Friday, 11 April 2014

Striding On - a sermon

Striding On Into The Digital Age –A Sermon  - by Kate Ladd- 2/4/2013

As some of you may have heard Joseph and I have a new addition to our home, a new puppy, who we have named Ollie. I was as excited getting him as I was when I was expecting Joseph. Though like babies puppies don’t exactly come with ‘one for all’ manual. Each one is different but there are of course many sources of information and advice in various forms. My favourite guide is that of the guru famously known as Google. 
Google is the world’s largest online search engine which has resources in the billions. For those of you who aren't familiar with Google, all it requires is that you turn on your computer or laptop, plug it into a phone line with the internet and then access the World Wide Web.

The web, in its shortened form, can sometimes feel like you’re a little fish swimming in the middle of the ocean. You can drown in the terminology of technical jargon alone. Like the topic of this talk, for example, social media. Social media is an interactive means for people to meet in a virtual existence, to connect and create an online community. These can be in several forms from online newspapers, magazines and blogs, where readers are encouraged to write replies or views to the articles, or to a networking platform such as Facebook or twitter.  Facebook and Twitter are the most talked about and publicised of the social media networks and have helped families and businesses connect from across the globe.

But what does any of this have to do with religion I hear you ask. Well simply all and nothing.  There are many religious entities which believe it isn't necessary to join the twenty first century and embrace the use of technology and all that comes with it. Yet there are others, like me, who believe it is essential to keep up with the times, to keep the Church alive.

Why?

Can’t our Church survive without the use of social media? Yes it can if we merely want to survive. But what if we want it to thrive? We have to embrace the movement and thank God for this wonderful gift so that we can spread his voice for all to hear, well technically read.

I would like to share with you all my own personal experiences of how social media has brought me closer to God.

In the summer I went to a conference with five hundred like- minded delegates. It was a conference for bloggers. A blogger is someone who writes an online website log, generally in a journal form documenting their inspirations, thoughts and life. I started my website log, blog, back in 2009 when Joseph was born as a way to start my career in writing. I had hoped a famous publisher would stumble across my work and offer me a publishing contract right away. Three years later I realised that it takes a lot more than a crafty quip, but time, talent and dedication. Back to the conference, then, I attended several seminars on how to improve my writing, how I can use photography to enhance my writing and I met some of the best friends I have ever had the honour of knowing. I met some fantastic contacts and through handing out my makeshift business cards it wasn’t long before I was asked to write reviews for companies such as Tesco, Petplan and Warner Bros.
Soon after the hype of the conference had died down and everyone in the blogosphere had knuckled down to work a sombre tone began to appear in everyone’s writing.

A pro-blogger, a queen bee of blogging, if you will, had become very poorly. A young mother of three called Kerry had suffered a brain haemorrhage and was in a coma in hospital. As you can imagine to those of us who had met her in person, messaged her online or simply read her blog, it came as a shock. It was so sudden and there was no warning. That was in July. In November last year the entire blogging community including dads, business persons, local councils and news reporters united in a prayer day for Kerry even though she wasn't a devout Christian. It was suggested that if one did not have Christian faith that they make a wish for Kerry and her family since she had seemingly taken a turn for the worst.

Sadly Kerry lost her battle on the 14th December but I know how touched her husband, family and friends were that such an enormous amount of support was and continues to be given to them in their hour of need.  As Jesus said in Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

I would never have known of this bond between virtual strangers had it not been for the internet and my own blog and I only hope that my prayer helped Kerry in one way.

As I mentioned before I use various forms of social networking for work and to generally keep me sane from motherhood. One of my popular uses is Twitter. Twitter is slightly different to most other sites in that you can only send messages of 140 characters.  Since I am only half way through this speech you can see how much of a challenge I would find that.

Twitter is home to many a celebrity, owners tweeting as though they were there pet, bloggers of course and even The Queen.  I don’t follow The Queen but I do follow God, or those tweeting on his behalf. From clergy members, like Father Darren from St Georges, to laypeople and celebrity Christians such as the professional surfer Bethany Hamilton and the author Beth Redman. I take hope and inspiration from individuals who have taken the time to write their entire Church services into 140 characters long. I have found many a new Bible passage or psalm from them. Some post breath taking pictures while others post their own prayers or meditations.

This has helped me hear the voice of the Lord louder than before and has given me strength to spread His love. Another virtual friend, one whom I have never met, sent me a private message on Twitter to ask me to pray for her when I came to Church. I said of course but what I can pray for in particular? She opened up to me about how her partner had to give up work in order to look after her and their son as she too wasn't very well. It didn't seem like much at the time but upon reflection I helped a non- Church goer hear the voice of our Lord from simply tweeting one Sunday morning, ‘Right I'm off to Church now folks’.

As the rev. Wendy read in Psalm 29 last week: The voice of the Lord is a powerful voice; the voice of the Lord, is a voice of splendour.

That is it, for not only have I reached out to several people through social media but virtual friends have also reached out to me. I could reel off example of example of how God has guided me to people in their hour of need and how he has guided people to me but I fear we’ll soon be running out of time.
These are but a few positive examples of how I have engaged with God’s Love in the community, albeit through a computer screen. However, there have been some negative aspects of social media and religion.
As with anything things can be taken in the wrong way or out of context and sadly there are just some very misguided minds beyond these walls. Nowhere is safe, even when you are sitting at a desk spreading the good news, there will undoubtedly be someone, somewhere trying to quash it instantaneously. This not only destroys Churches and the people in it, it can blacken the name that we know to be good. God.

So why bother?

I would love nothing more than to reach out, spread the word of our Lord and to see our congregation grow. One of the ways of doing that is by promoting our Church. I am not suggesting we start a live video feed every Sunday services but that we stride on in this digital age and catch up with like-minded Churches and organisations.

Why not start a blog which we can feature on our website? We have so much talent and beauty before us that need not be confined to these four walls. If I alone can touch the lives of so many with 140 characters just think how many lives could be changed if we all tried.
Here are a few words from a poem I had to stop and write on the way to dropping Joseph at school: 

‘Stride on stride on till I reach you. Loving you is all I can seem to do. With arms outstretched I’ll take yet another step. I’ll keep on until I reach you.’

Thanks for listening.
Amen.

Until next time,
Every Blessing

Kate at S-T-O-C-K-S

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