Theology and Blogging/ Blogging and The Church


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Sunday, June 08, 2003
The Pentecost Solution

Community is not entirely physical.  Everyone knows that,  but there is still a lot of protest from traditional Chuyrch circles about how "Virtual Faith" cannot replace the physical gathering.  And I say,  over and over,  its not about REPLACEMENT,  it's about AUGMENTATION.  It's about providign another channel into encouraging of story.  It's about "hearing the voices" of the People of God,  and even as I write this on this "Pentecost morning",  I have the feleing that very few of the people I know are even reading it,  even though I know I keep this weblog,  and update it often,  and often write about things I care deeply about. 

I also know there are people "out there" whom I've nver met face-to-face,  who DO read and who DO write me with encouragement,  and who DO understand some of my frustrations with the very things about the Church that keep me from having a paying job in the Church this very minute.  If the Church cared enough to explore every avenue into people's hearts,  and into their souls,  there are fewer avenues than that of Weblogs,  where thousands are using the avenue of writing to express their deepest angusih,  and their deepest hopes, and articulate enduring dreams that won't go away.

So maybe that's another thing that "compelled me" to SIT and put on a cup of coffee and stay home today.  A sense that I want to celebrate with the people (many of whom are probably at a physical Church meeting right now -- which is great--- I don't discourage that at all) who can understand how I could even think that there could be any portion of that Pentecost Spirit that traverses the ether.  I would say that it can and does exist in direct reverse proportion to the amount of opportunities given in the ftf world to "tell our stories" (meaning,  the fewer and more rare the ftf opportunities,  the more fervent and powerful the online exodus and celebration will be). 

But I proclaim today that this is not a "Solution",  but a resource.  The "Solution" is a community that thrives in every way,  who meet together because the people are complelled to come and be with those with whom they are on a journey.  The online resources avaliable to us toward that end numerous and the possibilities for our community to appropriate them in new and valuable ways are endless. 

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11:12:42 AM    

Friday, June 06, 2003
Search a Public Library from an Amazon Page
This blogger (Blogos-- he seems kind of related to me in his play on the word logos) ,  newly discovered this morning via my  Technorati, link  has this poist about searching a local library (he's in Maryland) using a javascript that gets an ISBN number from Amazon. That would be cool to use.  I have often done that (all manually , of course).  Probably not Amazon's favorite kind of idea,  but I like it. 
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11:07:16 AM    

Wednesday, June 04, 2003
Where do we start?

A friend  on another system asked a question:

 if we are sure that this vision of the future that has blogs and online community as key facets is the right one, how do we make that future happen? What do we need to be doing to nudge society, even church societies, in that direction?

 My immediate reply in How We Can Begin (but realizing ,  especially after I wrote it,  that I started ranting,  but good ranting,  I think.  In any event,  more needs to be said.  There never seems to be enough of the questions such as the one in italics above.

I also, in my reply linked above,   broke into a lot of "Cluetrain-ish" kinds of "Come on, get a clue" type of confrontation (apologies to the Cluetrain authors,  who do it and write it much better than I).  Rest assured,  I don't purport to have given all the answers,  or maybe even one in that reply.  But it was a reply that I fully intend to keep boucing up against and bouncing back for more.  It will be with us a long time.  They're attempts to "nudge" (maybe leading toward "busting in the dooor")

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1:41:22 PM    

Wednesday, May 28, 2003
Linking to a Live Audience

I recall a line from the movie Amadeus,  used a couple of times,  as the muscial "elite" in Mozart's time attempted to find some "excuse" to justify their resistance,  even though they all obviously were in wonder at the talent Mozart possessed.  They came up with "Too many notes". 

I recall also,  back in 1994,  as I was writing about the Church and the Web,  I and the educational and sociological  revolutions I saw coming,  I heard that some people were remarking "Too many links".  People were still wanting to read straight-line, point by point presentations.  The number of links I used was no more than the usual: linking to works or sites cited,  and to things usually footnoted in papers,  such as defintions of terms likely unfamiliar to the reader (links provide a way to "digress from the discussion to define or clarify,  while leaving the way wide open for others to read on,  confident that they can always back up and click the link to explore or clarify.  It offers a new style of  conversation in that links can provide SOME members of the audeince an opportunity to "stop" the narrative and "ask the author" for a "for instance" (a good candidate for a link that illustrates a point) or for background,  all without interrupting the narrative for others who want to continue following the narrative. 

Students in class often hesitate to stop the professor by raising their hand and asking a question about something the prof has just said;  they don't want to possibly appear as "slower" than the rest of the crowd,  or "inconvenience" the other students who may already know the answer,  or not care.  This can be particularly true in the case of personal stories,  as in a testimony.  If the teller of the story is apparently "into" the story they are telling,  there is a hesitancy to "interrupt" the energy.  But it may be crucial to one or another listener's understanding of the story.   

In this way, the "telling of our stories" on the Web offer helps to the reception of the story,  and so to the message being properly understood.  It also opens up the field for a longer period of response (could be days, weeks, months, years,  for on the Web,  threads persist over time.  The conversation cancome alive again via one "late-comer's" observation.  (The idea of the thread gives me occasion here to "jump back a few pages,  where Weinberger writes about this attribute of online conversation threads: :

on the Web, our conversational threads lie waiting for us.  When they're done,  they may well be indexed by a search engine where others will find them, perhaps to our embarassment.  The Web carries its history with it as a permanent resource that can be toured or mined. ( p.68)

To a people of the Book,  such as in the Judeo-Christian tradition,  this can be revolutionary. It can impact hermeneutical activity.  If there had been a Web in Paul's day, or earlier, in the history of Israel,  would the dialogical nature of communication available via Threaded discussion forums or "weblogs-as-epistle" cast a different sense of the "authority" each author placed upon the ideas they were communicating?  Would a response from one cause a corresponding clarification or even "backtrack or correction" to the theological idea just communicated,  thus calling into question the "timeless truth" status of the assertion? 

The time lapse experienced between writer and hearer or reader, and the number of people who have "heard" before has an impact on the sense of authority ascribed to the message.  The "many to many" nature of the web and the speed at which a community can respond can call into question the utterances once written on tablets and read before a live audience in a sacred temple space.



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9:22:53 AM    

Tuesday, May 27, 2003
We need labs to develop our enabling Web apps
All of that (the previous post was offered: Some boring technical background of the Weblog building was motivated by the slight hope (perhaps "wishful thinking") that I might be able to find a home and an academic "fellowship" in which to continue this work,  and have a way to get paid to do it or be able to manage the project and make an income, too.  I have ranted before about how the Church needs the kind of entrepeneurship such that it invests in something like an MIT Media Lab (in An MIT for the Church -- there, I just used a shortcut--- see the Some boring technical background of the Weblog building entry below).  The Church has pastors, and theological teachers,  and secretaries and custodians.  It also needs to support the people who can help build the next generation of "communication technology systems" which will enable it to more effectively use not only time and paper but also its people power --like Knowledge Management.  But it goes much deeper than KM.  It's got to do with connecting people with passions for certain things; something that is known in Church structures as "calling".  People often discover that certain callings bring them together in mission with others.  The more "avenues" we enable for these callings to be expressed and explored corporately (ie. in the context of exploring call as a community),  the more effective we are in our community.  I believe so strongly that these web technologies arriving are going to accelerate the pace of  our exposure to ideas and to visions of our people.
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6:14:45 PM    
Some boring technical background of the Weblog building

I do have a few technologies which I have chosen as the candidates for my "online community platform".

.Net "portal" software called DotNetNuke provides a very modular and extensible framework for hosting all kinds of interwoven features,  all stored in a single SQLServer database, a nd includes such modules as a Discussion Module (to add a threaded discussion anywhere,  link lists to which logged on members can contribute,  and a still to be released Weblog component (which is the featrure I most want to add to this.)   I have two weblog platforms I'm now using,  one is a Desktop based "Weblog generator" called Radio Userland (where I am composing this entry for the Theology Project section of my weblog called Theoblogical Community,  on which I have cut my "weblog teeth".  In the past two months,  I have added a "mirror" of thatWeblog in "Movable Type",  and have called that version or instance Movable Theoblogical.  There are still many additional longer articles I have yet to copy from the Radio Userkand version to the Movable Type version,  and still want to do this since there are additional features in MOvable Type that Radio does not yet offer (like "TrackBack",  which is a way for differrnt weblogs to"notify" each other that a reference --- and this usually means a comment--- has been made by another author to this entry ,  and usually shows up as a numeric count of  "Trackback(s)" beneath the entry itself.  Selecting the Trackback link will open a list of links to the entries on other weblogs where this reference has been made.   The other weblog has sent a "Ping" to the referenced weblog as a "notification". 

The Weblog world,  even though mostly based on XML technologies which are touted as "Standardized" are not yet in sync as to how their entries are "tagged" and what additional features are supplied.   The longer articles I wrote in Radio Userland did not get picked up bythe export process I used to convert all the other entries into a format "importable" by the other system.  Further, the entries that did get migrated over have quite a few "Shortcuts" which Radio outputs to the html files as a href links,  but the export tool left in their native "Radio shortcut format" ,, which was simply to enclose the "Shortcut" in double quotes (like "this is a link".  Radio stores the Shortcut names in a special table that it checks for matches to what's in the quotes (which now seems lilke an odd choice to have us unsupsecting Radio "shortcut users" use).  Now I've got all these "quoted" titles ,  many of which are  actually article and entry titles that get converted to html links on the fly when Radio builds the html files with the latest entries included. 

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5:59:41 PM    
How the Online Church concept changes with the technology
A new post in Theology Project, Theology Project 2003 ,  where I take a whack at what my DMin project,  if it were to continue on "where I left off" (Just getting into the implementation of some online community platform).  
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5:36:44 PM    

Sunday, May 25, 2003
Small Pieces Loosely Joined
This site for the Book has all the text (it looks like it does) and discussions branching out in all directions,  creating a lot of "loosely joined pieces"
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12:13:19 PM    

Wednesday, April 02, 2003
New Webhost Possibilities

If things go well with this new webhost that I will be "tinkering with" very soon,  then will be moving over there.  The Church site might also go if the Community Starter Kit seems to be a good framework to use to redesign our Church site.

The following features from the Starter Kit descriptions for "Community Starter Kit" seem to suggest to me that this might be the ticket for what I envision for Church web site development (with a few tweaks of course):

Includes Six Standard Content Modules

  • Articles
    • Self explanatory; basic content
  • Links
    • Enable Church members to contribute and editorialize on links of interest around certain issues
  • Downloads
    • Enable sharing of pdfs, Church publications,  etc.
  • Photo Gallery
    • Enable collaboration on sharing photos taken of Church events,  show off family photos in personal membership area
  • Events
    • Publicize and administer calendar for Church schedule
  • Books
    • Provide area for reccommended books (from staff,  classes, members with posting priveleges)

Create Multiple Communities with a Single Installation

  • Set community quotas
    • Set up content quotas for Staff, Contributors, Editors, and members

Additional Features

  • Send Newsletters
    • To notify the non-Web-savvy or those without affordable access, via email
  • Create voting polls
    • Get a sense of the group around issues, vote on Web content ideas 
  • Supports RSS news feeds and XML Web services
    • Enable customized information to be presented to users who choose to be alerted when appropriate/relevant content and events are added 

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1:21:43 PM    

Saturday, March 22, 2003
A renewed thesis: Opportunities for the Church in Online Community
I have been thinking about the Doctorate of Ministry (aka DMin) program that started me on this "Church and the Web" vocational journey.  I had completed all the steps save the final project back in the Spring of 1997,  just prior to my moving to Nashville to work fulltime.  I regret having abandoned that program,  but I was consumed in rapidly acquiring every Web development skill I could in order to "keep up" and stay abreast of needed Web development skills.  Perhaps it's not a dead issue.  Many of those original convictions expressed in those papers written between 1993 and 1997 are still valid, but in need of update as new Web technologies have come and gone.  The options for providing community tools and "places" as a ministry of the Church,  have grown dramatically.  Would there be a DMin program that could help me complete or "re-engage" with those directions?   (The papers I had thus far submitted can be seen here)
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10:19:01 AM    

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