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Creating, Redeeming, and Sustaining S2S Communications - #eform16 @shamikalashawn @padrealberto @sspellers

Yesterday, during brief breaks from my work in social media at a Federally Qualified Health Center in Connecticut, I found moments to step into the social media stream flowing out of the eFormation conference at Virginia Theological Seminary.

I had thought about going to this conference. It seems right up my alley as a social media professional seeking to proclaim God’s love in new ways. I thought of the great Missional Voices conference I had attended a month or two ago at VTS. But the price of the conference was too much for me, and I’ve often been disappointed with social media conferences.

I understand why people charge for things. We need to make our ministries sustainable. So, I thought about what sustains me. I understand the role of money in our society, in needing to pay for food and housing, but when I think about what really sustains us, the Sustainer, and that “all good gifts around us, are sent from heaven above”, I rethought what sustainable ministries really means. I sometimes think that the gift economy and paying it forward are some of the best expressions of grace we see today, expressions we see outside of the traditional church environment.

I watched part of the beginning worship. It started with the valley of dry bones from Ezekiel. This is a story that has really grown on me over the past few years.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’

The service started off with a bunch of people lying around the base of the altar. When I first saw it, I didn’t think of dry bones, I thought of a ‘die-in’. Is the church learning from the Black Lives Matters movement, I wondered to myself? Is this a statement about refugees washing up on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea?

I saw what looked like Stephanie Spellers trying to get others to join her in prophesying to these dry bones. Her enthusiasm for bringing others into God’s work is what resonates for me. We were invited think about prophesying to dry bones in the 21st century. Shamika Goddard tweeted, “I don't always prophesy, but when I do I prefer to use Twitter.” I joined in with “Tweet, Rap, Freestyle, Free Verse, Free the oppressed, Declare Jubilee Show God's Love”

There were some good comments tweeted about flipped classrooms and audio story telling.

Yet some of it felt a bit too much like a social media marketing class. Creating a Church Social Media Plan: How do you get your message through in a media that is already over saturated with distractions? As I thought of the Sustainer, I also thought of the Creator. What are we creating?

In crafting media plans, you need to be aware of your audience. Is your communications Business to Business (B2B)? Business to Consumer (B2C)? Too often, it feels like people talking about church social media are talking about business to consumer communications. I think we need to be in the business of sinner to sinner and saint to saint communications (S2S). We need to weep with ‘Our Lady Mother of Ferguson and All Killed by Guns’. We need our communications, whichever medium is being used, to be redeeming.

Are our social media plans about getting butts in pews on Sunday morning, making sure that our metric of Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) is supported by new metrics of Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers? Personally, I dislike the ASA metric. Sunday morning is important to me. The buildings I worship in are important, yet as Shamika Goddard tweeted, I suspect quoting Father Albert Cutie, “Ppl are afraid for their church bldgs but they need to remember that the church started in the streets.”

We are created in the image of God. We need to reflect that image in our social media, not as part of a marketing plan, but as talking sinner to sinner and saint to saint, in seeking our voices to be creating, redeeming, and sustaining.

Random Facebook stuff

Over the past few days, I’ve added comments to a few things on Facebook and other sites that I want to share here.

There were a couple comments to the column, Faith Matters: Our history is stained with the truth of racism. They were both not supportive, so I felt it was important to add this comment:

Thank you for your wise and thoughtful words. You have placed the discussion about our shared histories in the proper context. How do we see every person around us as created by God, “fully human, fully deserving of a life lived with the same possibility for freedom, health and well-being as the life of anyone else”, whether they be the descendants of slaves, the descendants of slave owners, descendants of serfs, members of the Black Lives Matters movement, or someone flying a Confederate flag from the back of their pickup truck. How do our words show God’s love to all people?

A few people posted an image from Nihilist Memes that reads “Every Corpse on Everest was once an Extremely motivated Person”. I responded with a quote from Thus Spake Zarathustra:
“"thou hast made danger thy calling; therein there is nothing contemptible" -

Another friend posted a link to an article, Just One Day Without T####’s Name. The article had the name of the presidential candidate that I have redacted. If we’re not going use that name, let’s stop using it now. I responded,

Not talking about someone known for calling others losers or clowns is a start, but it really isn't enough. Instead,we need to replace it with discussions about important issues: How we feed the hungry, house the homeless, care for the strangers among us,, how we show God's love to all people, those who are called losers by politicians and even those politicians and their supporters who call others losers.

This is an important theme for me right now. Let’s post poems. Let’s post about issues, loving our neighbors, welcoming immigrants, celebrating Ramadan, speaking out against a culture of rape.

I did get a little political in a comment where I posted

To paraphrase a current Presidential candidate, Stanford University is not sending us their best; Criminals, Drug Dealers And Rapists are on their swim team and going to parties.

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Who are you in Zarephath?

Who are you in Zarephath?
The widow?
Her son?
The prophet?
One of the many
worshipers of Ba’al?

I often feel like the widow
preparing to eat
the last of my meal
and die.

Yet unexpectedly
the voice of The Lord
in the form
of a stranger
asking for food
and promising
there will be

I think of the times
I’ve come close
to losing
that which I’ve loved most
on this earth
only to have
the stranger,
the prophet

Who are you at Zarephath?
Can we accept
the endless oil and meal
and become
the voice of the Lord
the prophet
to someone else?

A Found Journey

“I will arise and go now”
“In leaves no step had trodden black”
“past Eve and Adam's,
from swerve of shore to bend of bay”
“where the wind’s like a whetted knife”

“Where are you going?
Where are you going?”
“ ‘Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow, “

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,”

“It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood”
“so much depends

a red wheel

“But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep, “

“And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.”

“And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

This poem was written in response to a writers prompt for a poetry group I'm part of. It is made up almost entirely of lines lifted from some of my favorite poems.

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This evening I am scheduled for the final meeting of the discernment committee that has been meeting to help me better hear what God is calling me to, including the possibility of pursuing ordination as an Episcopalian Priest. The topic for this evening’s discussion is supposed to be ‘Obedience’.

In my past, I’ve been well known for wearing a ‘Question Authority’ t-shirt which may seem contrary to obedience. I’ve worked for some very difficult bosses whom I’ve had to obey their requests, but that I’ve disagreed with and done reluctantly after expressing my belief that their requests were not in the best interest of the organization. To the extent that we are talking about obeying humans in power structures, sums up a lot of my relationship to obedience.

Yet the discernment committee talks about obedience in a different way.

The word obedience derives from the Latin word to “hear or listen deeply.” How are the words “obedience” and “listen” related in his or her life?

If we think about listening deeply, I don’t do as a good a job as I would like. My mind is so full of ideas that it is hard to hear other ideas. Yet at the same time, it is a driving force in my poetry. How do we stop and listen to life, to the sound of the babbling brook in the woods, to the rhythm of our hearts, our breathes, the rhythm of the street, the story of the homeless person at the corner, of those suffering oppression because of the color of their skin, their gender identity, or other many other ways people are oppressed and unheard? How do we stop and listen to God’s still small voice?

For my writing, for my activism, listening needs to be a starting point, and I don’t always listen as well as I should. There have been long periods without writing poetry tied to a lack of listening.

And then, there’s God. How much of my life has been disobedient to God, not out of willfulness or disrespect, but simply out of not listening.

The discernment manual goes on to ask,

Talk about a time when you have been disobedient. What led you to act this way?

We live in a world of distraction. People want our attention, and it seems as if there just isn’t enough attention to go around. How do we tell what should get our attention? How do we re-read stories from the Bible if we think of them in terms of who is paying attention to whom, in terms of disobedience as not listening deeply?” Who pays attention and listens to the man who fell among thieves? Who listens to our needs?

How does this relate to the ideas of abundance, of active listening?

I feel like I’m rambling, which is what I’m likely to do if I feel like someone might be listening to me, so I guess I should wrap this up.

I do not listen as closely as I should, it feels to me like most people don’t, but the discernment process is, or should be, about learning to listen a little more closely to God. I hope I’ve gotten a little better at it. I hope members of the discernment committee have as well. And if someone else stops and listens a little more closely, because of my words, either this post, because of some of my poems, so much the better.

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