WWJT?

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.

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