Archive for June, 2011

Blogging about…Blogging?

Tonight we had the first meeting of Media in Parish Education, which as I’ve already mentioned fills out my Senior level education class at Luther Seminary. It was a lengthy 4 hours to spend on a Friday night, but admittedly, discussion was good, and I do enjoy getting credit for a class that explores the many facets of social media. Especially considering my personal affinity for social media. Case in point, my facebook page. Check it out, though be warned, you will be overwhelmed by status updates.

Tonight as we sat in class, my mental thought process went in many different directions. That being said, one specific question came to mind, which in turn raised some more questions along the same line.

How do we, as clergy that embrace social media within our own lives, embrace social media in a way that enhances or stands as a specific part of our ministry?

I ask this question as someone that has come to rely on social media over the past few years. I’ve been a prolific blogger for a long time in several different settings. The longest running one was on my former MySpace site (long since kicked to the curb for personal reasons). Now, the contents of this particular blog were basic. Literally, it was a day to day account of my own experience. It included news from my job as a trucking broker, life with my family, as well as the early days of my seminary education. It developed a small following. Approximately 20-30 people if memory serves me correctly. Nothing spectacular but the audience was spread around the U.S.

The interesting thing about this was the comments and conversations that arose from this blog. I had individuals from different places such as Kentucky, New York, and Seattle engaging me with questions of faith simply because I opened up my life as a seminary student.

I’ve seen how the Holy Spirit can use my words in a blog to open matters of faith. In many ways, this reminds me of advise I once received about preaching…once the words leave my mouth, they aren’t mine anymore, but we never know how the Spirit will use them for someone else.

So coming back around to my original question, I do wonder just how we go about making this (and by this I mean social media) part of our ministry. Can we embrace it? Will our congregations embrace us embracing it? How do we find balance between active ministry online and simply wasting time online?

Admittedly, I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I certainly throw them out there.

Do I view my past history as a blogger as a good thing? Yes I do because it open doors for conversations with people…people that I would have never encountered if not for a MySpace blog. Do I think it replaces face to face interactions in ministry? No I don’t, but I haven’t made up my mind as to if one is more important than the other.

Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” He didn’t say “Stay put and only talk amongst yourselves.” Hmm…I wonder if Jesus would retweet this?

Education 1 Continued Goal #2

The second goal that I plan to focus on in Media in Parish Education comes from the Education 1 objective nourishes personal curiosity about God’s activities int he world, and is able to wonder with awe at God’s activities.

At the end of Ed 1, I wrote a goal which stated I plan to continue to seek out God’s hand in day to day life. I don’t think this is limited to seminary at all.

I’ll be the first to admit that my initial “goal” was pretty weak regarding this objective. However, there is a grain of truth in what I wrote 2+ years ago.

As I think about the realm of media in the world and the extent that it completely permeates different people’s lives, I believe that God’s hand is present in the creation of these various tools. One of the books that I read in preparation for this class discussed the notion of God revealing Himself in new ways. I believe that social media, as well as media in general, is an example of how God is choosing to be revealed.

I have had the opportunity to develop friendships with various people around the country based on social media such as Facebook and Myspace. While it is very unlikely that I will ever meet some of these people, it has been excited to interact with them through these sites and to be able to share my faith both through messages and blogging experience. I believe that God has chosen to be revealed through this interaction.

Additionally, I’m also a big fan of movies. I’ve encountered several different congregations that host movie based Bible study. I think that this is a very effective means for opening conversations between individuals regarding faith and the way that God is working within the world. I have a knack for “seeing” the faith story within the story lines of movies and love discussions based on this trend.

I’ve often pondered on experimenting with creating online discussion groups on Facebook based on this notion of the Biblical message found within movies. To date, I haven’t done anything about it, but I believe that this may be an exciting option to pursue in the future, and it may also double as a means to explore in my final project for this class.

Backtracking to the goal itself, I don’t want to imply that I think that God’s work in the world is now limited to means of media simply because of the focus of this class. Rather, what I’m trying to establish is the thought that media is a substantially important way to share what God is up to. Personally, I find this based on the idea of relationship. John’s gospel places very high emphasis on the notion of relationship with God. This relationship is also mirrored within the relationships we have with others, and particularly other Christians. Media is a powerful tool to explore and share what we as individuals see God accomplishing in the world.


Education 1 Continued Goal #1

Back in January ’09, I took Education 1 during an intensive at Luther Seminary. One of the things that we did was establish goals for continued development through our personal seminary education.

The first goal that I’d like to focus on during Education 2 (Media in Parish Education) is based on the following objective. Capable of engaging at least one pressing contemporary learning challenge from within a faith community framework (denominational pluralism, interfaith dialogue, media culture, environmental pressures, socio-political unrest, peace and justice issues, race and class issues, gender, disability, etc).

At the end of Ed 1, I listed my personal goal as the following: Learning more about the various issues facing the church during/after seminary. When I am in the parish, I hope to begin to address issues and challenges as best I can in the context that it is presented.

As I ponder on this goal 2.5 years later, I realize that I’ve begun to deal with some of these issues in various degrees. I spent 4 semesters serving my home congregation back in Iowa as a contextual education student, as well as spending 5 months working on staff as a lay minister during my CPE experience. Additionally, I’ve found my own pastoral identity growing throughout my seminary education.  With this growth, I’ve also found myself facing issues and needing to formulate my own opinions on some of these issues.

The first example listed in the objective of denominational pluralism has becoming increasingly important for me. Very recently, I preached based on John 17:1-11, focusing on the final verse “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” The focus of my sermon was unity within the body of Christ. Now, while unity is important, it is not synonymous with uniformity. Divisions are not a bad thing within the greater church. However, I do believe that we can learn from each other across denominational lines. I’ve explored this idea in teaching confirmation and helping students to study the differences and similarities between denominations in my contextual education site. The more I learn, the more blaring differences seem, yet the less important they seem to be in my opinion. We are connected by a single truth. Jesus Christ lived, Jesus Christ died, and Jesus Christ rose again.

Running the risk of going on too much of a tangent, I’ll switch gears now and talk about the second portion of this objective that has become important to me. That deals with race, gender, and class issues.

I come from a place, and also from a generation, where these issues do not seem to be so pronounced. Granted, I do hail from a place where racial diversity is not a reality. Gender roles seem to have been broken down and most people fall into the same class category. Perhaps that’s why people get along. Perhaps I am sheltered from these issues. However, I have often found myself silenced in conversations because I fall in the category of white middle class male.

It’s my hope that I’m able to begin to explore how the use of media, which is integrated into so many of our lives to explore these issues, and can possible help to break down the barriers that have been created.

The collar and the Orange hat

You may be wondering just what the heck I’m talking about when I call my blog the collar and the orange hat. Well, let me attempt to enlighten you.

As a Lutheran seminary student, I’d like to think that the collar would be pretty obvious. Traditional outfits for pastors tend to have the white collar. Although that being said, I’ve got to admit that I was surprised when I actually started exploring the collar.

I’m currently wrapping up my middler year at Luther seminary. In laymen’s terms, my second year of class. Next up is my internship year and once that’s done I’ll head on back to seminary for my final year of class. As an intern, it’s common to begin wearing the collar, although admittedly some will start wearing the collar sooner.

I bought my first three pastor shirts within about the last month. What surprised me was just what you find when you start poking around at the collar itself. Its just a little white plastic piece about an inch and a half wide and about 5 inches long. It slips under the collar of the shirt leaving the little white square visible. Just this past weekend I was providing pulpit supply at my old church back home. I wore the collar for the first time.

I have to admit it, I was fully decked out. Black shirt, black suit. I heard one joke that I was ready for a funeral, but that’s alright. The really exciting part was that my parents were there so they got to see me the first time I wore the collar in an official manner.

Now, all that being said, back to the orange hat.

That’s it. Honestly, it all began as a joke. I’ve had this stocking hat for years. Honestly, I don’t even know where I got it. Way back when in January of 2009, I was getting ready for my first time on campus of Luther Seminary. I began my education in a distance program called Distributed Learning.

Now, January in Minnesota is cold. In fact we averaged about 20 below zero for the two weeks I was on campus. I knew I needed a stocking hat and this was the one I grabbed. By the end of the two weeks, it became something of a gimmick. I became known as “the man in the orange hat.” Over the course of 3 years and several intensives, its been my thing.

So there you go. Just a brief introduction to explain the blog name. Keep your eyes peeled. I’ll be blogging here for awhile. Admittedly, its for a class. Media in Parish Education, which is my second Education class at Luther.

Side note…the first time on campus, when I first had the orange hat…I was taking Education 1.

Side note #2…I also write a blog from the student perspective for Luther…I’m one of 6 bloggers at the site, though admittedly it’s winding down for the summer. Feel free to check it out here.