Technology has given churches the opportunity to shares messages through vehicles that expand far beyond the church bulletin. Now there are websites and Facebook and Twitter, and blogging. Websites are expected to be about the 'business' of the church - filled with contact information, and facts, and a 'company description.' With Twitter, you need to send your messages in 140 characters or less. Facebook is for linking to friends and getting out quick messages that can spread like wildfire.
Blogging, however, is an open book. In fact, it's a type of online book.
According to Blogger, a blog hosting site, "A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world. Your blog is whatever you want it to be. There are millions of them, in all shapes and sizes, and there are no real rules.
"In simple terms, a blog is a web site, where you write stuff on an ongoing basis. New stuff shows up at the top, so your visitors can read what's new. Then they comment on it or link to it or email you. Or not."
For Reed Baer, pastor of West Parish of Barnstable UCC, having a blog has been a good spiritual practice.
"I started the blog as a way to reach out to members of the congregation who often find themselves elsewhere on Sundays because of their increasingly busy and hectic work and family lives," he said. "We have a number of folk who travel a lot on business as well, and it occurred to me that they might find time on a plane or at a hotel overnight to read a short piece which might speak to their spirit, and which would provide a grounding for them that they might not even know they are missing."
In "SpiritSightingsInTheSand: a Cape Cod Pastor's Spiritual Reflections" Baer blogs about looking for a God-sign among the dunes, on Main Street, and everywhere. He has addressed the anxiety all around us, and preached about keeping one's spiritual life from becoming a fallow ground. He also posts timely thoughts, like last week's Martin Luther King comments.
"I try to post at least twice a week, because I think if people are going to keep coming back to it, the blog needs to be fresh," he said. "One of the postings is often a redacted sermon. I try to post a picture or photograph with each, as I find it makes the entry more visually appealing, and often lends itself to reflection in its own right."
Baer spends about two hours a week on average on his blog, and finds that the hardest part is waiting for the topic of the reflection to come to him, after which the writing comes a bit easier.
Setting up the blog itself wasn't very difficult either. A member of the congregation who is handy with technology and has a blog of her own, set Baer up with the blog on blogspot.com (it is a free site, run by Google). Wordpress is another popular blog hosting site. With two hours of help Baer had all the knowledge he needed to get up and running. Baer thinks that most people could probably learn it themselves very easily.
Baer has taken his blog one step further. With the click of a mouse his blog entry can be uploaded to his Facebook page, with the result that it gets sent to his Facebook friends around the world (most of them are not connected with this congregation). He has found that the Facebook friends often read the entries and even link them to other friends, so the distribution is far wider than he had ever imagined.
"I have received favorable feedback from many people -- enough so that it inspires me to carry this forward," Baer said. In fact, one blog reader commented on his Thanksgiving article by thanking him and sending blessings via the comment button.
"Additionally, I have found that it has been a good spiritual practice for me, as it keeps me attuned for sightings of the Spirit in ways I had not been before."
Reed Baer can be reached at the church office at 508.362.4445 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Massachusetts Conference occasionally posts links to the blogs of pastors and other MACUCC leaders in the "Local Buzz" section of the Conference website. Let Tiffany Vail know about your blog by emailing email@example.com.