Saturday, 28 April 2012

Social Media Pastoral Paper

Last night we were pleased to welcome our latest group on the Beaker Social Media Pastoral Course. As the old-fashioned pastoral methods - going to see people, talking to them, going out for a pint with them - decline in our increasingly virtual world, it's important people are in touch with the new ways of doing things.

Ironically, we deprive our course delegates of all Internet and phone access for the period of the course - basically to stop them cheating - and so I can safely give you a sneak preview of the paper they'll be sitting tomorrow morning to earn their certification. Of course, in the world of the Internet the certificates mean absolutely nothing, but hey - at least I've got the course fees.

1. What are the emoticons for:
A) Smile
B) Sad
C) Wink
D) *proffers cup of tea*
E) Sympathy
F) Trying not to look shocked, but failing
G) Enough with the war stories already.
H) Hugs (but chaste, pastoral hugs)
I) *lights a tea light*
J) Sprinkles with holy water.

2. When offering virtual pastoral advice across parish boundaries, whom should a Church of England minister ask for permission? Give your reasons - and not in txt spk.
A) The bishop.
B) The incumbent of the parish the advisee lives in.
C) Because the Internet is world-wide, ever member of clergy in the whole world.

3. When giving advice on-line, if someone gives the opposite advice what should you do?
A) Follow up with the church authorities who agree with you, quoting as appropriate St Paul, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley or that Bono from U2.
B) Engage in a flame-war with the other person who has chipped in with their ill-considered, rash and probably heretical suggestions. If necessary, block/unfriend the person who originally had.a question/problem as their needy bleatings aren't gonna help anybody once battle's commenced.
C) Reflect that someone's struggle with doubt and loss, combined with their partner's unexpected announcement about their sexuality, is probably not best discussed on their Wall.

4. A Local Preacher has an engagement at the other end of the Circuit, when the drought has cut off every road in the county.
A) What equipment might the chapel need to allow her to preach using Tumblr?
B) What technical challenges will they have in the pastoral follow-up and challenges after the service?
C) Just how tempting is that "off" switch going to be?

5. "If you're announcing your church services on Twitter you might as well just declare wholesale war on the neighbouring vicar and put up posters in the Morrison's in their parish". Explain why this view is either (a) totally misguided or (b) completely sensible.or (c) the shape of things to come.

6. Your online friend has "come out". Via the medium of Twitter, either explain (a) why s/he is going to burn if s/he doesn't repent or (b) that we have a loving God who made him/her that way. Do not attempt both in 140 characters.

7. "Trolls are made in God's image too." Try to think of some justification for why this may not be right.

8. "Fitzroy-Russell's Law" states that as the number of people a church minister follows tends to infinity, the proportion of clergy they're following tends to 100%. Try to disprove this in your own online activity.

9. Discuss the uses of Google+. Write no more than 100 words, as we won't bother to read it.

10. One of your congregation's relationship status has gone from "married" to "it's complicated. Why on earth would you want to keep out of it?

11. "In cyberspace nobody can see your dog-collar". What impact should this have on your online behaviour? Especially if your profile says you're the Arch-Bishop of the Western Hemisphere.

12. "If I engage in evangelism on an atheist forum, everyone will be really courteous and at least listen to me."
A) What planet are you living on?
B) Why could I replace "attempt evangelism" with "espouse atheism", and replace "atheist" with "Christian", and yet the question would still stand?

13. Possibly unlike your congregation IRL, why are you surprised that so many people out there are not like you?

14. With the aid of a bucket and the physics describing the conductivity of water - why is Internet Baptism a bad idea, while a Service of the Word might work?

15. "If I start a blog I might become a Famous Christian and people will come to me for advice and I might get invited on speaking tours". Is this a bad motive? And what are the chances?

16. Does pretending to be a loveable cartoon character / historical person / warrior-princess lessen your pastoral effectiveness? What about if your user ID is  "Atilla the Nun?"

17. Why might you want not to accept a "friend" invitation from a member of your church? What might lead you to block them and report them as spam?

18. Is it easier to pray for people you know on-line or those IRL? If so, is this because you don't have to live with them?


  1. Sounds exactly what we need. Permission to pass a copy to my Bishop immediately?

  2. :-) oh so much truth in here, I want a *lights a tea light* emoticon!

  3. I laughed rather a lot at number 8...

  4. UKV - No.

    Sally, so do we all.

    PTP - thank you very much.

    Quotidian Cleric - but did you do the sums afterwards?

  5. Am I wrong to wish for a warrior-princess? Xena for Archbishop of Canterbury!


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