Is there a point to all this stuff?Apr 6th, 2009 | By Ian Poulton | Category: Ministry
The lovely Ms Alannah Gallagher from the Irish Times phoned today to ask questions about the church and the Internet. Of course, the answers were fluent, constructive and imaginative: half an hour after she had phoned and the mundane reality of peeling the potatoes allowed time to ponder. What she got was a scatter gun series of comments and disjointed thoughts. Was there one coherent answer to any of her questions?
There was a half thought out suggestion that the idea of the medium becoming the message had come to fruition with the Internet, without any explanation of what that cliche might mean in this instance.
Much later in the conversation, the idea of the Net as an anarchic republic got an airing. Peeling the potatoes allowed a working out of what that might mean, had it been expressed in half articulate terms.
The medium embodies a message of complete freedom, people can say pretty well what they like. The comments might be very quickly removed, but that does not mean that they have not been aired. There are no authorities and no rules; very worrying concepts for organisations like churches. Not only is there anarchy, but it is a very public anarchy. There is no more public thing than the Internet. In most countries, everything is available to everyone, something troubling to groups who have been used to sharing only the information that supported their views. None of which reached the ears of poor Ms Gallagher who left to struggle with ramblings.
“What do people most read on the blog?” was about the only question answered with any clarity – the sermons. One sermon, written two years ago, about a hymn, has been read by a thousand people. Maybe they were all clergy looking for an easy topic.
“Why write a blog?” Because I’m a frustrated journalist. Because I don’t keep a diary. Because it’s the only thing I do with any degree of discipline.
Checking the sausages that were to go with the mash, I wondered what a truly Christian blog might be like.
Memories of the late great Fr Niall O’Brien came to mind. Niall O’Brien was a Columban priest who served an heroic ministry in the Philippines. Writing an obituary for a Fr Rufus Halley, a confrere, in 2001, Niall O’Brien talked about Rufus Halley’s idea that, “’in the end we are saved by beauty”. Beauty is about those things we can’t express, those things for which we cannot find words. Beauty is about those experiences that just cannot be explained. I think what Rufus Halley was saying was that the things that draw us to Jesus are not the things we can express in words, but the thoughts, the emotions, the feelings for which no words are ever adequate. The things about Jesus that attract people are things that we can only grasp at, moments we can only glimpse.
“You’re not waiting by the phone for a call from President Obama?” inquired Ms Gallagher.
“Indeed, I am not”, I laughed.
A blog that captured to Rufus Halley’s idea of beauty would be the church capturing the full potential of the Internet; it might even include the odd post from the President himself. Now, that would be something to write about.