Some thoughts on church,
and postmodernism,
and how it is that we find integrity and wholeness
in our varied forms of worship
and understandings of God.

An Entry Point

I've organized this blog chronologically from its inception, which is backwards from how most blogs are organized. Basically that means that the dates you see for each post to the right are imaginary. Don't worry about it. They show up in the right order...think of the "older posts" link as a "next" button.

And a BIG THANKS! to those who were willing to be interviewed, and who offered suggestions. You're really good sports, and I'm glad to know you (even though I've only ever really met Jay Voorhees, and I'm not sure that we did more than show up at the same seminar once).


Interview with Amy Forbus on Blogging and Online Community

Amy Forbus is a UM layperson, a RevGalBlogPal, and the Digital Community Builder for UMPortal. Here's my interview with her: Anne:Your job title with the UM Reporter is “Digital Community Builder”, but you’ve told me that’s a bit of a misnomer. What do you do, and what would be a more appropriate job title? Amy:Some tasks match my job description very well: I do pursue opportunities to build relationships for UMR using the Internet, including blogging and reading others’ blogs, social networking, and e-mail dialogue. I also lead a few workshops here and there dealing with blogging, Web sites, and online communites. Most recently I’ve presented at the Texas Conference School of Christian Mission, Roundup (a Northwest Texas/New Mexico Conference annual event), and UMR’s own Editors Conference, which I’m preparing to do again in January. I also led the way in launching the Reporter Blog ( As a member of the News staff, I always keep an eye out for postings from Methobloggers that could translate well into print, and I pitch those as potential commentaries to our managing editor, (who is also my supervisor). That’s how Will Deuel, Matt Judkins, Natalie Stadnick, and Guy Kent have wound up in the print edition. I write some features for the paper that focus on aspects of digital community (a Q&A with Real Live Preacher, features on RevGalBlogPals and The Young Clergy Women Project). My other area of interest is young adults, as I’m quickly aging out of that category myself. That topic doesn’t always have an overt “digital community” connection. Other tasks are “digital,” but they don’t directly deal with community: updating the UMPortal each weekday, setting up the weekly Sneak Preview email blast, proofing stories as I load them on the UMPortal, training and providing support to customers who have local-church-customized versions of the UMPortal. These tasks sometimes add up to the majority of my work week, and on those days I feel much less like a “digital community builder.” I’m not sure what a more appropriate job title would be, though. My supervisor has suggested making me a staff writer, but that doesn’t quite cover it, and honestly, I’m a little hesitant to do much more writing because of my other responsibilities. Anne: You mentioned in your profile on Locusts & Honey about the Methoblogger meetup in January at the Congress on Evangelism. I started my blog while I was there, but didn’t really connect there with any of the bloggers. Since then I’ve got to know you a bit, and found Gavin to be very supportive and welcoming during my mother-in-law’s last illness. Tell me a little about your experience with blogging, and with the RevGalBlogPals webring. How did you get started and connected? Do you feel like there’s ministry taking place there, or relationships forming? Amy: I originally blogged anonymously, and as having nothing to do with United Methodism; my blog was actually a creative-writing exercise designed as an attempt to escape the church in some small area of my life. Then I found some Methobloggers, and I couldn’t stay away. So, I found myself posting on my own blog in character (my dog Cub), and commenting on others’ blogs as myself (DogBlogger). Once when I posted a comment on John the Methodist’s blog, he visited mine and recommended it (he called it “delightful”—I’m still happy about that). I stayed relatively anonymous until I decided to attend the Methoblogger meetup at Congress on Evangelism in January 2007. I prepared myself by taking a couple of more private items off the blog, e-mailing with several others who would be attending, and finally joining RevGalBlogPals, where I’d been playing the Friday Five already. When I got there and they asked about my blog, I braced myself as I said, “I’m DogBlogger.” The reaction was far more positive than I expected. Jay Voorhees immediately added me to the MethoBlogroll and set me up as a contributor to the site. And, all of us had a wonderful time getting to know each other offline. I discovered the RevGalBlogPals webring through some of the women Methobloggers’ blogs I encountered, and got connected by simply jumping into the mix. There is definitely some real ministry happening there… marriages have broken up, pregnancies have been lost, family members have died, and the community has supported those people at each of their blogs. Once when Cub was having a series of blood tests with uncertain results, another RevGalBlogPal who has only a four-footed child reached out to me, and we corresponded by e-mail quite a bit – she revealed her secret identity and everything. That was ministry to me. Also, many of these women have felt isolated working in church professions, and the network of colleagues who are also friends has been precious to many of them. I’ve done a few small meetups, including a completely accidental one, and I’m planning to attend the Big Event meetup in March. Anne: You pointed me to Nu Faith as one example of a church doing online ministry. What are your thoughts on the role of the internet in developing individuals’ faith and faith communities? Amy: For individuals’ faith, I do think the Internet can have a valuable place, but it shouldn’t be the end goal for one’s spiritual life. I also realize there’s a lot of content out there that falls outside of my theological standards. For example, most people have received what I call “Christian blackmail messages,” in which you’re given some lovely (or all-too-syrupy) statements about God, then threatened with something like, “If you don’t send this to everyone on your address book, then you don’t love Jesus!” I can’t adequately express my level of disdain for that sort of… crap. Yes, I think “crap” is the valid theological term there. My first thought for an online faith community is, “It only works with the right combination of people.” Even in groups that meet in-person, an online component doesn’t always work well, especially when not everyone has the same level of dedication to, or interest in, e-mail communication. I’ve seen some fallout from those differences happen within my own local church. For those who are comfortable establishing or continuing relationships online, though, I think it can be life-changing. I’ve seen that happen, too. Anne: What are your thoughts on how the UMC is engaging in ministry to postmodernism? Amy: Yes, there are some places where it’s fruitful, but I think many churches are doing it out of a sense of fear and their need for denominational self-preservation. Then, there are those who don’t really engage at all, for a variety of excuses. My part of the country is a place where it’s pretty common to church-hop, and I think that complicates the issue. Are we making disciples, or trying to steal ready-made ones? I’m sure I have many more thoughts on this topic, but I’m not articulating them well at the moment. Anne: As a layperson, how would you like to see church happen? What does church mean to you? Do you have a vision for what ministry to postmodern culture might look like? Amy: I would like to see church happen in a way that goes beyond the surface; where the answer to “How are you?” doesn’t automatically have to be, “Fine, and you?” I would like to see church happen differently, more intentionally. If people are showing up on Sundays for the same old thing because that’s how it’s always been, I’d like them to be willing to step outside of that comfort zone. What if more than two or three people in the room actually expected the Holy Spirit to show up? Imagine the possibilities. To me, church means community, relationship, sharing, expression, brokenness, truthfulness, healing, spiritual growth – and it can happen any time, not just on Sundays. I love it when church happens when you’re not trying. Anne: What frustrates you the most about how the UMC is looking at ministry in the future? What gives you the most hope? Amy: I think the thing that frustrates me most may be the same thing that gives me hope, in a terrifying sort of way. It seems as though everybody’s doing a bunch of hand-wringing about the fact that we’re aging, a huge wave of clergy retirements will hit us within the next 10 to 15 years, and we’re shrinking. That frustrates me the most, that we can’t seem to agree on what to do with that information. But what gives me the most hope is that the church will have no choice but to look very different in the next 10 to 15 years. It’s terrifying because I don’t know how that will turn out, but sometimes the only way things will change and grow is when they’re forced to do so. It’s going to be interesting to be wrapped up in this shift. United Methodism is an organism, and organisms have life cycles. The questions I’m waiting to see answered: Are we willing to die to self as a denomination, and if so, what kind of new birth will we have? Anne: If you could shout one thing to the world about the church or ministry or Christ, what would it be? Amy: We’ll be doing a lot more than bickering at General Conference. Unfortunately, the bickering is what makes headlines. Don’t judge all of Christianity by looking at the demonstrators or the secular news stories.

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About Me

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I am a United Methodist (UM) pastor, married to a UM pastor, which makes life entertaining from time to time. I am a newly minted D. Min--yes, that's Rev. Dr. Anne, to you. I am a learner and teller of stories, looking at how we share faith and relationships. Any views I express here are not necessarily United Methodist views: they are mine.