life difficult. Between the Ministry Division, our respective diocesan bishops and our colleges, we are not short of authority figures to rail against or under whom we might find ourselves being sat on.

For example, I can understand why a theological college that is under pressure each year to attract students from a limited intake of ordinands might want to put its best public foot forward and might not look kindly on any blog that is less than complimentary when potential students might be reading. However, I would suggest that sitting on such comment actually makes that institution look worse than it might look if it let it slide and allowed the student’s critique. I personally think that any organisation that cannot handle a bit of criticism looks very insecure. Surely, a mature organisation confident in its mission is not going to be waylaid by a few negative words?

As the philosopher Epictetus is rumoured to have said (and yes, I can’t believe that I just typed that phrase on my blog either):

“If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it.”

Instead of worrying about potential negatives, I’d encourage the powers-that-be to recognise the positives. As one of my fellow bloggers and I discussed the other day; if nothing else, keeping such a journal helps us to sharpen up our reflective skills – something we are always being encouraged to do at college. It also encourages dialogue and conversation and from a potentially much wider audience with a far broader churchmanship than we might find in any non-digital environment. What great educational opportunities!

At the same time, I would say that all of us ordinand types who blog have a duty to be careful in what we say. If we are to critique, we had better make damn sure we have good reason and at the very least be tempering any negative comment by looking for the positive as well. Once it’s out here on the web, it’s beyond our control. Even if you delete it, it gets caught in Google caches and sites like archive.org and that, if nothing else, should give us pause.

What follows are a few golden rules that I humbly offer to both ordinand types and institutions feeling threatened for the good of all as we continue in this brave new world. If commenters want to add their own suggestions, please feel free – I’d love to hear them and will be glad to update this article as we go with your suggestions.

Golden rules for the ordinand

  1. If you say it’s a fact, make flippin’ sure that it is a fact.
  2. If you get it wrong, be big enough to correct your mistakes and acknowledge those mistakes publicly.
  3. But don’t delete a post; preserve the original and use notations to show where changes were made.
  4. If you are referencing something or someone else and the material exists online, link to it so that people can go read and make up their own mind.
  5. Be honest about your own biases and interests. If you have a vested interest, say so.
  6. Don’t disclose confidential information… ever. (It should go without saying for people training to be Ministers that we can keep a confidence).
  7. Don’t blog about issues and topics that, even if not confidential, could jeopardize personal and work relationships.
  8. ** update ** Might be wisest to keep family as a no-go area. It’s not fair on the family to hear stuff back about themselves from other people who’ve read the blog. (Same sort of issue as whether it’s okay to preach about family). ** end update **
  9. Keep a fair balance of positive and negative if you do find yourselves critiquing… try the situation in their shoes and see how it looks.
  10. If you really go for it and sound off in a big way, or if you are not in the best frame of mind that day, just save it as draft and sleep on it before you go ahead and publish.

Golden rules for the powers-that-be

  1. Encourage blogging and best practice in blogging amongst your students. It could really help them to reflect and discuss what they are learning in powerful new ways. In essence, blogging is an open dialogue and an exchange of ideas – what is more educational than that?
  2. Take time to understand the technology and the culture that goes with it. Engage! Consider harnessing such technology yourself to run official blogs that might even feed into and from the unofficial blogs of students.
  3. Take time to think about how priestly ministry could be enhanced by keeping a blog and encourage your ordinands to think on the same lines for the benefit of their future ministry.
  4. Participate! Get yourself an RSS reader and both read your ordinands’ blogs and, every now and then, comment and be part of the discussion.
  5. If you get a bit of criticism, maybe you’d look better to outsiders looking in and more mature by allowing the criticism rather than trying to eradicate it.
  6. If you get a bit of criticism, why not honestly consider whether it’s deserved and what you could do about it.
  7. Feel free to exercise discipline when it is needed… whether it be in regard to confidentiality, proprietary or third party information. You are still the powers-that-be!

*** update ***

Golden rules for blog readers

  1. Don’t believe all you read in the newspapers or in a blog. Reader beware.
  2. Read with a hermeneutic of suspicion! In other words, ask ‘Why has this blogger written this? Who benefits?’
  3. Receive the blog in the spirit that it is offered; an urge to amuse, a rant of frustration, a dollop of self-indulgence, and a touch of therapy.
  4. A blog is not meant to be evenhanded and impartial. It is someone’s opinion, like an editorial.
  5. A blog is deliberately published, the author wants you to see it. If it was a secret diary you wouldn’t know that it existed (duh).
  6. If you want to understand blogs, have a go yourself. And improve your reflective skills at least.

*** end update ***

p.s. this post was slept on (and considerably edited) before it was published

p.p.s The image is of a laptop which had its casing removed and replaced with solid wood recovered from old wine cases. I kid you not!