Category Archives: Social Ministry

Super Low Cost or even Free Dial a Prayer or Dial a Worship Service

A big issue for many of us during these days of Covid19 is the digital divide. A good portion of our congregation does not have internet access, nor reliable enough cell phone service to stream our online services. As such, we put together a dial a prayer system which also serves as a means of providing access to an audio only version of our sermons.

From a user perspective, they call in to the service provider, enter an access code, and are presently with the latest content, whether it be a prayer, or a worship service. If they desire to listen to a specific service, such as during Holy week, its possible to assign reference numbers to the files, such that the user can go directly to a given message. Sharing those reference numbers is a bit ungainly. We either have to publish them in our print newsletter, or post them on social media, and hope the digital connected will share them with those on the other side of the divide.

Below is an example of what a user would experience with our system.

From an admin perspective, things are a bit ungainly, as unlike paid providers for such services, we are using a select set of features of a company called freeconferencecall. Granted, the system isn’t free like in beer, as that would be unsustainable. They do make money by providing additional paid for features, like dedicated numbers, and/or asking for donations from their content providers.. but it is most assuredly a very low cost solution.

Since we are using a subset of features, and its not intuitive at all as to how we got there, here are a couple workflow examples.

For daily prayers:
1. Pastor records a prayer using his cellphone, and uploads it to our podcast server.
2. For now, I watch the podcast feed on my cellphone, and when a new prayer shows up.
3. I download the podcast file which is in mp4 format (an Apple thing)
4. I convert the mp4 to a standard mp3 file, using an audio editor or file conversion utility.
5. I then login to https://www.freeconferencecall.com and select broadcaster.
6. I upload the mp3 file to the broadcaster
7. I then test the playback of the file, either by using the web interface, or by calling in with my cell phone.

Before we rolled out the prayer via podcast function, I made sure that the recordings off of pastors cell phone were the correct level. Most podcast providers require levels to be at -16LUFS stereo, or -19LUFS mono, and it turned out Apple’s voice recorder app hits those levels with ease. I used a plugin called Youlean Loudness Meter running on the Audacity audio editor to check this.

If we decide to keep the dial a prayer function running over the long haul, I’ll write a python script to do all of the above, where in when it detects a new podcast is posted, it will convert the files and upload them to freeconferencecall without any human intervention.

For worship services, things are a bit more complicated, as its necessary to master the audio file, and get a reference number for future playback.

The big reason for mastering, is that pastor has incredibly dynamic range, which is awesome for live, but is not so great when it comes to listening to it on a phone in a high noise environment, like many folks do when it comes to podcast listening. Ie like in a car or truck, mowing the lawn, or exercising etc. The second reason, is that podcasts are syndicated, which can mean the file passes through any number of conversion processes in the path. In our case, our primary source is podbean, but we also are listed on itunes, spotify, player.fm, iheartradio etc… with each one doing their own proprietary thing with our audio. If our levels / equalization don’t meet spec, its possible that by the time the audio reaches the end users device, it’s quality could be severely degraded, resulting in complaints, and eventually the dropping of syndication.

As far as reference numbers go, freeconferencecall doesn’t provide them automatically for broadcasts, only for meetings. As a result, we have to do is create a meeting, and add a recording which features the uploaded file in the broadcaster, and close the meeting in real time. This is a kludgy workaround, and for Holy Week was worth doing, but I don’t do this as a common practice, due to its time intensive nature.

Thus, the worship service workflow.
1. Master the worship service as normal, such as for uploading to the podcast, making sure we are at the appropriate LUFS levels, noise is removed, and audio is equalized. Since podcasts prefer mp3’s rather than mp4’s at least we don’t have to do file conversions.
2. Login to https://www.freeconferencecall.com and select broadcaster.
3. Upload the mp3 file to the broadcaster
4. Test the playback of the file, either by using the web interface, and/or by calling in with my cell phone.
5. If circumstances dictate, a reference number can be created, by starting a meeting, adding the broadcaster recording, letting it play, and then closing the meeting, looking up the reference number, and then sharing the reference number via social media and/or newsletter. For example

Daily Prayers by Vicar Paul can be accessed by 
calling (978)-990-5090 and entering access code 1139178 . Recordings of Sunday's worship services are also available at that number by entering the following reference numbers.

Maundy Thursday 2
Good Friday 10
Easter Sunday 14

The Problem of the Neon Cross

The church building of my youth had this really nifty neon cross on the top of its steeple. While very cool from one perspective, from a maintenance point of view, it was a nightmare. Can anyone say lightning rod… yep, when storms would roll through, that neon cross attracted lightning like bugs to a flame. Sometimes lighting would destroy the tubes, sometimes the mounts, sometimes it would whack the wiring or control circuits. If it wasnt lightning, it was wind that would take it out. High winds up there can be pretty brutal on fragile glass tubes and mounting systems.

Granted, like all church steeples, lightning protection is a must… but its a whole lot easier to protect the steeple from becoming a roman candle, than it is to keep the thousands of amps flowing down the grounding systems from bouncing the neon system into failure land.

In the days of old, I’m pretty sure a guy would use a bosun’s chair for maintenance and repair. Sadly, I never got up high enough in the steeple interior to see if it had an access door like many churches of the late 1800’s (rebar pegs outside the steeple suggests a door existed at one time). I do remember a young fellow a few years older than me back in the 70’s offered to climb it and fix it for free. His offer scared folks to death! As such, maintenance equated to a sign company coming in with a crane during that time at substantial expense. I was amazed how really huge the cross was, it made the fellow on the crane look pretty small. Considering how much the crane moved in the wind… if I were to go up there, I think I’d rather go the route of the bosun’s chair.

In today’s world, it would seem a whole lot more prudent to use light pipes, and thus keep the electronics and control systems far removed from the steeple itself. It would be spendy upfront… but its pretty hard to induce damaging currents in acrylic, so its ongoing maintenance would be a tiny fraction compared with ballast transformers and neon tubes.

Beyond the tech aspects, there is another big issue… and thats the stewardship aspect. Certainly if its a matter of feeding the poor, or fixing neon tubes high in the sky, the answer is obvious from an immediate point of view. Over a longer period of time, things get a whole lot more grey. Art is expensive, but art has been part of the worship experience since the OT. It is a form of Christian symbolism to the world… some might try to discount a neon steeple cross as an example of excess and of very limited witness. In some ways and situations they are right. Ie, as an evangelism tool, its likely not very effective, but as an edification tool for fellow believers, I believe their is a place for such.

I attended Maundy Thursday services there last evening, and once it got dark, I noticed the cross was not lit. At the time, I dint know if its a technical issue, a stewardship issue, or whether they made the call to shut it off until early AM on Sunday. This morning I went to shoot some photos, and sadly, its quite damaged once again. It won’t be on for Easter morning.

Neon Cross needing repairNeon Cross Needing Repair

Beer, Christianity, The Least of These, and MN Shutdown

One of the topics getting a lot of attention today is the upcoming loss of Coors/Miller beer sales in MN. I don’t know if the remaining brands could pick the slack, being the Coors/Miller market share is near 40% in the state. If remaining brands can’t, much higher prices, and even a shortage of beer seems around the corner.

There also exists an element of moral outrage by some, that the needs of the vulnerable in the state are a lower priority than folks getting their beer. A few commentators have suggested that the lack of beer may be the impetus needed for the government to solve the budget issue.

I’m not quite sure what to think of this.

Amongst many pastor types of both parties and a multitude of denominations is a statement that a society is judged by how it takes care of the least of these. In the NT, we have the admonition of Jesus in Matthew to individuals that failure to feed and cloth the poor will not end well. In the OT, we have cities being vaporized for society seemingly having an out of sight, out of mind view of the poor.

In MN, we may have no beer.

A very honest socially conservative Christian laid out his views as concerns Jesus words in the NT quite well.

It’s a sobering warning, and I fear that I’m typical. For the most part I think about myself: my needs, my interests, my desires. And when I break out of my cocoon of self-interest, it’s usually because I’m thinking about my family or my friends, which is still a kind of self-interest. The poor? Sure, I feel a sense of responsibility, but they’re remote and more hypothetical than real: objects of a thin, distant moral concern that tends to be overwhelmed by the immediate demands of my life. As I said, I’m afraid I’m typical.

As a liberal, it would be easy to point fingers at this thinking, perhaps even tieing it directly to last weeks lectionary, where wealth and concerns of the world choke out the word of God in the parable of the sower. To some extent, when I see folks going “tsk, tsk, beer is more important than keeping grandma alive”, many parallels do exist with the thorny ground thing.

The thing is, other factors do enter in. Well meaning folks can disagree as to how to best take care of the poor. The above fellow goes on:

Some say the best way to meet these needs involves adopting tax policies designed to stimulate economic growth, along with redoubled efforts of private charity. Others emphasize public programs and increased government intervention. It’s an argument worth having, of course, and to a great degree our contemporary political debates turn on these issues. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there is a unifying consensus: The moral character of a nation is measured to a large degree by its concern for the poor.

He then presents an answer, likely shared by many social conservatives.

On this point I agree with many friends on the left who argue that America doesn’t have a proper concern for the poor. Our failure, however, is not merely economic. In fact, it’s not even mostly economic.

I think such is where much of the difference of opinion ultimately lies. No wonder we had MN Republican legislators messing around with societal legislation, rather than working on the budget. They likely feel if they can legislate their version of morality, poverty will self correct a bit, such that less services will be needed. In a related vein, many liberals believe if the environment is properly cared for, public health costs are likely to decrease.

Ultimately, I don’t understand how grandma’s oxygen needs, and the costs of atmospheric separation, labor, transportation and overhead is all of a sudden going to drop in cost out of the willingness of folks hearts. Perhaps in the longer term, it could happen as society might shift more altruistic, but grandma, and perhaps a generation or two, might be long gone before that happens. I could be too cynical in this, but if a surgeon is $350K in debt… I don’t think anyone, even a social conservative, expects them to work for little or no pay.

The fellow then goes on with the following:

Progressives talk about “social responsibility.” It is an apt term, but it surely means husbanding social capital just as much as—indeed, more than—providing financial resources. In our society a preferential option for the poor must rebuild the social capital squandered by rich baby boomers, and that means social conservatism. The bohemian fantasy works against this clear imperative, because it promises us that we can attend to the poor without paying any attention to our own manner of living. Appeals to aid the less fortunate, however urgent, make few demands on our day-to-day lives. We are called to awareness, perhaps, or activism, but not to anything that would cut against the liberations of recent decades and limit our own desires.

I think he nails it with the last sentence. In a lot of ways, this parallels the angst many have with short term mission trips, outsourcing services to the poor, and in general not wanting to self/family sacrifice.

Beer shortages impact daily living for the average Joe. The homeless lady w/o a prescription can jump govt hoops if she fits the right demographic, otherwise she must do without. Her poverty has little to no effect on the average Joes daily living… but if you know her, such is likely different.

There is no question, money must play a huge role, as one cant create grandmas oxygen or gene therapy drugs via individualistic “moral” living, no matter how much one ones to spin it. Likewise, the toddler who needs a special diet via a feeding tube can’t very well survive via a food bank.

By the same token, simply throwing money at an issue, all the while refusing to invest social capital, ie refusing to get ones own / families hands dirty is not an answer either. Such opens the door to skimming, and a multitude of unintended consequences such as government over-reach, state-church co-mingling, misplaced incentives, and mandated moral hazards, all of which are counter to the issue at hand. Real approaches to caring for the least of these, require both financial, and social capital.

Separation of Church and State, Money or Jesus?

A few months back, there was a whole lot of fuss when a zoning official required permits for a home Bible study. When all was said and done, no doubt due to a lot of outrage, it ended up being dropped.

The sad thing is, there were Christians in favor of requiring permits, or even putting restrictions on home Bible studies… All in the interest of keeping their property values higher. It was not the importance of people coming to Christ, growing in discipleship, or even exercising freedom of religion, but more so their property values. Money appeared an even greater concern than the constitution, the great commission, and even the salvation of souls.

Its a sad deal indeed, when Christians put aside discipleship, when they put aside the needs of the local church, when they put aside the constitutional provisions for freedom of religion. Society as a whole sees this, and then no wonder (as taken from Newt Gingrich) that American culture has been marked by “a steady increase in hostility to religion over the last 70 or 80 years, in ways that are a profound challenge, both to Western Civilization and to America as we know it.”

I’m into church history, not so much our nations history… but 1000:1, Quakers would be spitting tacks with the cavalier and greed driven attitudes of much of contemporary Christianity when it comes to freedom of religious practices.

Sure, Christians will fuss over loosing a nativity scene, loosing a display of the ten commandments on public ground, or restrictions on prayer in schools. Those are easy, as they are of little to no cost personally to fuss over… but for far too many, as soon as the call to follow Christ comes, and that it might mean personal monetary sacrifice, Christ looses. I know this all too well… its easy to get caught up in mammon, which is why I tend to be pretty hard core about not doing so going forward.

Now, for those who do not want to sell out Christ or the constitution, this is not the type of deal where one can sit back fat dumb, and happy. For those drafting the zoning regulations, they get pounded on by the economic powers that be, so much so, they may forget things like the constitution, and if they do remember it, they will try to whittle around it due to the pressure they are under.

Even for the faithful drafters of legislation, they may feel they are duty bound to do so as they have to serve all, and thus exception for faith related issues seem out of place. Then add in that the the constitution is so commonly sold out, restricting freedom of religion may in a perverted sense may actually appear the “right” thing to do.

The best way to make sure Jesus is kept first, and that the constitution is upheld is for Christians to be proactive. Its a whole lot better to make ones views known, and lobby before regulations are approved, than having to jump hoops, and spend a kazillion dollars to get them overturned after the fact.

As such, lets look at a few different points of view when it comes to the zoning issue, and practices of the church.

Churches need the ultimate flexibility when it comes to what their work may entail. Perhaps its a commercial looking operation, say a religious bookstore in a facility, or perhaps a kitchen to prepare meals, or perhaps a soup kitchen, or even a homeless shelter, daycare, or school which might fall within a churches domain, or something unusual like a waiver against noise ordinances when it comes to church bells or carillons.

Even public safety issues like new/remodeled construction building codes for kitchens, schools, daycare, housing, while possibly good ideas could interfere with faith practices. If so, and if following Christ and the constitution are held in high regard, reasonable exemptions should be lobbied for and drafted into the regs. The key is reasonable, ie the FDNY code is incredibly intense, and churches are exempt from some parts, but as a touring Christian musician years ago, well, lets just say I learned of some exemptions the hard way. Those lobbying went too far, reasonable is key when it comes to public safety.

Usage on the other hand is another matter entirely. Pretty much any usage a church is led * to via scripture, needs to be as free as possible from government restriction. First, in order to foster the churches mission, but also to uphold their constitutional rights to freely practice their religion.

Fortunately, the courts sometimes do come down on the side of the church and the constitution in such matters. That is of course, when the church has enough money to take it that far, or a religious freedom or constitutional rights organization such as Alliance Defense Fund or the ACLU can step in. In far too many cases, the church simply gives up or runs out of money, and both they, and the constitution loose out to greed.

By the same token, there does need to be a limited level of definition. Just as churches are granted freedom to practice their faith as they see fit… unscrupulous entities must not be allowed to take on the appearance of the church to run rampant over a communities zoning laws. Ie, Acme widget manufacturing, should not be able to call themselves First Acme Church of Widgets to get around zoning codes. The courts have also read through the lines, when a commercial entity tries to call themselves a church in order to build multifamily or transient housing in areas where such is outside the scope of such usage, they do almost always get their chain yanked.

Of course, between the two, ie a church whose primary functions are worship and service, and a disguised church whose primary function is the activity they wish to bypass zoning for, is a significant amount of grey area. Accessory service of churches can include quite a range of activities, some of which might come pretty close to making them appear primarily not so much like a place of worship anymore. Thats the subtle nuance that sadly leads to a ton of headaches and legal hoop jumping.

I do think the process is something every Christian should be aware of and take part in, such that their church doesn’t get put in the position down the road of having to choose whether to follow Christ or follow the law of Caesar. Most certainly there should never be any restrictions on home Bible studies, nor any other activities that clearly fall within the churches mission. That is of course, unless one ranks the importance of money more so than the words of Christ.

*one caveat… churches, and even home Bible study groups should be good neighbors. Just because the constitution grants freedom to practices ones faith, it should not result in a damaging witness to ones neighbor. Blocking neighbors driveways by errant parking, excessive noise all hours of the day or night is not cool. Bearing in mind of course that the cross is offensive… The word of God should never be compromised to placate those who take offense.

Tornado & CWA09, but what about the rest

Lots of folks are fussing over causality/God’s will or not. I’m not, as the arguments on both sides have been beat to death. What I do want to address is that the tornado impacted a much wider area than just the convention center and Central Lutheran. Homes were damaged, trees destroyed, and there is a real mess to clean up.

Along that line of thought, the Grace Temple Deliverance Center appears to have been damaged. Photos and some detail are at Hot-For-Jesus Former Fundie.

In checking that out, I spent some time this evening on the Grace Temple Deliverance Center’s website. I’ve often thought that heavy lifting was pretty much the domain of large denominations, and/or mega churches where the economy of scale can come into play. The folks at Grace Temple appear to be a small congregation, but wow, talk about taking on massive projects. Its a rare congregation indeed that can take on school and hospital projects, even more so to do so offshore rather than in ones backyard. That rare congregation seems to exist at Grace Temple.

For sure, our theology is vastly different, yet we worship the same Lord Jesus Christ.  If I were at CWA09, I’d take some time and see what needed to be done over at Grace Temple. Being I’m not, physical help is off the table, but most certainly I will be praying for them. I am just amazed at all they have done.

======21-August-2009 update======

Interesting to note the following, the sun came out in the convention center area, and a rainbow formed near LTSG.

An Interesting Position on Health Care

I subscribe to a conservative Christian email list, and a most interesting post came across the wire. A fellow suggested that all taxes relating to medical care are morally wrong. Its something interesting to ponder what the effects might be if that were the case.

Most obviously, most of those over 65 would be out in the cold. The only reason private medicare part B insurance exists, is due to part A, govt controlled prices, govt research, and subsidies. Pull the part A, ie socialized medicine out of the mix, and insurance would only be available to the exceedingly wealthy, and likely only if they were healthy. In effect, its a balance between “theft” as he states, and the disgust of euthanaisa of the elderly.

I’m assuming he figures the church would step in and prevent that, but being the median church size in the US is 65 members, most of whom are older, there is no way even if they wanted to, they could do anything. Perhaps in a 10,000 person megachurch, with mostly younger members it might work.

Next, the NIH and other research entities would have to be shut down, thus ending substantial research in basic science, as well as clinical work. The resulting burden shifting to private industry would likely result in massive business failures in the short and long term. Short term, as they could not pick up the gap. Long term, as investment in basic science has a pay back period in some cases of decades… and its impractical for private industry to make such investments.

Then we have the issue of closing hospitals, being they would not be subsidized, either directly, or be favorable tax status. This would likely affect the average Joe and his family. Sure they would have a few extra percent extra in takehome, but likely not enough to travel, much less afford the huge increases in healthcare costs.

Of course this also has ripple effects, in a few short years, most companies would migrate off shore where they can get a better deal on healthier employees, as well as saving substantial costs. Ie, being able to deduct 8-30% of a persons benefits are a huge savings, but it is “theft” being weath is distributed to pay for that deduction. We would in effect become a third world country, albeit said “theft” would no longer be an issue.

Abortion and euthanasia by neglect would increase multifold. The 65 member church just doesnt have the resources, albeit a 10,000 member church might be able to make a dent.

To me, the above are pretty high costs to take the moral high ground in one narrow area, over the other moral areas of the system as a whole. It is an interesting paradox especially coming from a devout Christian.

More than likely he has not through the ramifications, or maybe he doesnt understand the huge impact and intrusion govt has in healthcare. There are huge reasons why short of third world countries who cant afford to, that govt is and must be entrenched in medicine.

I’m not a big fan of HR3200, as its a huge wealth redistribution from society to insurance company investors, but to remove govt funding from the health care arena in total would be a disaster of untold proportations. There are better solutions out there. The Texas Medical Association has a good policy page, as well as Mayo Clinic.

Changing the Christian Label ?

I was asked recently if labeling something anything other than Christian was misleading (if it has a Christian focus). I dont think it is, in part due to my study, but also, the head banging of being behind the scenes when www.christianforums.com changed to www.foru.ms. It was not a trivial, nor easy call, and although the name changed back when the site was sold, I still firmly believe the name change was the right one at the time. The Godtube folks likely also struggled with this, when they changed to their name to Tangle.

3 reasons why Christian may not be an appropriate title/label:

1. The title Christian creates expectations, ie orthodoxy, but usually as defined by individual members, and that does cause conflict, as very few folks agree. In another case, member expectations, ie how can a Christian message board not allow me to use scripture anyway I want, including to bash and flame others? How can anything other than sugar coated G family friendly topics be discussed? How can you allow crude or sometimes explicit language to be used? How can you allow folks to express anger at God? How can you allow a Jewish person or a Muslim to share their faith, and why they believe what they believe?

2. The title Christian for hurting individuals often carries negative connotations, ie bashing and hypocrisy are the most common, but in some cases, there is so much focus on politics, guns, flags, homosexuality and abortion, that Jesus and the Gospel gets missed almost entirely.There is also the issue of outreach. Ie In talking with folks who outreach to Muslim’s, if you say you are Christian, they often will ignore you and walk away, if you talk about following Jesus, there is a bridge to the Qur’an.

3. The title Christian can be a marketing hijack… Ie, folks come, because its Christian… not because it necessarily exhibits the fruits of the spirit, or even that the Gospel is present.  Sadly, the label far too often results in putting a lampshade over ones faith, and hiding away from the world, rather than engaging the world. In other ways, its preaching to the choir. (not that there isn’t room for that, nor that such is improper, it can be a good thing). One of the concepts of foru.ms was that google was indexing topics… you want to know of redemption, google would bring you to foru.ms. You are looking for a recovery group for those previously in the sex industry, google would bring you to foru,ms. And if you were looking for Christian, there would be so much of a Christ focus, that google would bring you to foru.ms. The intent in part was foru.ms would exhibit the fruits of the spirit, and rely on the love of its members to bring folks, not the title.

To counter this…
The use of a Christian title upholds us to higher standards. Ie, if its Bobs forum, and it goes south, its just Bobs reputation. If its named after or includes Jesus…. pretty much bad stuff tends to make Jesus not look so good. From a pragmatic pov… using the word Christian is not cool. From an idealistic pov… using the word Christian, and upholding Him in all things is pretty cool.

Can the church help with state budget deficits?

Minnesota Family Council: Solve our state $5 billion budget deficit by raising taxes? That’s $1,000 per man, woman and child..

The blog author makes a good point, as to scaling back our expectations of government.  I think he is onto something… but whether the govt provides a service or not, the demand for the service is still going to exist. Granted, there is a lot of waste in govt, whether it be NCLB, huge corrections and judicial overhead for minor crimes, or layer upon layer of oversight and duplication, waste exists all across the board, it obviously does not need to stay around.

For things that are real needs, what if the church were to step back into the role of the early church. Or what if at a minimum, the churches thought was not to direct people to government right away, but to consider that there may be other solutions. Far too many times, I’ve heard churches throw up their hands, and send even their members to the govt for help. Whether it be financial/mortgage issues, childcare,  chronic illness or disability,  elder-care, or even utility emergencies, the churches response is all too often… go see the govt, they should be able to help, we cant, or we can’t anymore. And I’ve heard that from even the most pro big business, pro Republican, pro small govt, anti tax, uber conservative churches I’ve ever come across… It makes no sense, but it is what it is.  (One of the bad parts of being on the inside of ministry, you get exposed to a ton of garbage…)

Granted, the church is not a end all solution… as there will be people that find the churches teachings anathema, or due to very bad experiences with churches/minsters/etc, will not come anywhere near a church. And for those folks, and for when the church fails, govt still needs to have a safety net, but such net could be a much much smaller one and a much lower cost one that what we have today. Imagine the savings, if the church did step up to the plate, Even if the church succeeded only 25% of the time, the savings alone could erase much of the states deficit in the human services domain.

A fellow I used to minister with used to call me too idealistic, and yes he is right… such a plan is filled with the potential for failures left and right.  Churches will not want to step up and take on an alzheimers patient, who is too far gone to really stay alone, but still of right enough mind to be 90% independent. Nor will they want to cover the utilities for a young single mom who lost 4 jobs in a row due to the economy crashing, or the paraplegic kid who fell off a cliff, and whose mom needs help getting him back in bed at 3AM. These are all things the church could do, but likely is not willing to do.

The thing is, rather than throwing these problems over the wall to the govt, there may be partial solutions. It may be a group of folks who will take the 3AM call on a rotating basis, it may be 10 or so members who each step in to help out someone with a utility bill or weatherization, or even a group of folks to check in on the alzheimers patient periodically.  None would necessarily be an official church function, but if church members individually knew of a need, would they step up to the plate.

I think many more would than those who would decline, and I also think many would do so over the long term. Remember the paraplegic kid will grow old… but if he falls, someone needs to help him at 3AM even when he is 60. Govt may yank his chain and fail him by cutting funding for an overnight aide during a budget cut, leaving him to lie on the floor until the morning. However, if the church has stepped up for 40-50 years, one could be pretty sure, there is no way a a group of church volunteers would ever let that happen.

These, for the most part are things which are not expensive when covered by volunteers, but are spendy when provided by the govt. For the financial side of things as well, there is almost always a way, but it may take a creative approach to make it happen, something which again, govt is ill equiped to handle, ie rules and regs make creative solutions impossible, but well within the realm of the church who can operate unhindered for the most part.

Pope Benedict on World Communications day, tons of good stuff!

Some pretty powerful concepts imho. The full text is at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/communications/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20090124_43rd-world-communications-day_en.html

The theme for the year…

In anticipation of the forthcoming World Communications Day, I would like to address to you some reflections on the theme chosen for this year – New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship.

Online Friendships

Loving is, in fact, what we are designed for by our Creator. Naturally, I am not talking about fleeting, shallow relationships, I am talking about the real love that is at the very heart of Jesus’ moral teaching: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” and “You must love your neighbour as yourself” (cf. Mk 12:30-31). In this light, reflecting on the significance of the new technologies, it is important to focus not just on their undoubted capacity to foster contact between people, but on the quality of the content that is put into circulation using these means. I would encourage all people of good will who are active in the emerging environment of digital communication to commit themselves to promoting a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship.

Moderation

We should be careful, therefore, never to trivialize the concept or the experience of friendship. It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop on-line friendships were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbours and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation.

End the digital divide

We must, therefore, strive to ensure that the digital world, where such networks can be established, is a world that is truly open to all. It would be a tragedy for the future of humanity if the new instruments of communication, which permit the sharing of knowledge and information in a more rapid and effective manner, were not made accessible to those who are already economically and socially marginalized, or if it should contribute only to increasing the gap separating the poor from the new networks that are developing at the service of human socialization and information.

Web Evangelism

I ask you to introduce into the culture of this new environment of communications and information technology the values on which you have built your lives. In the early life of the Church, the great Apostles and their disciples brought the Good News of Jesus to the Greek and Roman world. Just as, at that time, a fruitful evangelization required that careful attention be given to understanding the culture and customs of those pagan peoples so that the truth of the gospel would touch their hearts and minds, so also today, the proclamation of Christ in the world of new technologies requires a profound knowledge of this world if the technologies are to serve our mission adequately. It falls, in particular, to young people, who have an almost spontaneous affinity for the new means of communication, to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this “digital continent”. Be sure to announce the Gospel to your contemporaries with enthusiasm.

Gospelr a twitter clone with a Christian focus

Gospelr a Twitter integration service for Christians

This is a nifty application, its sort of like the opensourcefaith.org twitter app. but its up and running, and has a clean integration with twitter. Way cool!!!

Normally, I dont like Christian labeled things all that much for a couple reasons. First, in all too many cases, the work ends up being subpar… Ie Christian games, Christian music, etc. I’m more aligned with the Larry Norman, Phil Keaggy, Kerry Livgren’s pov. Ie, art needs to be the best it can be, even more so if its done with Christ at the forefront, and it also best not be sanitized to death either, such as all too often happens once a Christian label goes on. Second, it usually forgoes witness to the world for a retreat to comfort, not that such is always a bad thing, but it best not be the only thing.

In this case though, I think it has some real potential. I use twitter for tech stuff, for ministry stuff, for webstuff, and just stoopid stuff. The problem being, sometimes I get on a real roll in one area or another, and likely end up frustrating my followers. No one likes a steady diet of preachy type things, unless thats what they figured they were signing up for… just as no one would want physics tweats, if they were expecting literature or music. A percentage of the content, is fine and makes sense and can serve to witness… but 20 ministry tweats in a row if I got excited is a turn off to others in business/tech, and likely ends up being a whole lot of noise instead of being productive. as contrasted with 20 ministry tweets intersperced with everything else. Yes, the reverse is true… I’ve got 20 some pastors following me on twitter… I doubt they find the nitrate metabolism of germ free mice as exciting as I do. LOL

I perused the site a bit… I dont see Twitter church type apps, nor massive twitter prayer sessions so to speak, but in time I can see that happening. In many ways, using twittersearch with the word pray or prayer could be more effective I think, but with Gospelr, perhaps a closer more tight knit community can start to pray over daily needs, rather than the more emergency type things that go on with twitter as a whole. Now, if one was good at coding, picking off the prayer related hastags off twitter, and dumping them to a second viewing window in Gospelr could be cool… but alas, I’m not connected with those guys, but its an interesting idea.

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