Striking a balance

The influence of the blogosphere on how some people live out their faith becomes more and more palpable. Today, the New York Times has a feature on Pastor Dan, the UCC minister who writes on faith and politics for Daily Kos at a community blog called Street Prophets. The article notes Pastor Dan's primary challenge: living out a "strikingly unlikely double-life, one part as the small-town preacher in a socially conservative spot of the Midwest, the other as an abrasive and confrontational voice of the religious left in the blogosphere."

True to the take-no-prisoners style of blogosphere discourse, Street Prophets traffics more in calumny and condemnation, though with an extremely learned theological intelligence behind it.

"If Conservative Christians are looking for salvation," Mr. Schultz wrote in one characteristic post, "they ought to start looking to save themselves from themselves. They have much to repent for, like the rest of us. But unlike the rest of us, they have a unique level of judgmentalism and separation to get out of their system."

Besides decrying the religious right on issues like gay rights, abortion and intelligent design, Mr. Schultz has also disparaged even seeming allies like Jim Wallis, probably the most prominent liberal among the evangelical Christian clergy. Mr. Schultz has reviled Mr. Wallis's "patronizing lectures."

Somehow this balancing act seems to work, meeting the needs of two wildly disparate flocks and reconciling Mr. Schultz to himself. As someone who suffers from, and is medicated for, bipolar disorder, Mr. Schultz has, of necessity, become an expert on reckoning with extremes. "There's a part of me that's been angry since I was a kid," Mr. Schultz, 39, said in an interview. "Part of that is my illness, and part of it is a deep sense that the world isn't the place it was meant to be. I had to find a productive place to put that anger or it would swallow me whole. And part of my spiritual journey has been to claim that anger as spiritual."

In choosing the blogosphere as his pulpit, Mr. Schultz forms part of a trend in which liberal members of the clergy are using the Internet the way Christian conservatives used cable television and talk radio in earlier decades. Diane Winston, a professor of religion and media at the University of Southern California, points to such similar figures online as Mr. Wallis, Rabbi Michael Lerner at Tikkun, the Rev. Tim Simpson at PublicTheologian and Rachel Barenblat at Velveteen Rabbi.

More here...

ECVA exhibit featured on TEC webpage

The Episcopal Church and Visual Arts organization (ECVA), the group that provides the art here on the Cafe in our "Art Blog" section and that we use interstitially around the site, has a new exhibit featured on the primary denominational site of the Episcopal Church (TEC):

" A new gallery of works by Episcopal artists, titled 'Saints & Family' was launched this week on the homepage of Episcopal Church's web site.

The images and icons span the history of the Christian church, beginning with the announcement of the birth of Jesus through to the present decade. As with the preceding gallery, 'The Faces of Christ,' which debuted with the unveiling of the church's redesigned web site two years ago, members of the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts collaborated in the development of this new gallery.

'These images and icons of saints and Jesus' family invite us into an intimate space where we see the sacred and human come together in art,' says the curator's statement that accompanies the gallery. 'A mother holds her tender, holy child. A father fishes with his Savior son. Cousins comfort each other and point to a new way. An apostle pauses, inspired, imprisoned. An abbess and abbot lead their flocks wisely. A Cheyenne chief and Chinese priest embrace the Word. A freed slave leads us to deeper truths.'

All who are depicted in the art are celebrated in the church's calendar each year, either on major feast days or in the propers in the Book of Common Prayer that commemorates the lives of martyrs, missionaries, pastors, theologians, teachers and monastics.

Five of the selections of art were featured in the Visual Prelude, a series of works from many Episcopal artists shown on a giant screen preceding daily worship at the 2006 General Convention last summer. All of the art has been created by members of the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts or for Episcopal worship spaces."

Read the rest: Episcopal Life Online - ARTS

Ministry and social media

At the recent Anglican Missions Conference in New Zealand, the Rev. Mark Brown presented a workshop on ‘Anglican Ministry in a Technological Age.’ He's adopted it for the web, and posted it over at his blog for the Anglican Church in Second Life.

The presentation is a wonderful overview of Web 2.0 and 3.0 technologies and how you might be able to find ways to create those presences for your youth group, church or diocese. Don't know what Web 2.0 and 3.0 are? Think of it like dimensions:

- Web 1.0 - one dimension. You have a website, people go there to get information. - Web 2.0 - two dimensions. Your website includes tools that allow people to talk to one another or to you, such as message boards, blogs, or links to communities in which people can participate, such as Facebook, MySpace, or LiveJournal communities. You also have multimedia content and have that available on your site as well as social media outlets such as YouTube. - Web 3.0 - Three dimensions. Your web presence includes the above plus communities within virtual worlds, such as Second Life.

Brown picks up some statistics (with references cited in his original post) that show why it's important to pay attention to these media vehicles, and it ties to a question of the very youth we're so fond of wanting to attract:

So what is the rate of internet usage in New Zealand? 2006 figures:

15-24 years of age - 85.5%
25-44 years of age - 79.8%
45-64 years of age - 66%
65-74 years of age - 38.7%
75+ years of age - 17.3%[4]

Research out of the US shows that most in the 12 – 28 age bracket expect interaction with Web 2.0.

Given this age bracket comprises a key demographic for the church the question has to be asked: “what percentage of churches utilize Web 2.0?” According to a survey completed in America by the Centre for Church Communication, the percentage of churches making use of this new communication method is only 10%. One could say it is like ships passing in the night.

But he also makes a very important point about how we use this technology as he discusses blogging (emphasis his, but we'd do the same):

Blogging is about sharing information and encouraging participation and engagement with that information. At any point in the life of a church or ministry there are a range of issues that need to be shared and discussed. An example: a church is working on a new mission statement. Traditionally this might be shared via the pulpit, through extraordinary meetings etc… With the addition of a blog, an article on the mission statement could be posted and congregation members encouraged to comment and debate the merits.

As with any technological offering, it exists to assist, not replace, our present face to face methods.

Read the entire primer here.

Also, it's worth noting that the Café is establishing a presence in some of these spaces as well. We've created Episcopal Café groups in Second Life and Facebook to allow our readers and friends to interact within these platforms. The Facebook group is here, a link you'll need a Facebook account to access. If you're in Second Life, do a "Search" in "Groups" for Episcopal Cafe and you'll find us.

Connecting believers and proclaiming the Gospel

Helen Thompson (one of our Daily Episcopalian essayists and a member of The Lead's news-team) was interviewed this week by Mark Brown, the CEO of the Bible Society of New Zealand. In the interview Helen discusses her work as a social media strategist and how Christian witness is adapting and using new tools online.

After a conversation about her background, there's a mention of the relatively new Anglican Cathedral in the online world of Second Life, Helen's tips for bloggers, and this observation:

"I’m starting to see social groups form as people realize how much they have in common, no matter where they are geographically. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate connecting with other people in my peer group through this medium, because there are so few of my peers at my actual church. All of these areas are places we can focus on as we figure out our own identity as Anglicans in Second Life, and I’m particularly gratified that we’re not worried so much about the politics of the Anglican Communion and more about the message of Christ’s Love."

Read the rest here.

Diocese of Oxford seeks web pastor

The Diocese of Oxford is advertising for applicants to fill a newly created position of "web pastor" to serve the congregation being created at the website "i-church".

"The Web Pastor leads i-church, working with the trustees and the i-church council to develop the global mission and ministry of i-church as it spreads Christ’s Good News to the world. This is an exciting opportunity to grow and develop an organisation which has tremendous potential. The successful candidate will have experience of pastoral ministry in a collaborative context, supporting and encouraging volunteers and promoting a united and supportive community.

This is a half-time post, open to Anglican priests, with some flexibility to consider applicants able to offer at least 40% of a full-time equivalent or up to 60%. The stipend will be calculated pro rata to a full-time priest in the Diocese of Oxford."

It's unclear from the article whether or not the applicants must be priests of the Church of England or if clergy from other Anglican Provinces might apply.

Read the rest here.

An emergent force for social-action

An opinion piece in USA Today by Tom Krattenmaker about the emergent church movement points out the increasing servant-ministry focus of the post-modern Christian communities spring up in and out of denominations.

"There's a growing buzz about the emerging movement, and depending on your point of view, its robust growth and rising influence are worthy of applause, scorn, or perhaps just puzzlement. Fitting for a movement that eschews hierarchy and dogma, emergents defy simple definition. Perhaps the best one can say is that they're new-style Christians for the postmodern age, the evangelicals of whom the late Rev. Jerry Falwell disapproved.

Postmodernity is nothing new. Philosophers will tell you we've been living in the postmodern age for decades. But its expression in the context of fervent Christianity, in the form of the emerging church, is a fairly recent phenomenon, only about a decade old.

Like the postmodern philosophy it embraces, the emerging church values complexity, ambiguity and decentralized authority. Emergents are quite certain about some things, nevertheless, especially Jesus and his clear instruction about the way Christians are to live out their faith — not primarily as respectable, middle-class pillars of status quo society, but as servants to the poor and to people in the margins. In the words of Gideon Tsang, a 33-year-old Texas emergent who moved himself and his family to a smaller home in a poorer part of town, 'The path of Christ is not in upward mobility; it's in downward.'

...The "downward mobility" [...] applies as well to the church-growth strategy, or lack thereof, of emerging communities. Unlike the megachurches of mainstream evangelicalism, emerging groups do not emphasize attracting new members (although it seems to happen anyway) or constructing church buildings. Some emerging groups meet in rented auditoriums, some in people's homes, some in pubs. There is less emphasis, too, on programming for members. In their view, the church exists not primarily to serve members but to serve the community.

Typical of the movement's critics, [Jerry] Falwell accused the emerging church of trying to "modernize and recreate the church so as not to offend sinners." That's probably code for "liberal," a shoe that would certainly fit."

Read the full op-ed piece here.

Advent Calendar 2.0

This is the fourth year that the Episcopal Diocese of Washington (which, we note gratefully, also hosts the Café) has offered its online Advent Calendar. Each day starting tomorrow, a new link becomes available, each featuring a daily meditation, giving opportunity or pieces from the National Cathedral's crèche exhibit.

This year, however, there's a new kind of file hiding under the windows: podcasts.

"We designed the calendar four years ago, primarily as a way for office workers to observe the season of Advent," said Jim Naughton, canon for communications and advancement for the Diocese of Washington. "But we've found that teens and families really enjoy it, too."

Some visitors are drawn by the more whimsical figures from the crèche exhibit, Naughton said, others by the opportunity to use the web to enrich their prayer life.

"Each year we try to offer them a little more," Naughton said. "The audio features are new this year. I think people are going to love listening to Trinity's choir, and Lonnie Lacy, the chaplain at Georgia Southern University, was kind enough to let us link into his podcasting project."

Read Episcopal Life Online's writeup here.
Bookmark the Advent Calendar here.

ECVA Advent exhibition mirrored in Second Life

Last year, the folks over at Episcopal Church and the Visual Arts featured the online Advent exhibition “Unto us a Child is Born”. From the curator's statement:

The church has entered the holy season of Advent, a time of wondrous expectation when we gather and ponder the mystery of God incarnate. How could it be that the Creator and Master of the entire physical known universe could become so small, less than the smallest atom on a speck of dust, to be born as one of us? This is a deep and inscrutable mystery beyond all form of human comprehension.

“Unto us a Child is Born” ponders this mystery through the creative gift of art. Looking at these works, taking them in with a contemplative eye and heart, one begins to cross the boundary between this world and the world of spirit. It is from this world of spirit and devotion that these works of art originate. There is no limit to the styles or media presented here; there are paintings, drawings, woodblocks, photographs, sculptures, vestments, etc. Yet all reflect the creative imagination of souls seeking and embracing the mystery of God coming to dwell in our midst, Emmanuel!

But wait! There's more! The exhibition is having a second run on.. you guessed it, Second Life. Second Life users can visit a virtual version of the exhibition at the Anglican Cathedral in Second Life. From an email:

The Anglican Church in Second Life, a “Christian community for those who call themselves: Anglicans, Episcopalians or members of the Church of England, Episcopal Church or any of the other bodies of believers who share the Anglican heritage,” has teamed up with The Episcopal Church & Visual Arts (ECVA) to present an “in-world” showing of artwork from the ECVA 2006 online exhibition, “Unto Us a Child is Born…”

The exhibit will take place within Second Life, a 3-D virtual world created almost entirely by its residents. The Anglican Group, which was founded in November 2006, has its headquarters on Epiphany Island, a parcel of virtual land which contains a cathedral and parish house, as well as a meditation garden and other scenic venues. The art show will be staged in the south courtyard of the cathedral.

Here's this editor's avatar having a bad hair day but checking out the exhibition in Second Life.

Clicking on each piece of virtual artwork provides a notecard with information about the piece and the artist. The exhibition is located on the grounds of the Anglican Cathedral in Second Life, which Second Life users can access via this link.

For more information about the exhibition and the Anglican Cathedral in Second Life, click here. And if you're in Second Life, be sure to search groups for "Episcopal Cafe"--and there is an informal set of tables for lounging and socializing set up outside the north side the Cathedral Parish house.

This is Second Life Episcopal Cafe correspondent Vahnia Gregory reporting.

Church 2.0: Father Matthew on the Sacraments

This video is the first in a series of eight videos that Father Matthew Moritz, the Curate at Christ's Church in Rye, New York plans to do on the sacraments. Each of the seven sacraments will be featured in a video, with a wrap-up video at rhe end. This first video is on Baptism.

Father Matthew has over forty videos at YouTube, which can be found here,

Father Matthew, by the way, is not the only young Episcopal clergy on YouTube. Rev, Peter Carey, a transitional deacon who will be ordained as a priest later this month, and who is the Chaplain at St. Catherine's School, Richmond, Virginia, has started his own series of videos, the most recent of which can be found here.

Episcopal women's orgs going 2.0

Episcopal Life points us to how members the Council of Episcopal Women's Organizations (CEWO) are learning about how to reach "new audiences through blogs, Facebook, YouTube, iPods and other electronic forms of staying in touch" in the new media environment. The reporting on it is rather thin, but you can read about it here.

And don't forget the Cafe is on Facebook as well, both as a group for social interaction and a page for feeds.

Love Life Live Lent

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are using Facebook, MySpace and other social networking websites as a means of making Lent meaningful for the faithful. Ruth Gledhill of the Times gives the details:

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have joined forces to tell Anglicans to get down on their knees – and polish their neighbour’s shoes.

Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu are backing a church Facebook group urging members to find time in their busy lives to complete 50 actions over the seven weeks of Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday next week. The aim is “to help you become a better neighbour and transform your world for the better”. Actions include polishing someone’s shoes on Maundy Thursday, a reference to Jesus’s washing of the feet of His Disciples; making someone laugh; and leaving a thank-you note for the postman.

Most are deemed “appropriate for those of all faiths or none”.

The Facebook group, Love Life Live Lent, appears today along with sites on MySpace and the photo-sharing website Flickr, in the Church of England’s first significant entry into online social networking. It is hoped that members of the networks will upload photos of themselves doing the Lent actions.

Bloggers will help to spread the word through cyberspace. They include the Rt Rev Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, and Dave Walker, of the CartoonChurch website and blog.

Dr Sentamu, who will be giving up all alcohol for Lent when he adopts a 40-day vegan diet, told The Times: “Lent is a time for sober reflection but that doesn’t mean being dour. These actions help people to think globally and act locally, to broaden their world-view and to be good neighbours.

Read it all here. the Facebook group can be found here. The offical website for the project is here.

Archbishops on blogs and blogging

Maggie Dawn, an English priest, theologian and blogger had a chance to sit down with the Archbishops of York and Canterbury. During the opening of the discussion the question of the emerging role of the blogger was broached.

According to the report on her blog:

"‘[Blogs] are clearly part of the whole knowledge economy’, said Archbishop Rowan. ‘They have encouraged people not to take in passively what’s produced – it has opened up a more interactive environment for the sharing of knowledge – a democratisation of knowledge. And clearly that is bound to affect the Church at every level.’

Is the democratisation of knowledge always a good thing, though, I asked him? Does it flatten a desirable level of expertise?

‘It can certainly flatten expertise,’ he replied. ‘But perhaps the more worrying issue is that in can in some ways encourage unreflective expression – it’s possible simply to think it, and say it, without any thought.  When that happens in personal conversation, there is a humanising effect. But on the screen, it’s less human.’

The conversation continues:

[...]the Archbishop of York chipped in: ‘On the other hand, people have found real friendships through blogs, who would never have otherwise met each other – it’s a worldwide connection, people really do ‘meet’ you on your blog.  When I cut up my collar the response online was enormous – that’s when I realised just how many boundaries can be crossed with blogs.’

He thought for a minute, and then added, ‘But you know, when people write without thinking, it can get very difficult; it can be offensive and troublesome.  The best of what’s there on the blogs is from those who take a little time to reflect before they publish. But there is no choice about whether we engage with this new media. It’s the world we are in – the Church has to engage with it!’"

Read the full interview here. It's the first in a series of posts, so check back every now and then.


USA Today takes a look at the phenomenon of podcasting sermons and other faith-related content, with commentary focusing on editorial practices that keep the message on target, however subjective the target might be. The article looks as sites such as God's iPod (which, it should be noted, now has an application called God's iPhone), SermonAudio, GodTube, and RabbiPod.

A survey last year by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that more people used the Internet to look for religious and spiritual information than to download music, participate in online auctions or visit adult websites.

And a list updated recently by the podcast directory Podcast Alley shows 2,462 podcasts in the religion and spirituality category, the fourth highest among 21 categories, and more than in sports, news and politics.

"The good news about podcasts is this is probably another example of religious traditions trying to keep alive and relevant," says David Roozen, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

But a possible downside is the higher probability of teachings of questionable quality. "There can be charlatans out there," he says.

Israel Anderson, a software designer in Denver who operates a free site called God's iPod, screens all podcasts submitted to him and weeds out most.

Part of what's driving the popularity of religious podcasts is dissatisfaction with organized religion, Anderson says. "If you're in a home church or go primarily for fellowship but your church isn't particularly good at teaching, a podcast is a good way to hear from a wide variety of people."

You can read the whole thing here.

Second Life church, evangelical style

Recently, I attended a roundtable discussion at the Alban Institute about new/social media and congregational development. One of the people I met there was Andrea Useem, who maintains the magazine-style ReligionWriter blog and covers a wide range of feature topics relating to faith in the world today.

Recently, she attended a service at the Second Life church that's tied in with JustLife.TV an evangelical church 2.0 mission that's launching later this year. She likens the service itself to another real-life evangelical service she'd recently attended. In fact, the similarities—and the surprising differences—make up a compelling critique that gives insight on how churches can and should be taking advantage of the platform, rather than building an "in-world" church and hoping people come:

In both cases, I entered a dark theater-like room and sat down in one of the comfy chairs. I stood up and swayed during the Christian-rock praise music. I sat down and listened to the young, handsome male pastor and watched other video interludes featuring hip, casually dressed people who obviously have a passion for their religion. If I was actually a member of an evangelical church, I could see that attending a church service in Second Life might be as relevant and real as attending a brick-and-mortar church.

The Lifechurch experience was actually so much like real-life church that I was a little disappointed. For one thing, I found the sermon — which appeared via live streaming video — to be too long. Thanks to YouTube, I’m used to watching videos with a little bar at the bottom that tells me how much longer the video will run, which gives a feeling of control. In this case, I had no idea how long the sermon was going to be, which contributed to my sense of restlessness. Another thing: The chat function of Second Life makes it possible for people in the congregation to easily communicate, but no one chatted during the sermon. Since sermons are the definition of top-down content, I was surprised there wasn’t a little innovation here, some way to use the interactivity of Second Life.

But here was my big disappointment. After patiently sitting through the sermon (okay, maybe I wasn’t so patient — isn’t being patient anathema to being online?), I was looking forward to chatting with people in the cavernous but furnished church lobby. Unfortunately, the 15 or so people who attended the service disappeared quickly, and I found myself as I usually am in Second Life — wandering around by myself. Compare this to my first-time experience at the Reston Community Church, where several people introduced themselves to me, and one woman even sent me a hand-written note in the mail the next week, saying she hoped we would meet again soon. Since I usually associate evangelical churches with being extremely welcoming to newcomers (after all, they do want to evangelize you), I was surprised to find that element missing in my first-time experience at Lifechurch on Second Life.

You can see her comments, interspersed with other media observations about American Idol and the presidential primary coverage, here.

Ulfilas, the goth apostle

Ulfilas was a bishop (also known as Wulfila) who translated the Bible from Greek into the language of the Gothic barbarian tribes and preached the Gospel to those tribes in the early 300s. Craig Gilman of Birmingham, UK, chose to name his Second Life avatar after the bishop, because of his nominally similar mission: bringing the Gospel to the goths of today even as he dismantles some of the misconceptions about the black-clad participants in this oft-misunderstood subculture*.

The BBC has spotlighted Gilman's work in Second Life, where he's made an effort to incorporate a fresh vision for liturgy and worship. Something worth noting for Second Life skeptics: His Second Life ministry is clearly a way of reaching out to people who might not otherwise go to church.

The Ulfilas service at St Hilda's is informal in style. Out go regimented pews and in come cushions scattered in a circle and a gothic approach to worship. Craig explains that it's partly why people are part of a subculture – they don't want to conform to the mainstream way of thinking. Singing hymns is difficult to achieve in the online world, so contemporary goth songs are played into the church, gothic liturgy is read and prayers are used from the Goth Eucharist service.

"We concentrated on people who are hurting, depressed, or might self harm, because you get a lot of that in the goth and emo cultures. The prayers reflect that. Candle prayers we call them, where we light candles for a certain group of people, people who are depressed, suffering abuse, or are terminally ill.

"We intersperse that with some reflective music, give time for people to be quiet and pray. I use my voice with the computer microphone and speak live into the service and copy things onto notecards to give people the wording, so they can print it off after the service.”

Craig’s vision for the Christian goth church in Second life is to give it a community feel. He explains how many of the churches in Second Life emulate real churches: "I didn't want to make it a traditional church. You don't have to sit inside your own head in Second Life, you can pan your camera around and look from all angles, so there’s no need to have a replication of a real world church. In a virtual world you can reinvent it, so we tried to reinvent it with a gothic need."

Visitors to the church can enjoy the impressive gothic aesthetics, contemplate in the church yard, and even socialise in the 'Cathedral Club', a nightclub element of the church where goth music is pumped out. "We look at ways we can show the love of God through the way that we are," says Craig.

You can read the whole thing here.

*Editor's note: I got my start as a journalist writing about goth music for the Philadelphia City Paper around the time of the Columbine massacre and have my own goth tendencies, so I've seen a lot of that misunderstanding firsthand. -HTM)

Lambeth meets Second Life

The Right Rev. Christopher Hill writes in the Church Times about his introduction to the Anglican Church in Second Life (SL) a year ago, when a lawyer asked him, essentially, if it was possible to take the 450+ member virtual community seriously from a theological perspective. Today, during a "fringe" session at Lambeth, attendees got a tour of the virtual cathedral.

Read more »

Creating new Christian communities in cyberspace

Simone Heidbrink (aka Hana Undertone) is a junior researcher at the Institute for Religious Studies at University of Heidelberg and has looked at social networking as it effects the creation of new kinds of faith communities via the internet.

Her presentation is called Following Jesus into Cyberspace? Web 2.0 and Social Networking as Generators of new Christian Communities of Practice?

She explains the background and theory of social networking and then poses several examples of religious communities, networks and resources on the web.

HT to Kendall Harmon on T19: Following Jesus into virtual space.

See also: Church 2.0: Following Jesus into virtual space.

Text message preacher during sermon

St. Andrew's, Mt Pleasant, SC, Senior Pastor Steve Wood reports on his blog about the latest use of technology in church:

This morning we inaugurated a system that allows individuals to text message a central number - during the service - with a question relating to the sermon. Our communications team then culls the questions and passes along to the preacher the “best” question(s) allowing them (if all goes well) to answer before the service ends. Other questions will then be addressed via blogging throughout the week.

What question would you ask?

HT to T1:9

God is my BFF

The Vatican's website considers a patron saint of the internet, Muslims debate divorce by text, and Jews pray by email; How does the inevitable transition to the virtual realm affect religious experience across the world? Religion Dispatches reports on the increasing use of the internet and computers in religion

Read more »

Grandma and grandpa online

The NY Times reports on the growing connections between grandparents and grandchildren even though separated geographically.

Her grandfather wanted to play tea party, but Alexandra Geosits, 2½, insisted she had only apple juice. She held out a plastic cup, giggling as she waited to see if he would accept the substitute.

That they were a thousand miles apart, their weekly visit unfolding over computer screens in their respective homes, did not faze either one. Like many other grandchildren and grandparents who live far apart, Alex and Joe Geosits, 69, have become fluent in the ways of the Web cam.

“Delicious,” Mr. Geosits exclaimed from Florida, pretending to take a sip from the cup, which remained clasped here in Alex’s small hand.

Video calling, long anticipated by science fiction, is filtering into everyday use. And two demographic groups not particularly known for being high-tech are among the earliest adopters.

In a way that even e-mailed photos never could, the Web cam promises to transcend both distance and the inability of toddlers to hold up their end of a phone conversation.

Some grandparent enthusiasts say this latest form of virtual communication makes the actual separation harder. Others are so sustained by Web cam visits with services like Skype and iChat that they visit less in person. And no one quite knows what it means to a generation of 2-year-olds to have slightly pixelated versions of their grandparents as regular fixtures in their lives.
We would be strangers to them if we didn’t have the Web cam,” said Susan Pierce, 61, of Shreveport, La., who will be a virtual attendee at Thanksgiving dinner with her grandchildren in Jersey City this year.

Over the last year, Ms. Pierce and her husband watched Dylan, 17 months, learn to walk and talk over the Web cam, and witnessed his 4-year-old sister Kelsie’s drawings of people evolve from indeterminate blobs to figures with arms and fingers and toes.

But the powerful illusion of physical proximity also sharpens their ache for the real thing. “You just wish you could reach out and cuddle them,” said Ms. Pierce, a nursing professor. “Seeing them makes you miss them more.”

Nearly half of American grandparents live more than 200 miles from at least one of their grandchildren, according to AARP. Prof. Merril Silverstein, a sociologist at the University of Southern California, has found that about two-thirds of grandchildren see one set of grandparents only a few times a year, if that.

But many grandparents find that the Web cam eases the transition during in-person visits, when grandchildren may refuse to sit on their laps or may reject their hugs because they do not recognize them. As one Web cam evangelist wrote on her blog, “You’ll be able to pick up where you left off without those warming up to you, awkward moments.”

Did you "talk" online to your relatives over Thanksgiving?

What are the ramifications for churches? Live webcams for baptisms? Streaming video for funerals? Will it bring us closer to one another? Or give an excuse for keeping a distance?


If Jesus had Twitter, what would Jesus tweet? The Church of England's Love Life Love Lent outreach via social networking sites Twitter and Facebook may have the answer.

The Church of England will be using Twitter and a new Facebook application to encourage people to help each other make the most out of Lent. The idea is to reach into the real world and create a viral network of people who will observe Lent with simple acts of generosity, thoughtfulness and devotion in the season leading up to Holy Week and Easter.

According to a Church of England news release:

The new online tools will help users share daily suggestions and encouragement for small actions they can take to do something positive for their friends, neighbours or wider local community, as part of the popular Love Life Live Lent campaign that has captured the imagination of more than a quarter of million people over the past two years. In 2007, more than 130,000 people joined in with Love Life Live Lent, many of whom opted to receive the daily suggested acts of service by text message. Last year, the suggested actions were available through social networking sites including Facebook and MySpace.

The Love Life Live Lent web site says:

Love Life Live Lent is a new way of marking Lent. Instead of giving up chocolate or going on a detox, it encourages people to undertake a simple act of generosity each day. The actions are small and fun to do, but make a real difference in homes, families and communities.

Love Life Live Lent began in Birmingham in 2006 and since then over 250,000 people nationwide have participated.

Looking at the Love Life Live Lent site on Facebook, it appears that the attempt is to focus people on practical, everyday kindnesses as well as accessible forms of outreach and giving. The power of Love Life Live Lent may lie in engaging people who may never set foot in a church in Lenten observance through social networking. The effort recognizes that many people want to deepen their faith but may find it difficult to begin in the traditional parish church.

At the same time, the social network may provide an entree into the Christian life which could lead individuals into Christian community.

George Pitcher favors a more direct approach. He writes for the Telegraph and wonders what might happen if we could communicate the Gospel story in 140 characters or less. He writes:

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent this week and the Church of England is getting down with the kids by deploying its Live Life Love Lent campaign through social-networking sites Twitter and Facebook. You can "follow" the tweets here....

With 140-character tweets, Pitcher imagines someone guiding the content. He suggests it might like this:

Have decided to go to Jerusalem - it's just something I must do.... arrived on the back of a mule - lots of hossanahs and palm leaves, but a week's a long time in Roman politics... Lost it a bit with the money-changers at the Temple, but they're going to have to listen now... It's all turned very dodgy - going to have Passover supper with the gang and don't know when we might break bread again... Going to hand over to young John now, as I think I'm about to get nicked... Hi John here - shouldn't be a problem, they always let a prisoner go at Passover...

But Love Life Live Lent is not without guidance. One can download PDFs that describe the background and theology of Lent and how it has been observed in various cultures and at different times.

As the project is now designed, it appears to trust that the network will develop their own content with minimal direction and fewer theological hints as to what loving life and living Lent might look like. This the power of the interactive web. The risk is that one can never know where it might lead.

This is a different approach than the one Pitcher advocates which is to use the tools of the internet to deliver specific content, which appears to be a more directed-marketing approach.

Which is better? What might help people observe a holy Lent in new ways? A directed campaign with specific content? Or is better to let the participants flesh out their own content?

Here is the Church of England description of Love Life Live Lent.
Here is the link to Twitter.
If you are on Facebook, here is the link to the FB app.

Read the rest here.

Tweeting the Bible

First the Passion and now the Bible: German Christians are starting what they hope will be a record-breaking effort to use the new Internet social-networking and micro-blogging service Twitter to try and "tweet" the Bible according to Ecumenical News International (ENI).

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Surfing for Jesus

Two million people surf for God each day according to ABC news:

"The number is staggering," said Mark Weimer, a self-described techie evangelist whose ministry has tapped the Internet to capture those looking for spiritual answers.

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Transitions at the Anglican Cathedral in Second Life

After two and a half years heading up the Anglican Cathedral in Second Life, its founder has stepped down from active leadership and preaching at the virtual cathedral, though he remains involved. The Rev. Mark Brown remains very interested in virtual ministry and has created prayer groups on Twitter (@Prayer4u) and Facebook (Praying People) in recent weeks. He will continue to be involved with the Cathedral in an advisory capacity.

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An "open source" church

Kristy Harding imagines sees the word "ubuntu" and imagines what an "open source" church might look like.

She writes on the blog ReEmergent Church:

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The twittering church

Paul Vitello of the New York Times writes about the tentative and sometimes awkward embrace that religion gives social media.

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New Sunday Feature: Our Social Media Roundup

Recently, we launched a new initiative on Twitter, using the popular hash-tag feature to start keeping an eye on tweets related to Café links (which are broadcast on @episcopalcafe) and to allow Café readers to talk amongst themselves about these links and related topics.

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Sunday's Café Social Hour

It's been a busy week on the Café Facebook page, which has become very good about showing our posts in people's streams. One person on Twitter asked if we could start cross-posting comments from Facebook, and while it's a noble thought, it's not really possible at this time.

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Theologians Tweeting?

The Christian Century posed several questions to a panel of their contributing theologians and scholars, asking them if they participate in Social Media such as Twitter, or if they read blogs, and all the rest.

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Sunday Social Hour

Interesting week on the socnets, as some folks call social networks. Relatively quiet, with plenty of Facebook thumbs-ups and Twitter retweets.

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Sunday Social Hour, night-time edition

With humblest apologies for an unstable internet connection that's causing this update to run about 12 hours late, welcome to the late edition of Sunday Social Hour with the week's activity from Café social networks.

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Sunday Social Hour

Pretty quiet on the social networks this week, aside from some of the posts about South Carolina and various other breakaway issues stirring the pot a bit. But we had some great things shared with us, in the meantime.

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Sunday Social Hour

Twitter has been quiet this week, although we've seen plenty of retweets from our followers. One comment worth sharing: Daniel Stroud cracked up the #ecafe chat stream with his reply to "Not KJV? Burn it!": "Someone once told my father in all seriousness that the KJV was good enough for Jesus so it's good enough for him."

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Sunday Social Hour

This week in social networking land, we have a book on Hispanic Ministry, Bono pointing out why he thinks Obama deserved the Nobel, and angry reactions to Uganda's announcement of tough laws criminalizing homosexuality.

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Church 3.0 ? - Empowering the whole Body of Christ

The Diocese of Minnesota is about to elect their next bishop, alongside the usual "horse race" story about who is leading whom, there are some interesting discussions of the way that Minnesota and other dioceses are doing church these days.

Father Jake (AKA Terry Martin) has some interesting observations about ministry after spending time in Nevada and while en route to Northern Michigan. He has an interesting discussion of what has become known as Total Ministry, also sometimes referred to as Mutual Ministry.

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Sunday Social Hour

Twitter and Facebook continue to be the dominant social platforms for sharing news about the Episcopal Church and faith in the wider world. But we're curious, are there other platforms out there where you're discovering communities of faith and conversation? Be sure to let us know so we can keep an eye on them as well.

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Sunday Not-As-Social-As-Usual Hour

Not sure what's causing the glitch, but our Café notes stopped posting on Wednesday to both Twitter and Facebook. The problem appears to be with the backend we use to pipe things to Twitterfeed and Facebook, so we'll be beating that with a virtual hammer until it cooperates again. The end result is that it's been relatively quiet this week--but not totally so.

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Sunday Social Hour

Our feed to the social networks is working again. Apologies for the delay, but it was well timed for me since I was a bit busy welcoming a new Mosher into the world last week. Of course, this week we're hit by a bug that keeps us from seeing older Tweets today, and a similar problem plagued Facebook last night. So if you tweeted something to the #ecafe line, be sure to share it again in the comments.

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30 Days of Thanksgiving?

It's Thanksgiving, but why should this be the only day of offering thanks?

Thankgiving is just one of '30 Days of Thanks'
From USAToday

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Sunday Social Hour, Late Night Edition

Another late night run with social media, Facebook primarily! Twitter saw numerous retweets this week, with particular attention to our posts on recent vandalism in churches and attempts to end charitable outreach efforts by churches. On Facebook, these posts are being discussed, although it's been relatively quiet this week, possibly because of the holiday, and possibly because we actually used the FB moderation tools this week.

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Leave room for the Holy Spirit?

Since it went viral last week you may have seen the Christian side hug rap video. Here's the rest of the story.

The Chicago Tribune:

The joke, it turns out, is on the people who thought the joke was on fundamentalist Christians.

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#EpiscopalianBecause series on Twitter abuzzing

Can you say why you are an Episcopalian in less than 140 characters?

On the micro-blogging/social media site Twitter, there is an interesting series of posts this week in which all sorts of people are answering the question "I am Episcopalian Because..." You can check out the responses without even joining Twitter by clicking HERE, or join in on the fun and post your response to the question by adding the "hashtag" of #EpiscopalianBecause to your post.

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Sunday Social Hour

It's been an interesting week on the social networks. On the one hand, The Cafe on Facebook has quieted down considerably now that the commenters there are no longer being antagonized. On the other hand, Twitter picked up a lot of steam thanks to several hash-tag memes and conversations.

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See you in twurch

The web site Twurch of England is a Twitter aggregator that updates the world with the latest from C of E deacons, priests, and bishops. Published by Peter Ould and the Church Mouse, it's a way of dipping into the ongoing thought processes of a group of the ordained within a particular region.

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Sunday Social Hour

This week on Facebook and Twitter, we've seen a lot of commentary and re-posting/re-tweeting about the Glasspool election and the Ugandan legislation. But some other posts have caught the attention of readers, as well.

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Sunday Social Hour

This week in social media has seen a lot of commentary on the Archbishop of Canterbury--mostly critical. But other topics have brought about some entertaining gems. Gretchen R. Chateau wrote about excessively literal bible interpretations after some commentary on Is Genesis to blame?:

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Christmas Eve services online

Unable to participate in Christmas Eve services in your neck of the woods? Join services online in New York City and Atlanta (among others) via the Episcopal Church's multimedia programming:

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Sunday social hour

Social Hour this week has a few notes from stories we posted this week--and your favorite stories of the year.

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Sunday Social Hour

Have you noticed on Facebook that our wall doesn't always contain the most up-to-date posts? Check the "notes" box to see if there is a more current update, and either click through the "see all" button on the Notes box to see entire posts and their Facebook comments. Don't forget to click the "read original post" button to comment directly on the story here and see other comments that way too.

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Going to church even when you can't go

Snow, ice, fog, and freezing rain are certainly all hallmarks of this time of year - just things we've learned to live with and drive on - but major sections of the U.S. have recently been shut down by bad weather. How do you exercise your faith when the weather keeps you at home?

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Sunday Social Hour

Facebook this week was dominated by chatter over the Haiti earthquake. Our Wednesday post featuring email updates from those in the loop got a lot of FB comments as people checked in with one another and asked after folks. We ask that you revisit that thread with any updates you may have,. It's also important, if you're reading us through Facebook or Twitter, to visit the original post when there's breaking news afoot, as we often update those posts but the updates don't get piped into Facebook.

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Are you blogging with me, Jesus?

As you know by now, Benedict XVI recently issued a call to blog.

"[Jesus] didn't sit around and wait for people to come to him," [the Rev. James] Martin observes. "He went out and met people by the Sea of Galilee who were fishing. He went to tax collectors' booths. He went into synagogues. He went all over the place. And so we need to, figuratively speaking, go out to the ends of the Earth — which includes the blogosphere."

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Sunday Social Hour

We're starting to see more activity on the Café's Facebook wall, partly because it's now possible to give a shout-out to the source when you share one of our links. But you can also post directly to the wall.

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Cartoon Church and other Anglican apps

The Rev. Michael Pipkin recommended 10 must have apps for iPhone on Episcopal Life Online. He didn't know about the most important one: our friend David Walker has a new Cartoon Church app for the iPhone, so you can never be too far away from a church-related cartoon.

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Sunday Social Hour

The sun is out here in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where your social hour editor got not only 2 1/2 feet of snow, but a lovely head cold and a case of pink-eye to boot, so I wouldn't have made it to church even if today's services hadn't been canceled. But our Facebook fans gave us even more ideas for things to do to stay spiritually connected during weather/disaster-related closings in comments to our post on such from Friday:

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Sunday Social Hour

It's been quiet on Facebook this week. So quiet, in fact, that I wonder if the Cafe is still showing up in your feeds what with their new design. I'll investigate and get back to you next week with information to improve your ability to interact with the Cafe on Facebook.

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Dalai Lama in 140 characters?

Oprah, Lance Armstrong, the Archbishop of York, and now...the Dalai Lama has joined Twitter. Will the Archbishop of Canterbury follow suit? Time will tell.

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Sunday Social Hour

This week saw a return to normal activity on Facebook, so whatever bug was happening last week seems to be resolved. Twitter, on the other hand, was on the quiet side other than for a couple dozen retweets, which we're grateful for. Which service do you prefer? Have you checked out Google Buzz yet? We're curious, so let us know.

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Jesuit on a mission in mass media

Jesuit priest James Martin is using the web and television to connect the stories of popular culture with "THE" story of God:

Jesuit priest James Martin moves in Mass, mass media
In USAToday

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Christ Church becomes "St. Google"

The Rev. Scott Gunn has found a way to guarantee better Internet service:

I am now Rector of St. Google
Scott Gunn writing in "Seven Whole Days" blog

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Tweeting the Exodus - why not?

Usually we at the Café use our Sunday afternoons to talk about the impact that social media are having on the experience of contemporary religion. Here's a midweek break to note that this year, the Exodus will be tweeted.

Twitter users may wish to follow @TweetTheExodus. The Exodus starts March 16th, and is therefore timed with Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the first day of the first month of the ecclesiastical year (the seventh month of the Hebrew civil calendar).

Passover begins March 30th.

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Sunday Social Hour: Constance McMillen; should Deputies tweet?

Here's a neat trick: We've been adding diocesan Facebook pages as well as those of cathedrals, bishops, and Episcopal-related nonprofit organizations to our "favorite pages."

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Sunday Social Hour

Welcome to the first springtime edition of the Sunday Social Hour!

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Wyoming's internet sensation

From the Diocese of Wyoming unofficial listserve:

Without plan, preparation or promotion, the Election of Wyoming's 9th Bishop was broadcast over the internet using a laptop, cellphone and cheapie web camera. (There is no WiFi in the Cathedral.)

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If Jesus were on Facebook

At his blog, Eugene Cho reflects on what Jesus's Facebook account would look like.

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Sunday Social Hour

Things are quietly returning to normal over at the Cafe's Facebook page after we had to take down a few inflammatory comments. We also posted a reminder about the blog's feedback comment policy, which extends to our Facebook page. But when I trotted out the common USENET admonition to "not feed the trolls," we wound up having an interesting conversation about "What is trolling?" -- which you can read here.

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'Theology After Google' conference videos available

You may have heard or read a few weeks ago about Claremont School of Theology's recent conference, "Technology After Google." The several sessions from this event have been made available online, and contain titles like "Organizing for Justice in a Googled World," "Theological Education On-Demand," and "Two Thousand Year Old Practices for 21st-Century Persons."

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Online devotions: Stations of the Cross

Courtesy of the Diocese of Washington, we present these three sets of Stations of the Cross for your Holy Week devotions:

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Easter Social Hour

It's been fascinating to watch Holy Week unfold in the social media sphere. On Facebook, the prayers and meditations coursing through priestly status updates have reached a point where someone is going to need to develop a Facebook liturgy soon. It's culminated today with much call and response on both Facebook and Twitter. Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

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"VaticanDocs" now online

The Vatican has entered the Internet Age even more fully by posting 142 years of Vatican documents online:

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Sunday Social Hour

In the spirit of "Easter Is 50 Days," we're happy to report that last week's solicitation for readers to share their favorite Easter traditions was a rousing success. From hot cross buns to lilies to Easter Egg hunts to bow-ties to favorite Eastertide hymns, many traditions are ones we all know and love.

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Sunday Social Hour

Twitter has been kinda quiet this week. Are you all enjoying the spring weather all of a sudden? But on Facebook, we are rapidly closing in on 3,000 supporters. We've had to do more moderation these past two weeks than in the life of the Cafe on Facebook total, but it's worth it to see the community growing.

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Earth Day spiritual practices

Happy Earth Day!

How are you observing Earth Day?

Do you have spiritual practices related to observing this day?

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Sunday Social Hour

The feed is piping beautifully into Twitter, so we're not sure why Facebook is having a lovely off and on relationship with it. Resetting it last Sunday worked until... Monday. So again, it's quiet in Facebook. So we're asking a question this week, just in case it's still not working next week. What are your favorite pages and applications in Facebook? Who are your favorite people/entities to follow on Twitter--and why?

Look for your "nominees" to get featured with Facebook tags and "Follow Friday" recommendations this week, too!

Easter 5, Psalm 148, and YouTube

Today's psalm (RCL) is no. 148 -- a straightforward psalm of praise, which had ought to be red meat for composers.

From YouTube, here's a small sampling of how some have tackled this psalm.

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Sunday Social Hour

The persisting bug in the Facebook feed has been reported, as the validation error that bounced back to us makes no sense whatsoever and Twitter has no problems with it. Posts came through on Wednesday and Thursday, but since no one posted any comments or likes we suspect they are not coming through on your feed. For now, we're blaming the new "community page" thing they are rolling out and hope to hear back from Facebook this week; we're also investigating other means of getting posts out to you on FB since we know that's how many of you stay in touch with us.

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Unapologetically Episcopalian

Today's shoutout goes to Unapologetically Episcopalian on Facebook. Check out the wall at Unapologetically Episcopalian.

What is it? A place to note and discuss the good work of The Episcopal Church.

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Forward this to your choir director

Here's Eric Whitacre's virtual choir singing his setting of a Latin translation of an Edward Esch poem.

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Sunday Social Hour

After several weeks of feed issues persisting in Facebook, we're starting to see it work again. Two things to note: Right now, there are only Lead posts piping in to Facebook, so be sure not to forget to check Daily Episcopalian, Speaking to the Soul and the other Cafe blogs hosted here. Also, the feed is not checking as regularly, so there have been gluts of post from time to time, making seem like a bad feast-famine cycle is in effect. As always, posts should appear here without any problem, and the feed seems to work in Twitter just fine.

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Sunday Social Hour

A huge sigh of relief from here at the Cafe as we see posts are showing up on Facebook again, though not as regularly as before. What may be more interesting is that some of the decreased traffic may be due to people not using Facebook as prolifically as before.

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Sunday Social Hour, late night edition

We held Social Hour this morning because of the news from Nigeria and watched as it spread like wildfire around Facebook. One commenter on our page drew this bit out: "Theologically, I believe people like Okoh are simply stuck in a Christianity which denies emerging Truth and denies the Holy Spirit. Their scapegoating is ignorance and prejudice, pure and simple, regardless of the issues that are driving it." An interesting point, given the focus we pay the spirit on Pentecost and Trinity Sundays.

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Young Evangelicals, not your grandma's evangelicals

Scholars and religious writers such as Diana Butler Bass, Phyllis Tickle, and Brian McLaren have noted that the tired old stereotypes of liberal, conservative, evangelical, progressive, and traditional seem to be less and less helpful in describing the religious landscape. Time magazine has picked up on the topic and notes the changing ways that young evangelicals are living out their faith.

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Sunday Social Hour

Facebook and Twitter continue to be popular ways of getting the word out about our posts, but a funny correlation seems to exist that those which get the most comments on Facebook tend to be the ones that generate the most comments on the blog itself, and it's not always the ones you might expect.

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Jesus with a halo in utero?

Just when you thought the religious news could not get any stranger:

Baby Jesus billboard star
Anti-abortion groups in the U.K. celebrate an ad featuring a haloed fetus

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Sunday Social Hour

We are approaching 3,200 fans on Facebook! Overwhelming. Thank you one and all!

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Sunday Social Hour

With #mitregate having already been covered in these spaces, it's interesting to reflect on the impact social media has in allowing people to share how they feel about developments in the wider church. But one post to our wall on Facebook shows another side of the story:

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Sunday Social Hour

We are still taking submissions for copy for a Facebook ad for the Cafe. Stop by the post here and weigh in with your 135 word blurb to entice the masses to join our page! (Helpful note: I was inspired to do this by the UCC ad we mentioned in last week's social hour post.)

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Church blogs give 'the why behind the what'

Alban Institute columnist Lynne M. Babb says for clergy and congregations, blogs fill a niche:

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Going to church EVERY Sunday?

Regular Daily Episcopalian essayist, Ellen Painter Dollar, has written an article at Her.meneutics blog exploring the question of occasionally skipping church:

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Sunday Social Hour

Over at Unapologetically Episcopalian, they've posited a "weekend wondering" question that they'd like readers to weigh in on. "How have you introduced someone to the Episcopal Church? How has that introduction made a difference - to that person, to the Church, to you?" You can answer them here.

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To really engage that atheist, demonstrate ap(p)titude

Under the predictably headlined "You Say God Is Dead? There’s an App for That," we find the following notion and are kicking ourselves for not getting into the app-making game.

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Fifty who tweet - fifty to follow

Courtesy Online Christian Colleges, here's a list of 50 important religiously oriented Twitterers.

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What good can come from Twitter?

Could social media, such as Twitter, help to transform the church? Writing in Episcopal Life Online, Tom Ehrich says yes!

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Sunday Social Hour

Greetings from the Cafe's social media sites! It's been quiet on FB lately, but that's probably the result of ongoing technical glitches that are beyond our control. Everything seems to be caught up today, but we do try to check the page each day to see how it's going.

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Cathedral of Second Life nuances a proposed constitution

The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life is getting its sea legs.

With a virtual cathedral (brick-and-mortar is still important even when it's only computerized), a regular set of services, and a ministry team, the Anglican presence in Second Life is very real.

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Cultivating xenophiles

Ethan Zuckerman is an Episcopalian and co-founder of Global Voices (, which shares news and opinion from citizen media from over 150 nations representing all walks of and stations in life. They translate content from over 30 languages, and publishing editions in 20 languages, mostly by means of a network of skilled and passionate volunteer editors and translators from around the world.

Sunday Social Hour

When the Rev. Torey Lightcap, in his first post of the morning, challenged Café readers to create a Facebook page welcoming Anne Rice to the Episcopal Church, he couldn't have foreseen that your erstwhile social media junkie would rise to the bait in order to post it to the social media hour. In fact, I probably would not have done so had the infamous Facebook feed problems not reared their heads again. Therefore, here's a link to The Episcopal Church Welcomes Anne Rice, and since it's still under construction, we invite anyone interested to come post more personal greetings to the welcome.

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Sunday Social Hour

Half the fun of social media operations is the fact that the platforms are continuously evolving, and often breaking along the way. "Notes," the application we use to import content to Facebook, has gotten a facelift to mixed reaction. While it looks great and works _ok_, it still doesn't update in a timely fashion; fortunately we've discovered the manual override to that.

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Methodists halt Twitter communion

A Methodist minister in Great Britain was planning a communion service with a twist. The worshipers would take part via Twitter. Just before the service was to take place, the minister organizing it was asked by senior Methodist officials to wait until the idea could be examined.

The Church Times reports:

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Sunday Social Hour

Well, our feed is back on Facebook, even if it's still not updating as often as we'd like it to. Invariably, the one item which posts to everyone's wall in each daily update gets the most comments. It probably doesn't help that when you come to our page, those posts seem to be duplicated several times. But we're glad to be back on Facebook at least somewhat.

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Sunday Social Hour

Not much in the way of comments this week, but we do appreciate the retweets on Twitter and the shares on Facebook.

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Church of sweat

In an article in Blue Ridge Outdoors Dane Rauchenberg makes the claim that the "church" of running in the great outdoors may bring him more spiritual wisdom and tolerance than hunkering down in a pew. A critique behind his article is that church may need to rethink the "when" question of church? In addition, How might our worship experiences appeal to those who have active lifestyles, and who find great solace, beauty, and wisdom in the wonders of God's creation?

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Sunday Social Hour

One thing we have been able to figure out about Facebook's recent quirkiness: it's not "spamming" you when we invariably pipe in 5-6 new items at a time. We know this because whenever the feed updates, we get plenty of comments on the one or two items that DO get posted to your walls, but none of the rest. So just consider the wall update you do see to be a nudge to check the site for new posts, or the Facebook page for new notes.

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NZ students use Facebook to aid victims of earthquake

Can any good come from Facebook (other than the fun quizzes)? Apparently, yes.

Kiwi students use Facebook to organise earthquake clean up
From AFP and YahooNews

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Sunday Social Hour

It has been a busy week at the Café's Facebook page because for the first time in months, posts are importing properly. We're using new tools to import posts and monitor page traffic, and will be posting new guidelines on what we expect from commenters and those who post content to our wall. Our biggest question to readers, as we formulate these guidelines, is what do you find disruptive?

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An Episcopal website for seekers? Does it exist?

I'd love to learn more about the Episcopal Church, what website do you recommend?

The Rev. Scott Gunn wonders what site might be best for "seekers" to visit. He can't come up with a good suggestion, can you?

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Sunday Social Hour

Busy week on Facebook this week. Of course, perhaps it's always been this busy, but with our new notification and update tools it just seems busier. Some of the commentary is trenchant, some is playful, some is helpful, some is critical. Just a couple of highlights below, as we were still getting the bugs out of the new system early in the week:

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Real bishops visit virtual cathedral, inspiring virtual bishop's chair

We have reported here before on efforts of the Anglican Cathedral of Second Life to achieve things like recognition, incorporation, and proper ecclesial oversight.

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Sunday Social Hour

Sometimes it's interesting to see how comments on the Facebook page can take a different tack than comments here on the blog. But in other times, it's more interesting to see how the conversations converge.

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Sunday Social Hour

Welcome again to Sunday Social Hour, where we tune into our social media communities on Facebook and Twitter to see what you all are talking about--and mostly, the chatter is about blessings of the animals. But other, more sobering highlights from this week include:

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Clergy: Facebook or not?

Adam Copeland, writing at The Christian Century comments on rules for pastors using Facebook.

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Sunday Social Hour

This week on our social networks: A facebook bug prevented page posts from going on to users' feeds for a while midweek, but we caught it in time to let people know to stop by. Twitter is rolling out a new interface to keep us all on our toes, but we're finding it easier to spot our retweets and mentions in it, at least.

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Sunday Social Hour

One of the lovely things about social media is being able to see things shared. As we become more and more connected through Facebook and Twitter and other social media services, we're apt to discover things we might not otherwise have.

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Virtual community

Writing for the Alban Institute, Carol Howard Merritt says it is time to stop lamenting the fact that clergy and parish leaders have to spend so much time online and acknowledge that electronic communication has become an important means of ministry:

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Why do ideas spread?

Seth Godin at his blog, "Seth Godin's Blog", offers up several reason why ideas spread. Since the church is in the business of preaching the Gospel, spreading the Good News has been central to the mission of the church for over 2,000 years. How might Godin's list apply to the church? What's he leaving out?

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Sunday Social Hour

Pretty quiet this week on the social networks, if you don't count the fact that everyone is tweeting and Facebooking about the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear as well as Halloween.

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New tools for evangelism

The November issue of Vestry Papers, from the Episcopal Church Foundation is online. It focuses on technology and evangelism and includes the article "Tweet if you love Jesus" by Bishop Kirk Smith.

And while you are at the site, read this sweet, brief All Saints Day story by Richelle Thompson.

Jesus an Episcopalian!?

Jesus was an Episcopalian, actually, not really, but Chris Yaw has thought-provoking website based on his book by the same title. Well worth checking out.

Jesus Was an Episcopalian (And you can be one, too!)
From the Rev. Chris Yaw's "Jesus Was an Episcopalian" website

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Sunday Social Hour

Facebook this week is full of "likes," and less full of comments. Some stories, however, drew a larger number of comments, including a thread evolving from Robinson's retirement announcement that included one suggestion that he retire immediately. You can't please everyone, it seems.

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Thou shalt not use Facebook

New Jersey pastor has ordered couples in his church to delete their Facebook accounts according to CBS Philly:

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Crystal Cathedral, take two?

We've reported earlier on the financial difficulties that the Crystal Cathedral has been experiencing. What's not been reported until now is that there are actually two churches that see themselves as preserving Robert Schuller's legacy; the original church that Robert founded and a new expression that has Robert's grandson Bobby as the driving force.

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The nativity 140 characters at a time

The story of the Nativity began to unfold on Twitter on Wednesday through "The Natwivity."

The Natwivity takes advantage of social media's unparalleled capacity to engage people as they go about their everyday life to re-tell the Christmas story in a fresh, personal way. People will be able to pick up the 'tweets' in their homes, in the high street using their phones and at work.

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Mark Reford, head of St. Luke's Episcopal School, San Antonio, TX, writes on what can be done about cyber-bullying and how churches, parents, and schools can play a role:

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Why people don't come to church

This fine little video on YouTube, "Reasons (why people don't come to church)" is a must watch!

Why else don't people come to church? (And why they should?)

Reasons (why people don't come to church)
From YouTube

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Social Media: Nativity 2.0

Google, Facebook, Twitter and Email tell the age old story:

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God and social media

The Rev. Heather McCance of the Church of St. Andrew, Scarborough and regional dean of Scarborough Deanery in the Diocese of Toronto, has written a thoughtful essay on God and Social Media.

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And he shall reign

The Hallelujah Chorus via Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat 5th Grade – Quinhagak, Alaska

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Sunday Social Hour

This week on Facebook, we asked if you have any end-of-holiday or Epiphany traditions of note. Several responses were around the wise men.

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Sins absolved with iPhone app

Religion Dispatches reports on a new iPhone app offers absolution of sins:

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"A life dedicated to love"

Bishop Marc Andrus writes of recent events in Tunisia, the legacy of Martin Luther King, and the kind of love that launches movements:

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Maintaining your web presence

Anglicans Online laments the loss of websites of congregations, churches, dioceses, and whole Provinces. AO also notes that links to Provinces and even the Anglican Communion are no longer working due to changes.

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Gen Y reject parents' style in homes; churches?

Gen Y doesn't want their parents' they want their great-grandparents' churches?

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Central Gulf Coast receives member into church via Skype

Steve Bates, rector of Holy Nativity in Panama City, Florida, relates recent events at his parish involving a person who wished to be received into the church but was stationed overseas:

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The pope is more or less okay with Facebook

The web is atremor with news that Pope Benedict XVI has expressed qualified appreciation of social networks. The Associated Press leads its story this way:

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Leveraging Facebook for Churches

From "Church Marketing Sucks," how Churches might leverage Facebook for greater effect:

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Confession-guidance app flap ignores social nature of new media

By now, the phrase "There's an app for that" likely just makes your head hurt, but that doesn't make it any less true.

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A church's essence?

What is the essence of your church? Is this how you are known in your community? Are you proclaiming the Gospel in word and deed and in your external branding?

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Sunday Social Hour

Facebook pages are newly aggravating, because they have applied their so-called relevance engine (the same thing that generates their "top news" feed on your personal FB page) to pages, so you can no longer visit our page for a chronological view of all blog posts, and what sits at the top of our page is largely determined by how many of you like and comment on a given post. So if you are a page admin for your parish or diocese and haven't "upgraded" yet, be prepared for that maddening change when it rolls out.

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Will Facebook kill the church?

Wayne Slater writing on The Dallas News Religion Blog asks six religious leaders if Richard Beck's essay challenges the church:

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Using Facebook to build Christian community

I'm not a great fan of Facebook, but Ian Paul is.

Here are some of his thoughts on building Christian relationships through Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg aimed to replicate online the sorts of social things that people do in real life. In the film this arises from a conversation with his friend, who is wondering who is in a relationship with whom, from which Zuckerberg adds the ‘In a relationship’ feature to his programme.

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The church and social networking: four questions

With social networking changing practically everything, the church had ought to be paying attention. Even stripped of their context, these questions from Cynthia B. Astle are ones that should be seeing conversational rotation among the faithful.

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Online seminary education: the case against

Ed Moore, the Duke Clergy Health Initiative's director of theological education and conference relations:

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Want the status quo, you better change!

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue of the Diocese of Georgia has written a fine piece on his blog "Loose Canon" on the ways that churches must change EVEN if they want to keep the status quo. A good read. What do you think?

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One sentence advice - Church marketing

From the Church Marketing Sucks blog, what would be the advice marketers would give churches.

What is your advice?

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If your church isn't social, Facebook won't help

The notion has been proposed that Facebook is killing the church, drawing people away by competing for their time and interest. Less face time, more on line.

While not denying that's plausible, over at Religious Dispatches, Elizabeth Drescher floats another notion inspired by the fact that Facebook can be complement face time -- strengthen relationships established in the flesh world. There's a twist, however:

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Sunday Social Hour

We had a few issues with links on Facebook not going through to the blog this week. When that happens, if we don't address it immediately, just come to directly and click the appropriate blog--most of the time, that will be The Lead. In addition, we'll be posting images from the art blog directly to the Facebook page from time to time.

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Streamlining compassion

CNN tells the story of Beremedy, which uses social media such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs to streamline the donation of food, clothing and furniture to people in need:

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A radical state of uncertainty? For the church too...?

Are we living in a radical state of uncertainty? Is our time different than others? If so, how might these observations by Bruce Nussbaum apply to churches as well as businesses and governments?

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Sunday Social Hour - the welcoming parish

This week on our social networks, it's been fairly quiet. The Cafe's art blog now has its own photo album on Facebook, which should make it easier for fans to share the images on their own pages if they wish to do so.

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A denomination is dying near you

Are denominations dying? If so, is this something to mourn, or celebrate? What say you, kind readers of the "Episcopal" Café?

From The Christian Century

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Social networking initiative

Zyngla and the Episcopal Church today announced the launch of Churchyville, a new social game allowing anyone, anywhere to create the diocese of their dreams from scratch. Available in beta in the coming weeks, Churchyville has features that allow players to build a cathedral, plant churches, and create governance resolutions with the help of their friends. To build a thriving diocese, players have to balance the theological and political concerns of characters in the game with the needs of the wider church, all within a beautifully rendered landscape.

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What #AnglicanRulesForTwitter says about Anglicans

How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?
Ten. One to call the electrician, and nine to say how much they liked the old one better.

On Friday, Elizabeth Drescher writes, #AnglicanRulesForTwitter was born.

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House churches deepen community

New house churches bring the church to the people and are growing in popularity:

House churches deepen community, provide intimate hospitality
From Episcopal News Service

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Your church website: What do you want people to do?

Does your church have a website? Are you trying to rework your present website? Pondering just how to present who you are as a church? Consider these good points over at "Church Marketing Sucks" on giving your website readers a "call to action" in your website's presentation:

What is your website's "call to action"?

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Episcopal foodies gather 'round the electronic well

The "On Call" blog for the Fund for Theological Education features an item on the Episcopal Foodie Network, a Facebook group dedicated to - well, if anything's unclear, re-read the name.

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Open source church

Landon Whitsitt writing for Alban Institute compares church to Wikipedia:

Wikipedia: The encyclopedia that anyone can edit
Wikicclesia: The church that anyone can edit

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Heart to heart: improving digital communications

Much has been discussed about digital communications and the lack of connection to the other. Science Daily shares a study that reveals a way to make social media more connected and less isolating:

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The Bible is bigger than Bieber on FB

According the UK's United Bible Society, the Bible is more popular on Facebook that Justin Bieber.


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Meredith Gould talks about everything

Meredith Gould, abbess of The Virtual Abbey, sits down with God Complex Radio, and the topics are broad:

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Sunday Social Hour: Question for you

Recently, Facebook rolled out a new feature called Facebook Questions, aiming for a built-in poll interface that would allow people and pages to easily survey their friends and readers from time to time. What they forgot to put on the feature was the ability to ONLY poll friends or readers--every single question was pumped out on public feeds. The end result was that some questions went insanely viral, such as this one documented at the NetworkedEffect blog:

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Creative Way of the Cross practices

Churches are finding creative ways to depict and re-enact the Way of the Cross to connect with people today:

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Religious apps are proliferating

Elizabeth Drescher, author of the forthcoming Tweet if you ♥ Jesus tells KQED Radio that religious apps are proliferating, whether you are looking for kosher wine, guided Christian meditation or Islamic chant.

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Show us your Easter!

A great idea over at "Church Marketing Sucks" made us think that we should ask you, wonderful readers of The Episcopal Cafe, "Show us your Easter!" What images, video, sermons, publicity, bulletins, etc. helped to make your church's Easter come alive?

Write about your Easter in the comments or post links in the comments to your images on the web. Show us your Easter!

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Yellow Pages ad: waste of money?

From Diana Butler Bass on Twitter this morning

IMG_1720_normal.jpg@dianabutlerbass: Churches w/phonebook ads are probably wasting their $$.

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Mobile powered advocacy

At General Convention in 2006 the Episcopal Church adopted the Millennium Development Goals as the primary lens through which our corporate mission work would be seen. Over the past five years dioceses and parishes have worked to raise the level of awareness of this program not just within the Episcopal Church, but in the larger American society too. The truth is that even if every single church entity gave .7% of its budget for MDG work, it would still pale in comparison to what we could do as a nation if we decided to act in concert.

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Millenials & home ownership (...& the church)

It's an old old practice to try to predict the future. And in the church, of course, we also would like to know what the future holds.

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Words communicate

Well, of course they do. But when was the last time you've put the words we use in our churches through the filter to see how folks may be hearing them? Read on.

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Did you really go to church this week?

“Did you really go to church this week? Behind the poll data”
From a Christian Century article from May 6th, 1998 by Kirk Hadaway and Penny Long Marler, p. 475

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Participating more fully in the Digital Reformation

Writing for Religion Dispatches, Elizabeth Drescher, author of Tweet if you Heart Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation endeavors to tease out the relevance of recent survey data on social media for religious organizations:

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The wired culture goes to Sunday School

Jason Byasee, writing for Union Theological Seminary's New Media Project, tells of a recent experience teaching Sunday School, when one of the attendees whipped out his mobile device and started texting.

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Pope tweets

Pope Benedict XVI sent his first tweet today, apparently using the iPad Twitter app to do so. He used the occasion to both praise Jesus and announce the Vatican's rockin' new web site:

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Wild Goose Festival draws progressives

Chasing the "wild goose" with other progressive Christians in rural North Carolina:

Progressive Christians flock to Wild Goose festival
From the Associated Baptist Press

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We survived our tough times. We want you to survive yours.

Holy Apostles Church in New York City has made an excellent contribution to the It Gets Better series.

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Marketing to the heartland?

How might we bring church to the U.S. faithful using current knowledge of branding and marketing??

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Imagination a key to organizational change

From Alban Weekly, an article which challenges us to reimagine organizations:

Reimagining Organization
by Donald E. Zimmer in Alban Weekly

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Social media and the Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church's Office of Communications, in partnership with Monk Development, has produced a white paper on social media, that is available free, after registration. Entitled "Social Media and the Episcopal Church: A New Way to Tell a 2,000-Year-Old Story" it recommends six "best practices" for church's interested in cultivating a more effective online presence. Here is a quick summary of each point.

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Your (church) website: design matters

If you think the content of a website is all you need, you may be wrong. Read about why design matters on a website; even a church website!

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Meetings are death!

The ever-prolific (and insightful) Seth Godin points us toward a book that may just transform the way that we approach meetings:

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Evaluating pastors and priests

At Duke Divinity's "Call & Response Blog," James Howell reflects upon some of the complexities of a new evaluation system in his denomination. Do you evaluate your pastor or priest? If not, why not? If so, how and why?

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Fort Worth launches ambitious media strategy

The Diocese of Fort Worth, recovering from the troubles with former leaders who tried to break from The Episcopal Church, has launched an ambitious strategy for reconnecting with each other and the wider church. Using Twitter,™ Facebook,™ and other forms of electronic communication. In answer to a question about The Episcopal Insider:

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A pilgrimage on Twitter

The Anglican Communion News Service reports that the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, is tweeting his pilgrimage of holy sites in his area.

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Eternal life: post-modern style

Jesse Archer comments on life after death of a "friend" on Facebook in The Advocate:

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Changing our perspective on liturgical practice

Senior Pastor Amy Butler reflects on change in the urban church context:

Changing Our Perspective
by Amy Butler in the Alban Institute Weekly

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Are Mormons winning the web?

The Washington Post describes how the Mormon Church promotes it's own web-site in their quest to win the web. But there is more to the internet than Google.

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Church in the dark

Stuck at home, in the dark, while a hurricane blows outside on a Sunday morning? Only have a laptop or mobile device with limited battery capacity? In between everything else, you can still go to church electronically.

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Daily Office app, by Mission St. Clare!

Mission St. Clare, which has been a popular online source for the Daily Office since 1995, has now created an iPhone and iPad app, and it's free! Check it out.

The Mission St. Clare iPhone and iPad App
From Mission St. Clare

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Are you defending the status quo?

Seth Godin reflects on the top signs that you may be defending the status quo. Is your church defending the status quo? Is this good? Did Jesus defend the status quo? Good food for thought and discussion.

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Jesus Facebook most "liked"

The New York Times reports that more people have "liked," shared content and commented on Jesus Daily page than any other:

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Church social media as Sunday-to-Sunday 'connective tissue'

Elizabeth Drescher's name (and recent book Tweet if you (Heart) Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation) seem to keep coming up a lot lately. Recently, in conversation with the question of how churches might more effectively be using their digital presences, she says,

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Do you have a photo minister

Does your church have a photo minister? It might be time to get one (or more)!

The Benefits of a Photo Minister
From Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of Georgia

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Opening conversations

Do we open up conversations with folks at church, or do we close them down? Seth Godin offers this reflection on conversations in businesses which is perhaps also instructive for those of us in the church as well:

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Priest App?

The Catholic Church in Ireland now has a "priest app." Read on:

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Skeletons in the sacristy?

Lindsay Hardin Freeman writes about figurative "skeletons in the sacristy" in the Episcopal Church Foundation Vital Practices blog:

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Church communications transition plan?

Does your church have one?

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The church in decline? What to do?

If the church is in decline, what should we do?

How Dying Churches Can Turn Things Around
By Barrett Owen in EthicsDaily

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Why we don't like change

Heidi Grant Halvorson explains why we don't like change in this article in the Huffington Post. How about your church, how do you embrace (or not) change?

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Bishops who tweet

A growing number (though still a small minority) of the House of Bishops in The Episcopal Church are now on Twitter. A few have been on for some time. Is your bishop on Twitter? How does she or he use Twitter? If a BIshop tweets, does anyone listen (or retweet)?

Here are some of the bishops of The Episcopal Church who Tweet. Will yours be next?

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Tweeting a consecration

JimNaught, CanticleCom and perhaps some others will be tweeting from the consecration of Bishop-elect Mariann Budde at Washington National Cathedral. The service begins at 11 a. m., but we hope to start tweeting earlier. The hashtag is #BishopBudde.

Online evangelism: who does it well?

A little crowdsourcing assistance if you please:

My business partner Rebecca Wilson and I have given a few workshops recently on message development and communications in which we have ventured the opinion that a church or diocese’s message ought to have a little something to do with Jesus. We’ve met only occasional resistance. (Some folks think that another organization should provide the content about Jesus, and they will link to it from some page deep within their website.) More frequently we’ve come across two sorts of responses.

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10 New Church Models

Writing in the Christian Century "Tribal Church" blog, Carol Merritt offers up 10 new models for church in the 21st century:

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Church Announcements

Is there any good in church announcements? The Church Marketing Sucks blog sounds off on this question:

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Institutions: what are they good for?

David Toole reflects on the purpose of institutions at Faith and Leadership blog:

David Toole: What are institutions for?

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Inviting people to church for Advent and Christmas

Who are you planning to invite to church this season? Canon Frank Logue reminds us of the importance of the invitation:

Plant Seeds with Persistent Invitations
From Frank Logue's The Loose Canon

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The usefulness of strategic planning?

Is your church a church in the midst of strategic planning, how useful is it?

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Japanese pastor sues over communion dispute

Anglican Journal reports that a Japanese pastor has sued the country's largest Protestant denomination, the United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ), over his dismissal for giving communion to congregants who were not baptized.

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The web presence for The Episcopal Church has had a major overhaul today, according to a press release and - well, also according to our plain-old eyeballs.

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12 things church communication directors want you to know

From Media Salt, a communications director notes 12 things he would like senior clergy and lay leaders to know for 2012:

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If I die app

Now you can have no worries about what happens on your Facebook account after you die:

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Five lessons the church can learn from Facebook

Mark McNees has discerned five lessons that the church can learn from Facebook, and has rolled out the first four.

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Tripp Hudgins, who blogs and tweets as AngloBaptist, has written an article called @SeaburyNext and the #Great Awakening of seminary education about an event sponsored this weekend by Seabury Western Seminary and the Diocese of Chicago that featured presentations by Bishop Jeff Lee, Diana Butler Bass and Brian McLaren.

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Does the Church have a future?

Diana Butler Bass talks about the direction of the church in an uncertain age. In this video she explains the premise of her new book, Christianity After Religion.

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TEC launches an app

The Church Center has released an app for the iPad called Wayfarer. The first program on the app is a beautiful program on Alaska focussing on Kivalina, Alaska, "which chronicles the story of Indigenous Alaskans faced with having to move their entire village to higher ground because of rising sea temperatures." Some wonder why there is little identification with The Episcopal Church as the source of Wayfarer?:

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Getting ink for Lent

Lent, we often remind ourselves this time of year, does not exist that we may rend our souls. Pastor Chris Seay at Houston's Ecclesia has taken it a step further by commissioning tattoos for the explicit purpose of decorating the flesh for Lent - and, of course, long after.

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A more grown up Easter

Roger Wolsey has written an article on Elephant Journal: "A Kinder, Gentler, more Grown Up Easter."

The article, with fantastic visual illustrations, explores the challenges of triumphal Easter:

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Internet religion revolution

CBSand Google+ partner to talk about religion in the digital age.

Bob Schieffer discusses how the Internet is changing the way people worship in a Google+ Hangout with Sarah Pulliam, Bobby Gruenewald, Jason Illian, Rabbis Laura Baum and Robert Barr.

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Is your Facebook status telling the truth about you?

An extended riff on the impact of social media in The Atlantic asks, "Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?" Stephen Marche argues that no, it isn't, but it certainly isn't helping.

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Bishops White and Seabury are at it again

Summoned, apparently, by the debate over restructuring the governance of The Episcopal Church, Bishops William White and Samuel Seabury have been resurrected and are continuing their argument over church polity on Twitter.

@BpWhiteLives and @SamSeabury

The internet is a blessing

Here is a message that churches have been slow to accept: the internet is a blessing. The popular blogger Rachel Held Evans explains why:

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Video games in church?

Jesse Dymond, Anglican Church of Canada reports on

“What is wrong with the inspiring hymns with which we grew up? When I go to church, it is to worship God, not to be distracted.” It’s a question most of us in the church have heard, if not asked, in our continued struggle to contextualize the Gospel message and our religious traditions in the world around us.

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Most Americans keep their faith private on-line

A recent Pew survey says one-third of adults who use the Internet do not use social networking sites. And a significant minority of Americans do not access the Internet. And among Facebook users, half don't list their religious affiliation on their profile.


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Is e-mail the new "parking lot"?

Susan Nienaber of Alban Institute addresses the positives and negatives of email and church communications:

It is more than a little ironic that you are reading an e-mail message that is about to warn you of the dangers of e-mail, but here goes:

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Snarky for Jesus

Bishop James Mathes has written an essay for Daily Episcopalian about the quality or lack thereof of the comments here on Episcopal Cafe. In a similar vein, Father Tim Schenck asks in a recent blog post whether snark is unChristian, and concludes that it is not. He says, in part:

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Social media and social change: strengths and limitations

Writing for Christian Century, Carol Howard Merritt takes a long look at both the strengths and limitations of social media in promoting social change. She says:

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Pray. Write. Text. Texting in liturgy

The New York Times reports on a service where texting in encouraged:

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Three dangers of social media for clergy

Blogger Bruce Reyes-Chow, a great fan and user of social media and the interwebs, writes about the dangers of distraction, creating echo chambers, and self-disclosure that come might come with ministering on-line.

Here is his "Open Letter to Pastors About the Dangers of Using Social Media"

You see, as one who interacts with many church folks online, I deeply believe that some of you have used this technology as vehicle for distraction, escape and avoidance from life, ministry and call. Of course this is not a phenomenon that is confined only church folks and I may be overstepping my bounds, but, because I care so deeply for you and for the churches you serve, I want you to avoid heading down a dangerous road.

First, let me say that I KNOW that there are times when online community provides all of us a safe place to find meaning, healing, support, etc. As one who is fully supportive of embracing and integrating social media into the life of the church, I am in no way advocating any kind of blanket limit, ban or rejection of this powerful communication medium. So please to not hear these things as a plea to turn away from social media. That said, let me point out three dangers that I perceive happening as I have watched some of you interaction twitter, facebook, etc.

Pastor David Hansen responds, saying "Hey, don't scare the horses!"

Ask anyone who advocates for the church to use social media as a tool for ministry. People are already afraid of it. Those who are not using social media have a laundry list of fears. Yes, some are real concerns, like what Bruce has named here. They are possible. But just because they are possible, does not mean that they are probable.

Let’s get people out of the garage and onto the road before we start handing out NASCAR safety equipment. Warning signs are not for those who are in the garage, but those who are on the road.

Social media helps ancient artifact find a home

From St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Glendale, California

1500 year-old Byzantine “Healing Cross” Comes to Glendale, CA Church

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Tweet up and catch the spirit

Tuesday evening marked a new era in the Episcopal Church as many attending the joint meeting of Committees, Commissions, Agencies and Boards (aka CCAB) in St. Louis. Episcopal Café editor Jim Naughton and his co-author Rebecca Wilson and others led a Tweet Up. Those present in the room and those attending remotely (including 3-4 bishops) found a high level of energy and engagement in social media and getting the word out about the Episcopal Church. Read the Twitter feed (from bottom to top) below and catch the spirit.

Tonight (Wednesday) there will be an #undergroundeucharist. Check #CCAB in Twitter to follow the meeting. Today many shared discussions from the meetings. Great way to find out the work of our representatives and Deputies.

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Twitter catalyzes a connection to the #CCABs

The Rev. Robyn Barnes (@theologybird) of Montana is among those most responsible for the growing appreciation of Twitter among the leadership of the Episcopal Church. On her blog, she informs us of one helpful outcome from the use of twitter at the organizational meeting of the Commissions, Committees, Agencies and Boards of the church that concluded on Thursday in St. Louis.

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Digital Bishop

This is the sermon that Bishop Kirk Smith of Arizona preached on Sunday at the consecration of Nick Knisely, former Cafe newsblogger, as Bishop of Rhode Island.

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Finding the divine fingerprints on the social media keyboard

The Rev. Megan Castellan (@revlucymeg) said something smart at the tweetup that Gay Jennings (@gaycjen) facilitated thanks to the initiative of T. J. Freeman (@unbuntuwanderer) at the recent meeting of the Commissions, Committees, Agencies and Boards of the Episcopal Church (@iamepiscopalian) in St. Louis. I (@JimNaught) asked her to write it up, and she was nice enough to do so.

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The pope is on Twitter. Most Episcopal bishops are not.

The leader of a global institution know for adapting quickly to fast-paced change has joined Twitter.

Yep, Pope Benedict XVI has made the leap before the vast majority of bishops in the allegedly nimble Episcopal Church.

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O come all ye tweetful

Huffington Post notes that "the country's senior bishops are set to tweet their Christmas Day sermons for the first time this year in a Christmas Tweet campaign"

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Technology enhancing faithfulness

Maybe at one time religious leaders thought that printed books or periodicals meant the end of religion. It was considered a radical reform when printed Bibles in English were introduced into every parish church in England. Today there are many who think that the internet and social media will harm faith by interfering with the intimacy and immediacy of human relationships.

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Blizzard of challenges: church on Facebook

An essay by Alex Dyer on Daily Episcopalian. Due to the travel ban in Connecticut he gathered the community of St Pauls and St. James of New Haven on Facebook. Read the essay about the experience here.

Take a look at the liturgy on Facebook.

Bring your cell phone to church

Last Sunday, St. Andrew’s, Pearland, Texas, asked congregants to “Please use your cell phone.” to church, because when they take pictures of the service and post them on social media sites, live blog the service or e-mail their friends they are also bringing their friends to church.

ENS has the story:

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What's different about this picture?

NBC News posted these two images from St. Peter's Square. One taken in 2005 at Pope John Paul's funeral, a few days before the announcement of Pope Benedict, the other from taken Tuesday at the announcement of Pope Francis.

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It's okay when kids act differently in church

ELCA pastor Jason Chesnut reflects on the young people, the Gospel and social media.

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Warren family tragedy & the ugly side of human nature

Cathy Lynn Grossman writes:

Pastor Rick Warren, the best-known name in American evangelism after Rev. Billy Graham, lost his 27-year-old son, Matthew, to suicide on Friday (April 5).

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Church communications on the cheap

The blog Church Marketing Sucks offers ways to use social media that do not need a huge communications budget. Which ones have you tried?

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Like it or not, church is being reinvented

The Washington Post shares Tom Ehrich's article on the reinvention of the church:

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Theology and the random comment

The Rev. Canon Susan Russell, All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, CA, reflects on the power of online comments at Huffington Post:

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101 things to do when the church (as many of us know it) is gone*

From the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut:

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Rethinking ASA

Tom Ehrich's Religion News Service article on Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) as "a meaningless metric" is picked up by The Washington Post's On Faith:

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Change wisely, dude

Writer Andrea Palpant Dilley, in Duke Divinity's Faith & Leadership blog, advises church leaders trying desperately to attract and retain young people to "change carefully and wisely":

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Cool Christianity

Paul Brandeis Raushenbush writes in The Huffington Post that Christanity has become cool again. He begins with a historical coolness of Christian leaders:

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Tweeting grief

Scott Simon of NPR has been with his mother this past couple of weeks as she journeyed towards death. If you did not follow his tweets on Twitter - here is the story and his words. It was an amazing and touching time:

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Racism learned in the Church

Christena Cleveland provocatively and honestly writes that everything she knows about racism she learned in church communities. Her painful stories are shared in the post, and she remains committed by grace that racism in church communities can be addressed:

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Lutherans with iPads at Churchwide Assembly

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is meeting in its Churchwide Assembly this week. They are using iPads to distribute all materials, for making amendments, and other functions:

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Using Facebook ads to promote Sunday worship

Laura Catalano of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Creve Coeur, Missouri has been been experimenting with using Facebook ads to promote the Sunday morning worship at her church. In this blog post she reflects on what she has learned. Here's an excerpt:

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What would Jesus text?

Mashable looks at how smart phones are changing worship:

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Is using Twitter a religious act?

Timothy K. Morgan, who has been doing research on the uses of social media to memorialize the dead, asks and answers a provocative question: "Is using Twitter a religious act? I’m convinced it can be."

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Stewardship: putting an electronic giving kiosk in church

St David's in Austin offers church members and visitors electronic banking as checkbooks and cash disappear. Episcopal News Service reports:

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The church, AA, Recovery and Social Media

Recently the Café ran an essay on "pub theology" and questions were asked, around the edges, about meeting in bars and how that might affect those who are in recovery from alcohol addiction. On Twitter some questions have been raised about the prevalence of jokes about how drunk clergy and laity have been the night before or at meetings. How can the church strike a balance around responsible drinking of alcohol? Does your church offer equally attractive alternative beverages in places where alcohol is served?

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Snark vs Smarm

Tom Socca explores the world snark and smarm at Gawker:

There is a consensus, or something that has assumed the tone of a consensus, that we are living, to our disadvantage, in an age of snark—that the problem of our times is a thing called "snark."

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Swearing on a Bible app?

Nassau Executive Mangano was sworn in to office using an iPad Bible app according to

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Paradigm Shift

The pressing question of how we, in the church, confront the changing contexts of the 21st century continues to spark debate.  Should we batten the hatches and wait out the storm, changing nothing?  Should we take to the decks, and reorganize everything?  Or will we need a different idea of what this ship is?

In the most recent Vestry Papers Ken Howard suggests that a wholly different paradigm of church is needed.  

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CoE Twitter campaign a success

The Anglican Communion News Service writes about the Christmas Twitter campaign led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York:

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Bolz-Weber on "Meaningless Church Jargon"

The words we use have diverse meanings to people inside, outside, and on the margins of the church.

Nadia Bolz-Weber, founder of the House for All Sinners and Saints, offers some thoughts about what church jargon means to her and communicates to others: on Patheos:

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How he learned to stop snarking and love the screen

Skeptical about preaching from a screen, projecting images during your sermon, or otherwise incorporating new (ish) technologies in worship at your parish? Give this thoughtful detailed essay--complete with film clips--by the Rev. David Simmons a read.

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Religion and the digital reformation

Iowa Public Radio's program "Talk of Iowa" featured a lively discussion of religion in the digital age.

Iowa Public Radio:

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GTS embarks on the 'way of wisdom.'

Believing that the ways of academic specilization and business-style management is leaving the church bereft, the Dean and faculty of General Seminary are embarking on an experiment to integrate theological education with the daily, lived experience of the church. They are calling this exploration "The Way of Wisdom."

A statement from the faculty:

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"What if we just SOLD the church?"

The Rev. Jon M. Richardson took to Facebook looking for some provocative feedback:

So: fun idea that came out of meeting with church staff today (that will probably be the latest in line of things that will get me run out of town on a rail...) --

What if - rather than trying to scrape by and earn income from irregularly renting the church out to others - what if we just SOLD the church, rented it one day a week from the new owners, and took the huge infusion of cash to establish a large endowment that would support an increased capacity for ministry???

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The Atlantic takes note of nuns online

The Atlantic, arriving late to the party, asks whether social media can be used for evangelism in a nice profile of Sister Helena Burns, a Roman Catholic nun who is active online. Emma Green writes:

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#Episcopal Social Media Sunday: June 29

Carolyn Clement, the volunteer web and social media editor for Trinity Episcopal Church in Tarrifville, Connecticut and Laura Catalano, the volunteer web and social media editor for St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Creve Coeur, Missouri are urging congregations around the church to participate in Episcopal Social Media Sunday (#SMSunday) on June 29.

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The Church isn't dying, Christendom is

The Rev. Jason Cox, on The Diocese of Washington's blog, reacts to the many "Church is dying" stories (including Episcopal Cafe covered posts “The Church must die so Christianity can live.” and “What needs to die in the Church”) with an attempt to clarify:

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Four spiritual opportunities of Facebook

As social media platforms continue to develop, individuals and communities of faith experience them different ways. In a piece from the Huffington Post Mark Osler, a Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, reflects on "We're Friends, Right?", a project initiated by his former student Mike Podgursky. Podgursky's project aims at meeting all of his Facebook friends in person to humanize the connection, inspiring Osler to outline how social media works positively in four ways:

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Social Media Sunday: tweet your heart out

Get out your phone and send a selfie or other photo from church this Sunday. Episcopal News Service has the story of a movement to make the Episcopal Church go "viral" June 29. Use hashtag #episcopal:

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Figuring out how to mourn in the age of Skype

In a thoughtful, moving essay for The Atlantic, Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig wonders if religious traditions still provide an adequate road map for grieving.

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Edit wars on Wikipedia's religion pages

On Wikipedia, as in others parts of daily life, religion is a contentious topic. For some administrators of the sight who are also people of faith, taking part in Wikipedia presents many difficulties:

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Paying for Facebook publicity

The Rev. David Keill of Christ Ascension, Richmond, writes on the Church's experience of using paid advertising on Facebook for its Vacation Bible School. He placed two ads with various results, including this summary:

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Why the Episcopal Church?

The Acts 8 Movement has cast out another topic for conversation this week, in case bloggers didn't have enough to write about.

This week, the question was, "Why the Episcopal Church?"

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The 'Nadia Problem': Tokenism and the Church

Emmy Kegler, a soon-to-be-ordained pastor in the ELCA, and Eric Worringer, an ordained pastor, have written a blog post that asks an important question: Do we have a 'Nadia Problem?'

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Pew: white mainline Protestants among least likely to share faith online

The Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life project is out with a new report on religion and electronic media. Here are some of the key findings:

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The Pope, Jesus, and Us

James Carroll penned an op-ed for the NY Times on Sunday, in which he pondered the alternating consternation and adulation with which the new pope has been met.

He speculated that much of it has to do with the pope's insistence on pointing the institutional church towards Jesus:

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Barna releases unsurprisingly complex study on Millennials, church spaces

The Barna Group, a polling firm that concentrates on tracking changes in church life in a post-Christendom world, has released a new study on Millennials and their preferences on worship space.

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