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Beginning of Comm Project
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I was back in Cincinnati after leaving Phoenix in 1985. I was planning
to pursue work in church communications, so I took a job selling video
as a temporary measure, so I could begin to do some independent production
work. I settled back in video sales and installation for 4 years. Along
the way we had our first child in 1989. The day before our son Brian was
born, we were in a Cokesbury (Methodist) book store where I saw abook
by Dennis Benson, whom I had spoken with on a couple of occasions during
my youth work days, and so I looked at the back cover to see what he was
doing. He was director of the Master of Arts in Religious Communication
at United Theological Seminary in Dayton. The next day and a while after
was quite distracting, what with the new baby, but in October, I visited
Dennis and returned to sit in on one of his classes. I began in January
1990. I felt I had come all this way in the church, and now the way was
beginning to narrow down to focus me on where I had been getting prepared
to offer my best gifts.
Janet said it sounded like me. We set off on an uncertain (and expensive)
journey, sensing that this was the correct path. I felt ready, and moving
forward with the call I was sensing.
I went in thinking video production, but it was not that specific technology
which was to capture my attention. Ken Bedell became my advisor, and a
work study project was given to me to help- research how we might do distance
education through videoconferencing. I also did work in the studio with
wiring and getting things working again, as well as assessing needs there.
The computers for desktop video needed upgrading, and I discovered some
presentation applications that we used to do our senior project presentations.
I began to see, through my research and experiences in videoconferencing
and distance education that a communications shift was rapidly arriving.
As I prepared for graduation, I put together a proposal to the seminary
to create an "Education Technology" director. I was seeing more
focused now ----the future was becoming clearer, only what my role was
to be was not so clear. It was a point of anxiety, particularly after
my efforts went nowhere. I went to Circuit City to do more sales while
I sought out what to do. Circuit City opened a Computer department, and
I was learning a lot in the process. I got my first PC and began exploring
the applications and the online services. A year later, after Circuit
City's Computer department trimmed back staff, and I left to go work in
a friend's business and then left disappointed with that work.
I was at CAMCON (Computers and Ministry Conference) in Dayton. (October
1992, 36 years old). I had begun to dream a dream about the shape of online
possibilities for the church. I called the dream "A Compuserve for
the Church", and I opened a discussion of it on Ecunet.(Still going
strong.) I started doing a business of my own (Home entertainment electronics
installation), which hasn't been that successful. My hope at the beginning
of my business was that I could do this to support us, and give me the
schedule flexibility to be able to research and pursue this work in Church
I had begun to get some clarification on my "place" in ministry.
As I looked back on what I had always been interested in as a child (tape
recorders, movie projectors, VCRs, etc.), and then books and resources
as I got to college and on to seminary, and then youth ministry where
I did a lot of "observation" and "assessment of the media
with my groups. As I focused on media in music, TV, and movies, I became
acquainted with the work of Dennis Benson, an early pioneer in use of
"multimedia" and other mediated experiences with youth. In Dennis'
early days, it was projectors , film, popular music, -----now the use
of multimedia is becoming easier to put together (at least quicker---if
you have some of the tools---and these are getting more accessible economically
and in ease of use.
I've only in the last few days been playing with a computer presentation
program called "Freelance Graphics for Windows" which is amazingly
simple. It allows use of video clips captured (recorded with a PC) and
It made a lot of sense to me to look at where I had been travelling to
get to where I was. Unfortunately, in the past year it seems to be a pretty
tough sell to the church and her organizations. Since finishing my Communication
degree at United in 1991, and getting no response from United about hiring
an Education Technology Director, I have been very frustrated with finding
a place to use my talents and put bread on the table at the same time.
I've been doing my inhome elecctronics installations, but it has been
a struggle to get enough business, which is still another blow to my sense
of leadership in that I have been unsuccessful at self-employment.
It's not that I see myself as lacking the skills to do what I do, because
I am certainly very talented and knowledgable about setting up home entertainment
systems and providing solutions to the confusion people here in Cincinnati
experience with this cable system. But it is difficult to fight the attitudes
of the big retailers and the cable company here when they want to appear
as if they are providing enough "customer service" when they
really do a horrible job at helping people deal with the problem of hooking
it all up right when they get their new stuff home. Usually, the whole
problem is ignored, and VCRs and TVs are sold with no warnings or information
about using unique features with the Cable system here. And so I am largely
ignored when I try to offer myself as a third party service for their
customers. And Circuit City says they are "where service is state
of the art" (more like "lip service").
And so now I find myself thinking again about the things I could be doing
for the church somewhere. (My reason for going into business for myself
was to enable me some freedom to work on some of these communication projects,
and go to events and visit seminaries and churches and see about getting
a BBS project going) . Since I proposed the Education Technology idea
to United 2 ½ years ago, so much has happened in the communications world.
At that time I had entitled it "An Immodest Proposal", meaning
bold and adventurous. Now it is the way of the business world and of organizations
in general. It is assumed technology. Gotta have it.
I sent a copy of an idea I was thinking about to Trinity Grants program.
It was about Electronic Publishing: getting conventional documents and
reference volumes into electronic, searchable, organized form where it
can be networked among users, utilized more effectively, and ultimately
cheaper to distribute and use. Imagine being able to search the database
of information (text, graphics, audio, video) compiled by a teacher AND
by the class ---and all classes that went before. As a class is offered
again, the work of those before is all available as material for consideration.
No more books on reserve. The places of interest can be scannned and put
online. Comments of everyone can be "attached" to any file (again,
files consisiting of one or more elements of text, video, audio, graphics,
etc.) I listed about $20,000 worth of hardware to do some experimenation
and development of electronic documents for the theological education
community and for use in distance education/ education networking.
A representative wrote back and said that their grants for 93 and 94 were
focusing on projects for helping the global south benefit from technology.
My particular idea for Electronic publishing research is not specific
to global south issues, but I do feel that if the church begins to utilize
these technologies to help upgrade the communication efforts, the global
south will certainly benefit. I hope that this is so. I would hate to
be working for such changes in the way the church communicates only to
see these media become a barrier between people.
I find myself caught between the real world of having to find the ways
of keeping an income to allow myself and Janet to keep up with the family
budget. It hasn't gone well (we haven't been "keeping up", and
largely due to the many failures of my business, and my stubborness in
refusing to back off of putting so much time into trying to make it work.
When I had first begun my installation business (last November), I was
doing well. By January 1993, we were doing well enough that we felt safe
enough to increase the payment on our house and cut the loan to 15 years
from 30 (due to refinancing at a lower rate).
Now it looks as though we'd better hurry and return it to a 30 year, at
an even lower rate. Also, most frustrating of all is that Janet does not
understand what I am all excited about. In her defense, I'm not making
any money in this arena for all my interest. Most of you are working in
the church in some capacity. I left fulltime ministry in 1985, and served
part-time in 1990-91. I've had resumes out to the Methodists, Presbyterians,
and American Baptists, but I feel that I burned a lot of bridges by leaving
8 years ago.