Churches on Facebook

I recently started a Facebook page for my congregation, Resurrection Evangelical Lutheran Church in Arlington, VA.  It's a simple little page, and so far has 28 fans (a few of which are friends of mine not really attached to the congregation!).  It is a modest endeavor, for sure, listing upcoming events, sermon texts, and basic information about the congregation.

So my question is this: what success – if any – have you had with a Facebook page for your congregation or community organization (any PTAs on Facebook?).  Who manages the page? What kind of information do you put on the page?  Does it have any devotional quality to it, or is it more of an announcement board?

Also, have you paid for advertising on Facebook?  I've researched it, and it looks as if I could have ads appear on the screens of anybody in the Arlington area with the word "Christian" somewhere in their profile (I don't think that the ad keyword program discerns between someone who lists "Christian" as their religion or someone who lists "Christian Slater" as their favorite actor, however).  I would pay approximately $.50 for each click, but I haven't gone ahead with it, yet.

Finally, is there a congregation or ministry that you think does a good job with a Facebook page?

Please share your thoughts and your links … Thanks!

Political, but not Partisan

When I returned to blogging a few months after my ordination I vowed to stay away from politics, rather wanting to focus this blog on church, theology, and other matters.  Yet in the past few days I have found myself consumed with the situation surrounding Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court, both on this blog and on Facebook.  As Scott asked on an earlier blogpost, "Chris – thought you were done with politics?"  Yes and no.  

Many people speak of being "Spiritual but not religious."  Perhaps some of my posts on this blog could be considered "Political but not partisan."

That is, I have given up blatantly partisan writing … in fact, I have deleted most of my partisan Vote-for-Bob type older posts, and you will not see such posts in the future.  I no longer write on this blog in direct advocacy for politicians or their parties.  However, there are other issues that are "political" in nature that call my attention and on which I do and will continue to employ a few pixels here.

One such issue is the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor … actually, I'm less interested in her particular nomination than I am concerned by the tone of the discussion that has surrounded it.  Both because of some things she has said in the past, and also because of her historic nomination as the first Latina named to the Supreme Court, issues of race, ethnicity, culture, and identity have returned to the national discussion, and to me these are issues of central importance to our nation and its understanding of justice … and are issues to which our Christian faith speaks.  So in my blogpost about Sotomayor's comments (and in my Facebook postings) I have tried to go deeper into the issue … reading and reflecting on her whole speech (rather than responding to one line taken out of context), and thinking about what it means to be a multicultural nation dedicated to justice for all.

(FYI, four years ago I wrote about the nomination of then-Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court, and the concerns about his religious faith that surfaced at that time – Our Discomfort with Faith.  Then, as with the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor now, I have tried to look at some of the issues that the nomination brings to the national scene, not necessarily the nomination itself.  By the way, I was generally supportive of the Roberts nomination, as I am of the Sotomayor nomation.)

I know that there are general partisan camps into which many of my perspectives fall, and that many reading this blog will disagree with my perspectives on these "political but not partisan" issues.  That's fine.  There is nothing wrong with having different perspectives and ideas on these matters.  Please leave a comment, and we can have a good conversation.  But my goal is not partisan advocacy … rather, it is to offer reflections on important issues in what I hope is a strong yet thoughtful and honest manner.

Peace to you.

A few comments about comments

For the first time in the four years of this blog I've received a series of mean-spirited and highly critical comments.  I've deleted his comments not because they are critical (there are plenty of critical comments on this blog!), and not only because they border on mean-spirited name-calling (which they do and which is reason enough to remove them from this blog). Primarily, I've deleted the comments because the author didn't sign in with a real email address nor did he leave a web address for his own website/blog.  Not leaving me with any way to engage him directly, I have no interest in dealing with his comment vandalism on my blog.

So, Dan/Tom/Papist, please send me an email if you really want to engage me in conversation.  Otherwise, please go away.  Thank you.

In the mean time, I'm temporary moderating comments.  I find it annoying to do this, but I'm not sure what else to do.  Thanks.

Four Years of The Lutheran Zephyr

If my blog were a President, it would be finishing its first term.

On May 22, 2005 I started this blog … I never thought it would last this long.  I began blogging in order to connect myself to conversations about ministry and faith while I wrestled with my own sense of call and worked at the fringes of parish ministry, looking in.  Now I'm ordained, doing the work about which I often opined on these pixels, and I'm loving life.

Thanks to all for reading, for commenting, for forming me through this wonderful and odd medium of blogging.

Decline of faith-based niche blogging?

I have noticed a decline in the number of blogposts appearing in my Google Reader in recent months.  The decline includes my blog, of course, as I've been blogging infrequently since December.  But I am not alone.  Many of the "churchy" blogs that I used to read regularly are posting less often.  With the exception of the rise of Facebook – and many of my church blog friends are on Facebook – I really cannot explain this phenomenon.

For my part, I'm finding that since throwing myself into the work of full-time parish ministry I have less time and energy to blog.  My life essentially has two parts – church and family, both of which are terribly time and attention consuming.  Blogging – which for some can be part of their work – would essentially take time from either my churchwork or my family, and that's nothing I'm willing to do right now.  If I decide to take time from either, it will be for exercise at the local gym to get rid of the excess 30-40 pounds I'm carrying around.

Furthermore, I'm finding that my inspiration to blog is similar to the challenges I've had recently with writing my bi-weekly sermons.  In my pastoral role – I'm an Associate Pastor – I deal with lots of programming.  I'm finding that managing programs uses a different part of my brain than does writing (blogposts or sermons or newsletter articles), and the writing has suffered as a consequence.  I hope to return to more and better writing, including on this blog.  But when I do get the energy, creativity, and ability to write, it's all I can do to just focus on the sermon and not get carried away with other writing projects right now.

I expect that this is part of my learning curve, my adjustment to full-time parish ministry.  Now in my fifth month, I notice that I am developing patterns and setting priorities in a better manner than I did when I first started.  Perhaps as I continue to grow into this ministry and calling I will find the time and creative ability to return to writing more frequently … I certainly hope so.

I’m on Twitter (again)

Follow me, and I will make you bored out of your mind.

I tried Twitter back in the fall and didn't see the point.  I still don't – save for the entertainment of watching feedback on a live event, such as a presidential debate or ballgame or something – but I'm going to try it again anyway, if for no other reason than to figure out its appeal and worth.  Once upon a time I didn't "get" call waiting or answering machines, blogging or Facebook, and those things have all stuck around.  You can accuse me of being behind the curve, if you like . . . because I am.

If you have anyone worth following on Twitter, please let me know (here, or on Twitter, or on Facebook, or via snail mail, or perhaps smoke signal.  Sorry, no Morse Code).

harder getting back in than I thought

So more than a week after I declare that I'll be back in the blogging saddle, I find myself wondering how exactly to get back in.  After three months of pause I find it hard to resume blogging, something that I had been doing for more than three years.  But in those three months of pause my life has changed quite a bit . . .

I was ordained three months ago.  And no, I don't hold any mystical understanding of ordination that would suggest I experienced some ontological change in my being upon ordination – though, as Sarcastic Lutheran put it on the day of her ordination (sorry, I can't find the link to her ordination post), how can you not be changed by all that prayer?  Though I won't attribute this change to my new "status" or funky new clothing or neat title, I cannot deny that my life has significantly changed since ordination.

For starters, I have real work to do, and less down-time.  For the months leading up to my ordination and call, I was working part-time at the congregation where I had served my internship, giving me the chance to blog and dabble in some volunteering at my daughter's school and make lunch each week for a certain political campaign's local office.  But even when I was on internship, I was, well, an intern – responsible for projects, yes, and various other tasks, but I didn't carry the kind of responsibility that I do now.  I learned tons on internship, an experience for which I'm terribly grateful, but there's something, well, different about what I'm doing now.

I'm settled down.  Not my personality, mind you, but my life.  I'm ordained and called to a congregation, and my wife has a tenure-track teaching position at a seminary.  We haven't been this settled . . . ever.  For the first time in the past many years, I'm looking at career and life through a longer lens – no longer in one-year increments (a year on the hospital chaplaincy residency, a year on internship … ) but in five-year increments, even longer.  I'm settled, and am hunkering down for the long haul.  And it feels good.

And I'm awed.  I'm awed by the faith and life I'm witnessing in my congregation.  You see, as a parish pastor I get a front row to the life and faith of a community of believers . . . and what I see is just amazing.  Last week I preached about church being that place where we can and should bring our suffering, our rejection, our death (contra Peter; see Mark 5:31ff), for it is in Word and Sacrament and the fellowship of believers that we encounter the One who suffered, who was rejected, who died.  Later in that service, then, I could hardly fight back tears as I spoke the words, "This is the body of Christ, given for you," to a few elderly folks for whom the physical act of getting out of bed and coming to church is such a gargantuan effort.

And so with less free time, a longer view on life and ministry, and more time spent taking in the awe-inspiring experiences of faith and ministry . . . I am challenged to reclaim my blogging space.  And though returning to the blogosphere isn't high on my priority list right now – Word, Sacrament, youth ministry, education ministry, pastoral visitations, etc. are higher on the list – I want to get there, for it is in the blogosphere where I have found a community of believers and leaders who have taught me so much and who have so much to offer me.

Perhaps I'll start by simply sharing some ideas . . . we had a pretty successful intergenerational Stations of the Cross activity two Sundays ago.  And this weekend I'm chaplaining a Confirmation event for our synod where I'll be sharing some reflections on Christian identity using the popular animated movie Toy Story 2.  OK.  There's fodder for two posts.  Let' see how this goes . . .

Under Renovation: Grand Re-Opening Soon

After nearly three months away from the blog – not coincidentally, my first three months as a parish pastor – I've decided to return to the blog, though not without a few changes.  In the parish I have encountered many challenging theological issues, and witnessed many wonderful examples of faith in action, and I would like to use this platform to share these challenges and experiences. 

So, keep your eye here, your feedreader subscribed here . . . after some housecleaning I'll be posting some new content.  Soon.

It has served its purpose

This blog – as a host for my thoughts and feelings, reflections and rants, questions and quandaries – has served its purpose.  As a place for personal punditry and faithful reflection, this blog is done.  Over.  Kaput.  Finished.  Dead.

Well, almost.

For now I'll keep this blog up and running, and perhaps fashion it in the form of Clint's blog, who posts links and compelling quotes and other brief items, but who rarely opines online.  Eventually, perhaps I'll transform this blog into one such as Mark Daniel's, posting lectionary reflections, sermons, and thoughtful reflections on the news.  Perhaps.

But as I enter a new phase of my calling – that of a parish pastor – I'm quickly realizing that I'd do better to read more and write less, to pray more and play the pundit less, to be still and know that the Lord is God more, and busy myself with blogging less . . . I'll be reading fewer blogs much less frequently, too.

This blog has been a great blessing to me for more than three and a half years, a place for me to share ideas and learn much, to grow and be challenged, to express myself and to try something new.  I am thankful for the various people who have commented, who read, who are part of my online community.  You have been part of my formation as a pastor, as a person of faith, as a child of God.  Thank you.

A blessed Christmas season and New Year to all.

Peace to you.

Signing off for a little bit

My three readers will shout for joy and dance in the street at this announcement – I'm not going to blog for the next week or two.  Why not?  Next week is a little busy.

Monday, December 15: start new job as Associate Pastor
Tuesday, December 16: move to new house
Saturday, December 20: ordination
Sunday, December 21: preaching at my first service as an ordained pastor
Wednesday, December 24: first time presiding at the Lord's Table

So, it'll be busy in the Duckworth/Zephyr household in the coming days.  I'll post some thoughts and pictures from ordination when that happens, but probably not much else until then . . .

Peace to you.