Friday, April 17, 2015

The Gift of Digital Community

I have an essay in this book.  There are
some incredible writers in this book.
Have you bought your copy yet?
They said ministry was hard.  Isolating.  They said that you needed to watch your boundaries.  They said it was impossible to be friends with parishioners, and that in a small town, really, everyone qualifies as a parishioner.  They said if you wanted to be a real person - to express your problems, to let your hair down - you might just need to go out of town to do that.

They said it's hard to be healthy.  They said that family doesn't get it, that the busy times of a minister and family holiday traditions don't mesh.  They said there would be disagreements and major frustration. They said there is an insurmountable gap gap between those who are theologically trained, those in the pews and those in the community.

For these reasons, and others, they said ministry was lonely.  (You know the voices. You know the tales they tell. Some of them are true.  Others?  Well, we'll get to that.)  

Thanks be to God that I came to ministry in the Internet age.

First, I discovered the gift that online commentaries were for sermon preparation and Bible study.  Then, I found blogs written by wise, witty, gifted ministers - lay and clergy both - many who happened to be women.  I saw a little box at the side of one of these blogs, and followed the RevGalBlogPals link from one blog to another.

I read daily features carrying prayers, musings, advice.  Where would I be if I didn't check in with Ask the Matriarch every Thursday?  If I didn't have Lectionary Leanings and the 11th Hour Preacher Party to sharpen my sermon ideas?  If I didn't have the exceptionally beautiful and truth-telling prayers of the RevGals' director Martha Spong to hearten me when I stepped into the church on Sunday?  The RevGals and other trusted digital communities have been my companions on the journey. Their wisdom has made me a better pastor and a better Christian.

I was a lurker on and on the RevGals Facebook group long before I made my presence known; I'm the kind of person who sits or stands at the edge of the room to soak it all in.    When I got my own blog, it took me a while to join the RevGals.  I didn't yet see myself as a writer or a blogger. My voice was for me, and my family, and my faith community; I didn't think it was big enough to be shared with the world.  Then, one day, I felt brave enough to post my first comment. Another day, to share one of my blog posts.  Still later, I was brave enough to send an email, and my name appeared in the blogroll on the right-hand side of the page.

And one day last year, when the call went out for submissions for a RevGals book, in a fit of 'Why Not?', I sent in my little proposal paragraph and another writing sample. (Pardon me, while I flap my hands and's still not quite real.)  I wrote and edited my essay amid a chaotic summer of moving and ministry.  The first draft came easily...the Story was aching to get out into the world. That was the year I started calling myself a writer, as well as a pastor.

Yes, I'm writing this blog post because I want you to read the book.  I'm also writing this blog post because one of the RevGals organized us into a blog tour, and apparently I get to keep company with these amazing women.  There's A Woman in the Pulpit will give you a sense of the diversity of RevGal writers, and the heart they bring to their writing and pastoral work.  You know you need a good cry and a good laugh and a good aha moment.  I've read some of these writers for years, and I can assure you, every minute will be worth it.

I am also writing this blog post as testimony.  So many of us have given so much weight to the voices like those that began this essay.  They - the voices of brokenness, division, and suspicion and caution - seldom carry good news.  I am grateful that I am learning not to listen to them.

For me, the RevGals and these other supportive networks are a different they.  A they for the digital age, and a they which belongs to the Realm of God.  This new and beautiful they is about building up the Body of Christ, the kinship of colleagues who minister around the world.

You have heard it said, "you will be alone."  You have heard it said, "you will be lonely." But the RevGals and other sources of digital community said unto me, "Some days are lonely.  But you are never alone."  Thanks be to God!

My essay, The Eruption of Story, can be found in the RevGals' recently published book, There's A Woman in the Pulpit, available from Skylight Paths Publishing.  It's also available for e-readers (Kindle, Nook, etc).  In my essay you'll read a little bit about the Holy Spirit, and scripture, and Don Quixote de la Mancha.  C'mon, you know you're curious...


Sharon said...

Beautiful! Thank you for your testimony and your gift of writing.

Diane Roth said...

I am on for Sunday, but haven't gotten my book yet! just downloaded it so I could get going.

thank you for writing! Thank you for blogging.

revhillersblog said...

Thank you, Kerri. A beautiful blog and I look forward to reading your piece in the book. I'm in there also, and also have a squeal of excitement in me! It's my first published writing (apart from my occasional blogging) Good for you - keep telling the stories.