Saturday, July 12, 2014

Facebook and vocal ministry

En route to Yearly Meeting I was having a conversation with Charlotte about giving vocal ministry in Meeting for Worship (that's speaking out of the silence of worship for those not so familiar with our ways), when it was appropriate to do so and so on. The conversation came to mind recently as I was sharing something I'd seen on Facebook on someone's timeline rather than simply sharing it on my own. I'd been telling Charlotte one of the rules of thumb I'd picked up some years ago (no idea where now!) about testing ministry that comes to you:

1) Is it a message for yourself? If so accept it with gratitude and sit with it in the silence and see if more unfolds.
2) Is it a message for a particular individual? If so tell them afterwards, in person if possible, otherwise use the phone/email etc later (although I suspect when I first heard this email wasn't an option!)
3) Is this message for the group, or someone you can't identify? If so share it as vocal ministry

Of course if it is #3 then Margaret's method of saying it over in your head three times before getting to your feet is a good stage two - usually I find before I've managed to get my head around it for a third time someone else has said whatever it was far better than I could, the sense of urgency to speak has eased, or another way had opened to follow the thought through later. Alternatively this could just be me making excuses for not liking to give vocal ministry, the few times it has happened I've been a proper quaker and been quaking in my boots!

So what does this have to do with Facebook?

Well when you have +500 Facebook friends you have to hope they share a certain amount of discernment before posting otherwise you end up with a lot of 'stuff' to get through to find the important bits of news and information. There are only a few of my friends who are prolific sharers of things and mostly I'm grateful for what they do, but after the 3rd or 4th consecutive link to articles on the same topic my eyes glaze over and I start to skim past them without even reading the snapshot properly to see if it is worth reading in full. A bit like tuning out when you hear ministry repeated for the umpteenth time by an elderly Friend who is getting a bit yonderly, if you focus you might get something new out of it, and those hearing it fresh are quite likely to, but that Friend is still probably on the Elders 'what can we do about so-and-so...?' list!

So generally I try not to post too much in one day. Often I'll post something direct to someone's page rather than in my feed if I think it will particularly appeal to them, even if I know others of my friends would appreciate it they'll probably appreciate me not sharing half a dozen items or so a day even more! A bit like going directly to the Friend in question after Meeting rather than adding to an already busy hour of ministry - when there's too much being said I stop taking things in properly after a while, both in Meeting and on Facebook.

But then there are some articles etc that I'll make sure I share liberally - in my own feed, and in various groups I'm part of to make sure the message gets out there: like our YM statement 'Lest we forget' and AFSCs piece on the current appauling violence in Gaza which gives the context the mainstream media seem to be glossing over at best. I guess that's like giving ministry in Meeting, adding campaign info in the notices, and just to be sure writing something for the newsletter!

But there is a lot that I see on Facebook that speaks to me and my condition that I don't necessarily share further, but I'll definitely 'like' it and often leave a comment so the person who shared it has a bit more idea as to why I 'like' it. Often these are the inspirational quotes or funnies that say just what I needed, (and sometimes didn't necessarily want to hear!), or that really made me laugh. After all laughter is the best medicine!

Where I dither regularly (and generally decide not to share) are the petitions. I often get several emails a day direct from the likes of Causes, Sum Of Us, Avaaz, Story of Stuff as well as groups like Greenpeace and Amnesty International that I support directly, and those petitions friends of mine have signed and passed on etc etc etc. I unsubscribed from 38 Degrees as really you're supposed to be a UK resident and whilst occasionally I've been known to borrow my parents postcode when I feel really strongly about something it is cheating the system somewhat! I don't think I've ever signed anything they wouldn't agree with should anyone care to check the electoral register for an 'A Dunford' in Whithorn, who could of course be my mum!

Given I often sign at least 10 petitions a week I figure that sharing requests to sign for all of them is going to bring upon whatever the petitioning version of 'donor fatigue' is on my friends and I'd rather they stayed my friends... In the same way that there really is a limit as to how many notices you can give about worthy causes after Meeting before folk start getting fidgety and thinking more about their upcoming cuppa rather than what you're saying. Instead I'd rather share links to articles that help people make their own mind up about whether to sign such petitions when they land in their inbox or news feed by other means. The few I do share are those unlikely to get much publicity otherwise such as to Save the Whithorn Trust which thankfully got rescued with Heritage Lottery funding (my misgivings about the ethics of Lottery funding in general is another topic altogether!) Call it my bit of repayment for borrowing a local postcode...

Anyway, as Victor used to say I've spoken for far too long already, but I assure you I'm not about to repeat myself and go off on several tangents for twice as long again. Well not this time anyway!

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