Methodist Conference – a view from the podium

9 07 2011

This is a bit late but hopefully still relevant. The last day of Conference was different for me – I was there!! The last day is not the best day to be at Conference with lots of bits n pieces to be finished off (and a very tired delegate population) but it was still good to stand in the room that I’d been watching from afar at home for the last 3 days. It was also good to be taking part in the opening worship of conference.

How did I get involved in that?

Well I’m proud to be a good friend of David and Ruth Pickles (Vice President) and Ruth asked me to be involved and to bring a friend! Carla is Synod Secretary to the President (Leo Osborne) and also a good friend of mine so I asked her to help me. Voila! The order of service had to be in weeks ago so the basic structure (and anything that needed to be on the screen) was already planned. But as the twittersphere became populated with online observers it became apparent to me (on this side of the screen) that we needed to try and include our online audience. So we did our best with the short time we had and the constraints put on us by a)15mins and b) conversion of an already planned service. Thanks to those who have offered their kind comments – Carla and I really appreciate them; and for those that wanted a copy of the prayers etc. Click here and those that wanted the link to the video click here.

Conference was great – it was good to see the faces and have brief chats with friends from a long time ago and it was brilliant to have a chat with a group of young people about possible future directions of social media and young people in the church. Social media made a real difference to many people this conference. Click here and see the kind of impact it had. Unfortunately, it seems that there are still some in Methodism (and they are usually in influential leadership roles) who are not taken with social media. In fact, I think some may even be actively against it! No-body has made a negative comment to me (one of the joys of being a pioneer is that you are expected to be edgy and a bit out there) but I know some people who have invested a lot of time, energy and research into this area have been hurt by some peoples comments. In years gone by that would have added to my contempt for the dinosaur church that I called Methodism … but not this time.

I was so energised by the content of Methodist Conference this year and felt so connected through twitter and the live stream (see Pete Philips blog here) that this lack of vision for social media by a few ill informed Methodist leaders had no power anymore. In fact a quiet revolution is beginning to emerge, which, for those of us who have intentionally placed ourselves to bring about radical redirection in the Church, is reward for a lot of hard work, many ‘fights’ and much misunderstanding. Brilliant!!

That revolution seems to have gathered a subversive momentum. Last night, sat enjoying a bottle of wine, I witnessed the birth of #cpol on twitter. The same group of young people that I spoke to at Methodist Conference wanted the energy and connectivity of the #methconf to carry on. These young people, who are deeply passionate and highly politicised, with a little help from a some not-so-youth, managed to get a group of people connected that will become a kind of digital Christian bipartisan political lobbying and action group. Wow!

Which coincides with a piece of work I am involved in called #iqtank which is a missional think tank that wants to think differently and digitally about mission. I’ll write more on this later but for now follow the #cpol and #iqtank streams (and #digidisciple – I’ve just signed up as one of the blog contributors here)

Long live the revolution!

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5 responses

9 07 2011
digitalmission

Great post.

Loved the worship on the last morning sat at my office desk. Been spending a lot of time the last few days looking at stats from the social media interaction at the conference and the figures are staggering.

With my Digital Mission project I am working with 4 districts helping them engage with social media so hopefully we may see some change creeping in soon.

10 07 2011
SuseFish

You’ve sounded very excited about things in these last few posts which is great to read.

I would just add that it’s not only old fogies in the church who have concerns about the digital revolution/focus on the virtual. It seems to me that there are some issues with digital media that we as individuals could consider before unthinkingly buying into all of it.

Is there a danger of virtual relationships replacing real ones? Do we assume we know how someone’s doing because we’ve read their blog? That we know them because what we read must be real?

And are egos getting too big through our blogs, tweets and facebook status reports? Do we think we’re more important and influential than we actually are? What will the long-term effect of this be on our mental health?

And as a church, do we risk burying the beautiful child-like simplicity of Jesus’ gentle message of forgiveness, acceptance and relationship by concentrating on relevant and current ‘vehicles’ for our message? Is the elderly village lady quietly taking casserole to someone who is bereaved doing any less a job of doing Christ’s work than someone creating an amazing multi-media presentation?

I think I’m wary because everything inside me screams that Jesus is about small, unseen, behind the scenes acts of goodness; loving the unlovely and the smelly; doing things that the world sees as waste of time, not the glamorous, exciting, ‘aren’t I clever?’ type of work that the church seems to value so highly.

11 07 2011
vfxhanley

I think your right Suse, there are many issues surrounding social media that we need to take seriously and not just brush under the carpet. However that said – a few points:

1. The Church is not doing this unthinkingly. there are many people who are working very hard on the interface of church/faith and social media (See Digitalmission above) as well as projects such as Digidisciple and CODEC. A lot of thought is going into this

2. I’m not suggesting that virtual relationships replace other relationships – they enhance them. The most succesful stuff that happens around Twitter is what are usually called Tweet Ups! (real life gatherings). in the same way it does not replace the ladie with the casserole – it’s just reaching a different audience in a different way.

3. All the dangers you have highlighted are absoultely true – but they are just as true in real life. over inflated ego’s, assumptions that we know each other, and superficial relationships are the the hallmark of most of the church ‘communities’ that I have belonged to in the past.

4.I completely agree with your last paragraph. but let’s keep things into perspective – one day last week my blog got 81 hits! and that’s the most I have had all year. Tis is not big and flashy! Also, one of the ideas of #iqtank is to arrange tweet up’s in local areas (probably in cafe’s) for two or three people (again not big and flashy). we are also exploring ways today on how we can use iqtank to raise money, awareness and a sense of transcendence about the situation in Sudan.

5. finally, I think one of the largest problems about social media is around multi personalities )as you highlighted) – so the real issue is not with social media, but enabling people to have a better sense of self and self awareness. if we know who we are, and if we are comfortable in our own skin – then I hope our social media becomes an extension of our true selves rather than an alter-ego.

11 07 2011
Fiona

Thanks for posting & tweeting from conference Sie. It was great to be reminded of how alive Methodism is! I’m grateful to read the last couple of comments too – from Suse and yourself. I know how easily I get sucked into stuff which is pretty irrelevant to real life and its my local relationships which suffer. Being aware of the problems is one step towards seeking first God’s kingdom in all we do – online and offline.

12 07 2011
SuseFish

I’m sorry if my comments sounded personal – that wasn’t my intention at all. My points were really only general observations; I wouldn’t dare to judge the size of anyone’s ego!

I will have a look into the research groups you mention – thanks for those.

I suppose my concerns are that we are making our worlds very big and I’m not sure we were designed to cope with so much knowledge. It’s partly that reason that I don’t have a telly. I feel that there’s a lot to be said for living quietly, privately, locally.

I know for myself that there are negative effects on my spiritual life to having such easy access to entertainment, company and comfort. I know that for me, there are positives to being quiet, fed up and even lonely at times. If I’m not reaching for the comfort of a temporary sticking plaster (be it virtual friends, a quick cheer-me-up e-bay purchase or even a big bowl of Frosties) then there is space for God to whisper comfort.

I know that when I wrote my blog (which, btw, I found a wonderful creative outlet) I would find myself experiencing my day differently. I’d think, “This would make a great blog story” and in that way my day became some sort of product to be consumed by my followers. I was essentially commodifying myself which wasn’t perhaps a very healthy thing to do.

I suppose so long as we would still feel comfortable and healthy if it was all taken away tomorrow (TV, phones, radio, internet, the lot) then we’re not building our houses on the sand and there’s no problem.

I think the point I became most worried about the whole area was when a friend announced on her blog that she felt like ending her life. She got loads of responses along the lines of, “We love you, babe,” but those empty words without action can never be good enough. I worry that people could be left very damaged if they knew how few of their ‘friends’ would actually behave like true friends if push came to shove. And if they aren’t real friendships, then is it worth investing so much time in them?

All that said, I have just suggested to our minister that we start a blog to discuss sermon topics before and after services. I was thinking mainly of people who don’t have partners to discuss issues with once they get home on a Sunday. So it’s not clear cut, even for me!

I’m thinking more and more that the church doesn’t need to be clever or impressive or even that culturally relevant. That all it needs is for its members to love each other and those outside the church, with actions rather than just words.

(Now how do I get rid of this dreadful years-old illustration that keeps appearing next to my name..?)

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