Twitter, the web and bad impressions.

Several UM conferences now use twitter. I know of three, West Virginia, Texas and South Carolina. These conferences are doing good work.

That doesn’t mean that I think you have to twitter in order to be an effective conference. Twitter does not make disciples, nor do good web pages, or great UM reporter inserts. However, it does show that you’re thinking about such things. It shows you are looking for ways to communicate.

Look at the web pages for those three UM conference: South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia. They all have current events, relevant links and great information. They present the conference the denomination and the church well. Now, go look at some other United Methodist conferences. Pick three. There are some really bad ones out there. I met one of the people I follow on twitter because he was noticing how bad some of them are.

I know our conference budgets are limited. Budgets are being scrutinized everywhere. Many conferences are probably using volunteer help and hosting for their pages. Fine, have a simple web page with phone numbers, links and a calendar. But do whatever you’re doing well.

If I go to your web page and get “upcoming advent celebrations!” what should I think? If you link me to another web page that doesn’t have anything to do with the link I just clicked, how long do you think I’ll stay on your site? If I email your pastors with a question or concern, how long will it take to hear back from them? I recently emailed a pastor with a comment: no response for six days and counting.

So what? I should do something. I’m complaining, but I can help. You can too. You’re reading a blog, so you’ve got more experience than others in the church. Maybe you can help proofread the website for you church. Maybe you can just make sure to check the conference website once a week and encourage the guy who works on it. We have good news to share, peace to proclaim. Christ is Lord! Let us share the news in a way that is worthy of the King of Kings.

Christian non-Christian music

It now seems trite for a Christian to say “I don’t like contemporary Christian music”, but somebody’s still buying all those cds and concert tickets or there would be no market. And actually, there’s such a broad range of Christian music now that you can’t lump it all together. Several people I know recommended Derek Webb, and that has kept me looking for good Christian music and finding lots of songs and streams that I hadn’t seen before because of the tangled thickets of theologically and musically worthless songs that hid them.

However, I also like songs that have themes that are Christian even though they’re not made for a specifically Christian audience. Musically these songs are often superior to Christian songs because they’re not necessarily starting out with the message in mind. As a good Wesleyan, I see prevenient grace in these songs. God calls even when people may not realize the call is there.

This video is not a complex example of this idea. It’s obviously a humanist perspective. You don’t have to be Christian to appreciate it. It’s also not a new song, just an old one that I came at through a twitter search. The producer’s name is Christian Falk. It’s not a type of music that I am drawn to, but it’s worth hearing.

twitter, tech and the church

I’ll admit I’m a newcomer to twitter, but I’ve been on the internet since it was in black and white, so I’m fairly comfortable with technology, and I think that twitter has some interesting possibilities for churches. Soon, I’ll read a copy of Twitter for Churches but first I want to share a brief story that makes me wonder about many ways that this tool, and probably others like it, can be used.

I’m just getting into exploration of twitter, so I like to search for things. I found a local friend who tweets or twitters or whatever the proper verb is by using nearbytweets. Great. I searched for anything mentioning methodist using tweetdeck, though you can also just use twitter search.

When I was doing some searches, I found someone who was not happy with the church near his home. He was unhappy enough that he tweeted about it. This is feedback that the church could never get just by walking around the neighborhood, and it was good info. to have. What other ways might this help us to be better neighbors to the world?

I love facebook, the many apps available from Google and now twitter. Despite the fact that none of them were invented with the church in mind, I hope that churches can figure out the many ways that these tools can be used to strengthen the church, Lord willing.

Death, Jonah and Somerset Maugham

Jonah is the lectionary text I’m fixated on this morning. In 4 chapters, it has so much to say about us and our petulance. The inevitability of Jonah preaching to the Ninevites also reminds me of this old story, told here by W. Somerset Maugham. It probably helps that both stories take place in what is now Iraq.

The speaker is Death

There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threating getsture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

First UMC Memphis cornerstone details

Here’s the full release:

Historical artifacts from First United Methodist
(“First Church”) were revealed on this cold
and wintry day of January 17, 2009, as the cornerstone of
the burned out sanctuary was opened for the first time in
over 119 years.

The cornerstone, located in the last partial remaining wall
of the First Church sanctuary that burned October 6, 2006,
will be taken down soon by controlled demolition to be
reused in the new sanctuary design.

Balancing high upon the scaffolding near the limestone
brick cornerstone that reads, “First M. E.
Church, November 1889,” Senior Pastor Rev. Martha B.
Wagley welcomed the crowd gathered at the church site at 2nd
and Poplar.

Bundled up in scarves, hats and gloves, the First Church
congregation, the First Church Building Committee, Carter
Hord of Hord Architects, designers of the new church campus,
Justin Grinder, of Grinder, Taber and Grinder, the General
Contractors, members of the West Tennessee Historical
Society, and friends of the church, listened and waited
excitedly as Rev. Wagley explained the significance of the

She said, “Almost 120 years ago our ancestors stood
upon this holy ground, lead by Bishop E.R. Hendrix, to
place a cooper box and its contents inside this cornerstone
and dedicate this once magnificent sanctuary after many
years of planning and sacrifice.” She then read from
1st Corinthians 10-11, “According to the grace of God
given to me, as a skilled master builder, I
laid the foundation, and someone else is building on it.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that
has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.”

With the help of Bobby Parnell, the mason performing
controlled demolition of this historic landmark, Rev. Wagley
gently removed the 8 x 12 inch cooper box housed inside the
reception cavity of the cornerstone.

To everyone’s delight and relief, the copper box was
intact after nineteen decades and had survived the fire two
years ago.

After prying open the sealed box, Rev. Wagley delicately
retrieved each historical item that their First Church
ancestors had saved on November 19th, 1889, which included:

1. A silver quarter, the first contribution towards the
cost of the sanctuary building, given by Benjamin Abernathy,
church sexton, along with his photograph
2. Photographs of Revs. James W. Knott and Samuel Watson,
former pastors and J.W. Jefferson, a church member
3. A copy of the bible from the American Bible Society
4. A copy of the Methodist Church Discipline
5. Copies of the Methodist Hymn Books
6. A piece of the U.S. flag torn down in New Orleans in
7. A bottle of water from the River Jordan
8. The last Annual Report of the American Bible Society
9. A list of those who contributed to the sanctuary
10. A copper coin
11. Copies of the Appeal and Avalanche (Memphis Newspapers)
12. A copy of the Women’s Advocate
13. A list of the names of the pastor, church members and
the Building Committee
14. A copy of the Nashville Christian Advocate

Concluding this emotional and uplifting morning, the Rev.
J. Barry Henson, McKendree District Superintendent, said a
prayer for this resilient congregation on this historic
occasion connecting the past, the present and the future
First Church, “As we gather here, we are standing on
the shoulders of the saints who came before us, those who
many years ago lead the way. We lean on the shoulders of
those here today who will rebuild the church – not only for
our children, but for those yet unborn, so that they may
worship on this holy ground again.”

First United Methodist is the first church of any
denomination in Memphis, established in 1826.

The new sanctuary will be the 4th First Church house of
worship at the corner of Second and Poplar.

First Church is seeking donations to complete construction
and to realize their dream to continue in mission in
downtown Memphis.

116 year old Methodist cornerstone to be opened.

From the Memphis Heritage Blog:

A piece of First UM Church history will be revealed Saturday January 17th at appx. 10am, as the contents of the cornerstone will be removed from the last remaining wall at Poplar and Second. The cornerstone was placed in the wall of the sanctuary November 19, 1889.

Haven’t been able to find anything on what was in there. Will keep looking.

Multimedia in the Sunday school room

I want to be able to project, to hook up a computer, to watch, to listen and to teach. I think I might need a nice lcd tv, a projector and an easy way for anyone with a laptop to be able to hook up quickly. Then I have to find a good place to lock it up so that people can get it when needed but won’t lose the remote. What systems are you using in your church? Portability is key. I’m thinking the typical “media cart” since I have one alreay paid for. Now just to find someone to donate a couple grand to get good gear. Oh, and I also want plenty of UM Hymnals, so that’s probably another $500. Too bad I don’t play the lottery.

Making a Meal of It – Witherington

I find Ben Witheringon’s knowledge of the early church to be extensive and inciteful, but have not read it anywhere other than on his blog. I did finally borrow a copy of his look at The Lord’s Supper. I trust his research, but I’m just not sure to whom I would recommend this book. Here’s what I wrote at Librarything:

Mr. Witherington’s book is useful for anyone wishing to look at the history of communion practices. However, his suggestions for how churches might practice communion seem to place more empasis on how the early church observed the Lord’s Supper than on the practices of Christians through the thousands of years since. Simply because the early church followed certain practices does not mean that God has not continued to reveal himself through the sacraments of the church.

The other fault that I have with the book is that it seems to address the issue as if churches seem to be having controversial discussions of the topic. While I agree that there is vast difference between congregations in the ways the ordinance/sacrament is observed, I don’t think any individual traditions are unsettled about how they are involved.

I really should have edited that a bit, but you get the idea anyway. I doubt that there are any groups who think they’re doing it wrong, and Witherington doesn’t seem so adamant about it as to warrant any change. Anyone else had a chance to read this? Thoughts? Here’s what Witherington says on his own blog: BW3

Methodists and Opium

Though it comes from a newspaper account from Philadelphia, I’m still not sure whether I believe this story from 1803:

A late Chinese Edict, which prohibits the importation of opium into any part of that Empire, goes on to specify, “and all other drugs or articles whatsoever, that shall have been found to possess the same or similar effects; as Ale, Beef,Pudding, Methodist Sermons, Modern Epic Poems, &c.”

Gazette of the United States (Philadelphia, PA) Tuesday, April 05, 1803; Issue [173]; col B