An elderly Roman Catholic parish priest once expressed the opinion that it would not be proper for me to pray with members of his parish; I remember feeling hurt at the time, (though perhaps I should have felt flattered at being perceived as so spiritually influential as to be a danger to the mortal souls of his flock). In retrospect, it was of anthropological interest that someone still believed that they could instruct people how to behave; that there were still clergy who believed that they could assume the attitude of the late Archbishop McQuaid and presume to govern every aspect of people’s lives. To be fair to him, he would have found numerous counterparts on the other side of the sectarian divide; there were plenty of Protestant clergy ready to voice opinions about the company one should keep; the places one could go; and the conduct one was allowed. In their own way, both the elderly priest and those on my own side probably meant well; they genuinely believed their strictures to be necessary.
If the social revolution of the past decades were not enough, their authority has been completely swept away by new technology; censorship, barriers and prohibitions have become mere punching at the wind. The Internet is an anarchic republic: ‘anarchic’ because it is without rule; republic because it is the ultimate ‘res publica’, the ultimate public thing.
The church is thrown back into the First Century, having to struggle for a voice, having to compete for people’s attention; it is compelled once more to speak to people instead of speaking at them. The church is no longer sustainable as a hierarchy, as a monolith issuing edicts everyone will obey.
Any Church of Ireland people in trying to communicate in a new age might be interested in a latter in the ‘Church of Ireland Gazette‘:
Are there Gazette readers who would be interested in forming a Church of Ireland bloggers’ group? With many blogs now reaching numbers of people far in excess of what many of us would have in church on a Sunday, the time has come for us to take the medium more seriously. Perhaps we could meet together from time to time to discuss technology, content and other issues? I am aware of a number of Church of Ireland bloggers: Patrick Comerford in the Theological Institute, Stephen Neill in Cloughjordan, Daniel Owen in Cobh, Liz Hanna in Belfast and Gary McMurray in Dundonald; I am sure there are many more. Anyone interested can email me at: ian @forthe fainthearted.com
There is also a nascent Church of Ireland bloggers group on Facebook administered by the argumentative and contentious John Lilburne.