Monday, 22 January 2007

church attempts to use new media

Jonathan Wynne-Jones has had two stories in the Sunday Telegraph lately on this:

14 Jan For YouTube, read PewTube

21 Jan Hug somebody for Lent

The latter was triggered by a Church of England official press release titled: Lent - now str8 2 ur fone about the Love Life Live Lent campaign. The associated website is not what you might expect, but rather is www.livelent.net.

Both these projects are subjected to some serious criticism, first by Dave Green at wannabepriest under the title Oi, Williams…. NOOOO! and then by Dave Walker at The Cartoon Blog. I agree with their comments. What do TA readers think?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 22 January 2007 at 10:26pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
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Simon. The United Church of Canada has recently given it a shot. The results - pretty or no - can be found at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njuq0NundBE

Posted by: Raspberry Rabbit on Monday, 22 January 2007 at 11:11pm GMT

It's just a mismatch. Bring back the Nine O'Clock Service (Sheffield). That'll look good.

Posted by: Pluralist on Tuesday, 23 January 2007 at 1:44am GMT

I think it is a great idea if the ABC wants to make sure his entire discussion, in context, is available directly to people who want to seek that out (no disrespect to Ruth Gledhill or Jonathan Petre, but I don't need them to tell me what he said when I can watch it myself).

With all due respect to +++ Rowan'a tele-presence, if he expects this to be a wonderful evangilism tool that vastly increases church attendance, I think he will be dissappointed.

Posted by: andrewdb on Tuesday, 23 January 2007 at 1:49am GMT

I think the problem with the complaints about context is that they are falling into the dualistic idea that there is church, and then there is not church. There is the public space, and then there is the sacred space. There is a place where churches and their churchiness have a valid place, and there are places where they don't. There's a subtle "them and us" bias behind that. Somehow the church has to earn its right to fit in, in the medium, it seems. I question that.

The fact is, YouTube is a cultural phenomenon based on the culture that uses it. Just because sermons aren't funked-up sound bites that are designed to fit someone's idea of what Gen-Y are looking for, doesn't mean they have no place in the public space. The worst thing that can happen is that nobody watches them. Are we just afraid of not looking cool?

Most church or church organisations I know who are looking at using this technology are doing so because Web 2.0 has been trumpeted as the new, democratic, cheap alternative to use electronic communication. The point of it is that it is democratic. They'll soon learn which methods of message delivery are getting traffic, and which ones aren't.

The complaints about flash websites are perfectly valid but mostly because of the accessibility issue.

Posted by: JaneS on Tuesday, 23 January 2007 at 3:18am GMT

Alas, youtube is very much a private and personal forum -- it is demotic, a descent to the give-and-take of the marketplace. A public figure like the Archbishop of Canterbury should have his voice and presence filtered through a public medium, in order to maintain the dignity and authority of his office. An official website, invited public lectures, essays in national newspapers, radio and television interviews all fit the profile, as would official broadcasts from Lambeth on a medium under church control.

I hear that Cardinal Ratzinger was chary of speaking at public conferences or responding to questions. Like many a German professor he wanted only venues and interlocutors consonant with his dignity.

Posted by: Fr Joseph O'Leary on Tuesday, 23 January 2007 at 5:57am GMT

JaneS - thanks for your comments here about my article over on my own website. I personally can't see how my comments fall into the dualistic notion you describe. I firmly believe that the Church could and should be participating in the "public space" as you describe it.

However, as Church in that "public space", I would like them to engage with genuine nous and communication skills. It's not about being cool... it's about talking a language that people understand.

If Lambeth want to stream the Archbishop's sermons over the Internet, they can do that from their own website. The sermons certainly do have a "place in the public space" (as you describe it) and I'd be glad to see them broadcast... particularly because it helps avoid the media filter that we inevitably get by reading their comments via a journalist - as andrewdb noted.

The decision to do it on YouTube and not on their own website therefore has both in their decision and in the outworking of it, a great deal that should be thought about in terms of context and cross-cultural communication. It is on that basis that I feel my critique of their proposal to make use of YouTube is very valid. The sermons in that context simply do not fit the medium and make no effort to communicate in a way that the young people who use YouTube (and who are Lambeth's declared target audience) will understand.

Posted by: David on Tuesday, 23 January 2007 at 11:17am GMT

I thought you'd be interested to note that the CofE has formally responded over on my blog.

Posted by: David on Tuesday, 23 January 2007 at 5:52pm GMT

Youtube is a golden opportunity for us to speak to people who would usually not give us the time of day.

The CofE website is Youtube. Youtube is the new Google.The

If the ABC is too dignified to speak on Youtube, then let someone else speak. Whatever,we need a gifted communicator.

The Church is no longer the buildings. The Church is in the public space.

Posted by: Maduka on Tuesday, 23 January 2007 at 6:34pm GMT

"However, as Church in that "public space", I would like them to engage with genuine nous and communication skills. It's not about being cool... it's about talking a language that people understand."

I would hope that any preacher in any pulpit or public speaking space would engage nous and cultural sensitivity. That much goes without saying.

But you are making the mistake that only Gen-Yers and your stereotypical YouTube browswer is using YouTube, as if somehow there's a demographic that owns YouTube, which excludes traditional church communication. My point is that while the demographic may more or less be that at the moment, it is fluid and not owned by any one particular person. I use YouTube all the time and I'm not averse to downloading a good sermon to listen to. That's what I mean by dualism. I'm part of the YouTube thing, and I'm also part of the traditional church thing.

Of *course* the church has to be savvy about how they communicate. I work daily with that issue. But talking about 'cross cultural communication' really does, imo, emphasise the whole 'them and us' idea. I'm an us and a them, really, so I just don't buy it. Communication, relationship, is not a one way thing. We stand to benefit from being exposed to the rigours that are the open internet community, and I dare say that the open internet community stands to benefit from being exposed to the odd anachronistic pulpit postulations. And I'm sure there'll be the other 'culturally sensitive engagement' to go along with it.

Posted by: JaneS on Tuesday, 23 January 2007 at 10:55pm GMT

Has anyone watched those minority channels that get sent cheap programming, one of them being Nicky Gumbel standing up and doing a sermon of sorts to an audience at Holy Trinity Brompton. It is one of the most tedious pieces of TV going. Nutcases like me might watch it, just to see what the alternative universe looks like these days. and some of those in his line of work might think it's all right, but anyone else must just yawn in puzzlement. That's the problem.

On the other hand, writing a letter to the government and talking about people with a strong faith having a basic prejudice within their conscience, when there are children left in care, likening this general matter (?) to avoiding abortion - now that people *can* understand. Or rather they could if it was done in the blunt way the Roman Catholic leadership writes letters these days.

Posted by: Pluralist on Wednesday, 24 January 2007 at 1:07am GMT
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