I’ll keep this short, since no one commented publicly on my post requesting help for my story about online blogs. Thank you to the YARs who responded to me via personal e-mails. My story is posted on the Urban Connections site.
Or jump directly to the story.
Again, thanks for the conversations. One person, whom I did not quote in the story, as the comment came out of context, said she was dumbfounded that the church is still writing stories like this after more than a decade of overwhelming Web involvement across the world. She has a point, but I think such stories move portions of the church toward understanding of a medium that still feels unfamiliar to many. (I heard a radio talk show host yesterday marveling at the sheer volume of instant messages he received after signing up earlier this week.) There’s still a long way to go in learning how electronic media both shapes and can be used by the church.
Younger people have embraced this medium much more quickly than older folks. Since the church represents all ages (or it should!), it makes sense to keep writing stories designed to inform those outside of Web community that it’s going on. It’s also a good reminder to those of us on YAR that it’s not just the people who post on here who are reading. We are being watched–which both ups our responsibility and our impact.
Your story can also remind those who already knew Web community is still going on, and it’s not just a fad.
That said, after reading your story, I fully agree with Lora (who I think I’ve met through knowing her cousins, if it’s the right Lora) when she said “The best … any Internet initiative can do is to connect real people in real places.”
I’ve been a happy participant in chatrooms, IMing, message boards, and blogging in some combination since I was 12. That’s almost half my life. I’ve been a moderator on a small board and a large one, though both were topically-based and not populated largely by Christians. I know all-too-well the dangers of creating a facade, especially one you’re not aware of. The first time I met in person a group from the aforementioned large board, the administrator said he was pleasantly surprised by how laid back and humorous I am, how he was worried someone would do something that would offend me. I had no idea I had come across as judgmental. I was 19 then, so I was definitely coming out of my “I’m a college freshman and I know everything” phase. I guess since then I’ve been… careful not to be so careful? Those on YAR who’ve met me in person (hopefully) know I do a lot more than think and discuss serious topics. I like to crack jokes and tease, too. Which, as Lora observes, is much more easily understood when tone, body language and eye contact work together with the words themselves.
So here’s to YARers who live near each other getting together!
After I checked out Ryan’s article, I started to skim through the Mennonite Mission Networks Urban Ministry website and archives of Urban Connections. It looked like some interesting material and programming. I was struck by two things as I skimmed. The first is that it felt really male dominated. Of the Urban Ministry staff and director’s seen on the site, I think all were men except for the assistant to the director. Maybe this is an unfair conclusion and I’m really missing something but that is my first impression from a quick skim through the site.
The other thing I noticed was what seemed like a big blind spot on lgbt issues. Yes, I know I seem to harp on this issue a lot. It is very important to me. I only skimmed articles from the last five or six issues of the publication but found no mention that there is any connection between urban churches and welcome and acceptance of gay and lesbian Christians. There was even a whole issue on church conflict…nothing. I wouldn’t expect it to be a central issue but it is the seemingly complete lack of recognition that I find strange.
It seems to me that when most of the Mennonite congregations that have been disciplined for being “too welcoming” and/or are publically affirming are in large or small urban areas, there must be some connection between urban ministry and lgbt welcome as an issue. I know this isn’t a big issue for all urban churches but it seems to be for some. I also find it interesting when the church is so interested in its urban mission but finds fault in the way some urban churches reach out to their community. The church loves to gush over these vibrant urban churches but slaps around those that get “too vibrant.”
Sometimes silence speaks volumes.