He further reflects
Back in the 1950’s we would have set up a “C of E Social Media Council” so that a party selection of senior bishops, retired colonels and ladies in funny hats could mull over the creative possibilities and then tell everyone else what to do.These days we have to be a bit more experimental and post-modern. We have to work out for ourselves what to do. I’ve been trying to brainstorm some needs and possibilities, including, as an hoary old adult educator, learning requirements.bishopalan.blogspot.com, Bishop Alan’s Blog: Church new media futures...., Dec 2009
I've been thinking about this in a slightly different connection, and I'm not sure to what extent this is something which the church as an institution, as opposed to Christians as individuals (such as, er, my Lord Bishop and I) can get involved with. There's the additional difficulty that the internet is a subculture which is not entirely approved of by The Powers That Be. Some of the best theological/ spiritual writing I have come across has been on blogs that also contain the usual daily blatherings about real life, squees or meta on pop-culture, and fanfic. But while I wouldn't class my fannishness as something I needed to bring to confession*, it's not something I'd necessarily want to discuss with, say, selectors. Yet I think any Christian witness - as long as it's something which arises naturally and is obviously connected to the blogger's whole mindset - is much more effective than A Spiritual Blog About Spiritual Matters. I suppose it comes down to integrity, really. Or possibly even has to do with the need for theology about an Incarnate God to be, well, incarnate in a lived context. However messy and hard to represent to tidy-minded church officials it might be...
* well, 99.99% of the time, anyway.
Bonus link for German speakers: the TU Chemnitz Advent Calendar is running again. It's always lovely, with a mixture of photos of the Erzgebirge, information about the Christmas customs of the region, recipes (I got a fantastic recipe for red wine, chocolate and nut cake, which has become one of my favourites there once), craft activities you can do with children and competitions. Best web-based calender I know.
He is best known for this rather lovely prayer:
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly
and follow thee more nearly, day by day.
I rather like Richard.
I liked the reviewer, Mark Vernon's way of summing up Eagleton:
Christians in history have undoubtedly perpetrated many crimes. But their most fearsome judge is the very individual they claim to follow, the man who blessed peacemakers, tended lepers and loved enemies. Religion can be monstrous, like love – though like love, it also longs for the best.
Love which is monstrous is love perverted; love which has become its own enemy.
Eagleton also cites Herbert McCabe OP, who summarised the gospel as: If you don't love, you die. If you do love, they'll kill you. Which is true as far as it goes - but it's not exactly good news. The good news is rather that for all our efforts to kill love, it won't stay dead. I don't know if it can really be put better than it is in "Lord of the Dance"
they cut me down, but I leapt up high -
I am the life that will never, ever die.
I'll live in you if you'll live in me,
I am the Lord of the Dance said he.
"Tragic humanism" can be noble, dignified, moral; in some ways it seems more admirable than the irritating way in which Christianity insists in turning defeat into triumph. But whatever my aesthetic sense, and despite the grim realities which confront us at every turn, God seems to prefer the comic mode to the tragedy. Which is good news for the protagonists, though some of them - the dignified, the powerful - may have to recognise that they're actually not as dignified and serious as they thought, and learn to laugh at themselves. Which, in fact, is a pretty good safeguard against the potential corruption of love into selfishness and self-obsession.
And also, just because it is one of the best hymns ever written, and apt for the day: St Patrick's Breastplate:
I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.
( Cut for length )
While I still need to do a bit more thinking about specific examples from my own experience, I've been reading a surprisingly useful book by Stephen Cottrell (Bp of Reading), Hit the Ground Kneeling: Seeing leadership differently. I have to admit that I probably wouldn't have read this if I hadn't been told to, because it has a hideous purple and orange cover, and is endorsed by Jeremy Vine and some management consultant and writer I've never heard of (though I'm told that the Sisters of the local contemplative convent think highly of it. I found this more encouraging, though I suspect Jeremy Vine would shift more units).
This just goes to show that reading lists have their uses, because the nuns are right; it's probably the most helpful thing I've read on the subject.* Cottrell came up with the title in a moment of frustration when another member of a committee shortlisting applicants for a parish said - as is predictable at such meetings - "What we want is someone who can hit the ground running."
Rather than merely cross off another square on his Bullshit Bingo board, Cottrell found himself thinking, no actually, maybe we don't. Because someone who charges into a situation, convinced that only he can save things, but without actually having a deep knowledge of the people and issues involved is unlikely to do much good: the best you can hope for is short-term success which becomes unsustainable - and people who get impatient with you once you stop being shiny and new.
The book is structured around a series of reversed management cliches/ proverbs. I was most struck by "Re-inventing the Wheel", in which Cottrell argues that one should resist the temptation to buy in a solution - however good it is, it will never belong to people as much as one they've worked out for themselves. Which is not to say that you can't use outside ideas as inspiration, indeed you should, but that leadership is more about encouraging people to find their own way forward than in telling them what to do (or asking them to vote on which of a series of pre-packaged solutions they'd like). This may, of course, also involve encouraging people to look again at the vision that originally brought them together - I think this is probably particularly relevant to voluntary and religious groups.
The other point which I need to remember is that, as a general principle, you should only do the things that only you can do. Doing other people's jobs for them isn't service or unselfishness, it's denying them the chance to do their job, offer their service, and it's making them less than they could be.
"Leadership" is, I must admit, not a topic I've ever thought much about, as is probably obvious. Thoughts?
* Though I must confess that I haven't read many books on leadership, and while much of the stuff by B-P was useful, if dated in tone, I shouldn't have been surprised that "Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun" was not.
He also knew a lot of vernacular poetry, and possibly wrote it himself, though the only example which is preserved is the rather gloomy 'Before the forced journey,' otherwise known as Bede's Death Song, and every bit as cheery as you'd expect. More of his Latin hymns survived; earlier on el_staplador quoted a rather beautiful bit:
Christus est stella matutina, Alleluia;
Qui nocte saeculi transacta, Alleluia;
Lucem vitae sanctis promittit, Alleluia;
Et pandit aeternam, Alleluia.
Christ is the morning star, Alleluia;
Who, when the night of this world is past, Alleluia;
Promises and reveals to his saints, Alleluia;
The everlasting light of life, Alleluia.
The Anglo-Saxons liked religious imagery relating to the morning star, of course: you may remember, if you are a Tolkien fan, the famous line from Crist: Eala Earendel, engla beorhtast, ofer middangeard monnum sended. Of course, there's been some scholarly debate as to whether the angel is Christ or the Baptist; either reading is possible. Either way, the idea of revelation, of our sense of God's presence as the small, steady light in the darkness before dawn is a powerful one.