Pragmatist’s Protest

Today I managed to attend part of #ChSocM. That’s a Twitter chat, on Wednesday afternoons in New Zealand time, to do with the Church and Social Media. Great stuff, great people, but being me, I disagree with some of them some of the time. But don’t worry about that. It’s because I’m only just getting to know them. I’ll probably manage to disagree with all of them at least once as time goes by. It pays to be fair.

So here is my disagreement for today:

The point was made that a sermon doesn’t make a very good blog post, because preaching and blogging are two entirely different genres. If the sermon was to be uploaded as preached, audio or video recordings were deemed better than text.

Hmmm…

While my favourite blogs and my favourite sermons have had different styles, I can think of some very good reasons to upload sermons as written.

  • More than half of our clergy are volunteers. They often hold down full time jobs so that they can do rash and indulgent things like eating, as well as working for the church. Their time is precious. Fashions in blogging may be compelling, but in fairness, adhering to them may be poor stewardship of time.
  • In those parts of New Zealand where internet connections are slow, it is very difficult to become a connoisseur of the blogosphere. Readers of many church blogs are likely to go to them because they know what is there; if it is a written copy of the sermon, they won’t be miffed.
  • Many of our city congregations have quite large numbers of immigrants, for whom the language of the sermon is not their mother tongue. For these people, an online text copy of the sermon has an advantage. Unlike a paper copy, a sound file, or a video, it can be fed through Google Translate. The ability to revisit the full text is greatly appreciated by people whose languages are catered for by translation machines.
  • I have read some lovely sermons by local preachers. Our ACANZP preaching styles are culturally determined, and often do make a good read.
  • While some of our churches have the hardware and the bandwidth to make sound or video recordings of sermons practical, many do not. Even if the church can record and upload, those likely to access the blog may have slower connections, or limited budgets for downloading streaming media.
  • Even where sound and video are practical, they cannot be skimmed as text can.

If you have time to absorb best practice in blogging, great. Go do it! There is plenty of advice out there in cyberspace, and there are lots of good models. However, if you’re just copying and pasting the sermon into a blog each week, don’t let anybody rain on your parade. Be thankful that you have the time to do that much. If you have an extra five minutes, find the most important sentences and mark them in bold to facilitate skimming. If you have an extra twenty minutes, summarise, add a picture, include ideas for further study, or link to a couple of relevant web resources. But please resist the urge to do all of those things, or you know what will happen. Someone will say that if you can spend that amount of time online, you’re clearly not pastoral enough, not missional enough, and definitely not any use at all in the real world where actual ministry happens!

Pragmatic bloggers sometimes need to be true to the original, keep life simple and proceed in faith.

Perhaps the the motto of Waikato Diocesan School for Girls can be a good guide for the pragmatic church blogger.

Veritate, Simplicitate, Fidelitate
Blog the truth
Keep it simple
Proceed in faith

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About Mary St George

I teach in gifted education, both online and face-to-face.
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4 Responses to Pragmatist’s Protest

  1. “Them”? You’re clearly part of the community — and we all agree and disagree with each other ALL the time with healthy humor. As founder and moderator of the chat, I think this is a very good thing!

    As for the sermon-to-blog post thing, I’m coming from the perspective of a parish communications person whose priest boss posted very dense sermons that forced people to scroll through about five screens and who would not let me even reformat the paragraphing to be more reader-friendly for the online medium. Lord, have mercy.

    • Thanks Meredith. I’m delighted for those whose calling is in great online communication to keep showing us all the possibilities, and thank you for your contribution in that. Glad to be one of the #ChSocM community.

  2. Jen Frazer says:

    Two additional advantages of including the text of sermons: accessibility for the deaf and search-engine optimization. Google can’t crawl an audio or video clip. (Not yet, anyway.)

    • Jen, thank you for mentioning the deaf. Those with partial hearing loss will have already heard parts of the sermon, and would seek out a text version looking for the words they have missed. A summarised text version can be a disappointment to them, and recordings tend to repeat the frustration.

      A full text does give instant information to a search engine, and time to upload additional information, or tag and categorise posts is not always available.

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