New times call for new tools. I learned that lesson these past months as I struggled to find adequate “together” time with the worship interns at Fuller. We have a set time to meet, of course, but there is so much to do just to get ready for worship that we don’t have the leisure for genuine schooling. It’s important for us both to plan and to do regular reflection on our weekly worship planning; we need concentrated as well as casual interaction in order to bring our lives and work into conversation. But on a commuter campus like this one there is no central locale for us to hang out.
Then it occurred to me that young people these days hang out not only in physical locations but increasingly in virtual locations on the computer: at social hubs like MySpace and in blog rings on Xanga. This new computer-based communication tool—the blog—seemed rich with pedagogical potential. And so began an experiment: I started a blog for the express purpose of casual but purposeful interaction between my interns and me. I post to the blog a few times each week; the interns respond with comments or with posts of their own. It has become a wonderful way for us to complement our face-to-face interaction in a way that is natural for them and that conforms to our odd time-and-place schedules.
The term blog, for the uninitiated, is a truncated form of web log. It is a website in which short entries are posted on a regular basis and are displayed, journal-style, in reverse chronological order. A post usually consists of a short paragraph or two of text and can be augmented with hypertext (links to other websites), images, pictures, audio and other files.
So, for example, I recently wrote a brief paragraph about connecting proclamation and prayer, posted it to the blog, linked it to an article I found elsewhere on the Web, and asked my gang how well they thought we were doing based on recent chapel services. A lively discussion ensued as each intern responded with his or her own comments. There are any number of other things I might have done to help them think further about proclamation and prayer. For instance, I might have posted a link to an online sermon and asked each to compose an outline for a prayer that would respond to it.
In addition to assignments, we have used the blog for a wide variety of purposes: to solicit help with or to point each other to resources (“Check out this song!”); to review what went especially wrong or especially right at a particular service (“What happened to the drama?”); to run rough-draft worship service plans past each other (“Thanksgiving Service Outline”); to ask broad questions (“What do we do with announcements?”), or very specific ones (“What do you think of this intro I wrote for the Nicene Creed?”); and to test answers to persistent and thorny questions (“Politics in the Pulpit”). In fact, for easy sorting and review we label our posts using the worship-planning categories Previse, Devise, Revise, Realize, Analyze (see RW 74, p. 41).
Because we can ask and answer questions at leisure, the blog offers flexibility for both the formal, carefully constructed question or response and the off-the-cuff comment in which someone can try on an opinion or thought just for size. That, combined with the variety of media we can post and link to, makes the blog a communication tool unlike anything else available to us. But it’s worth underlining that a blog does not serve as a substitute for a personal relationship; it functions as a supplement to our regular face-to-face interaction. Because we know each other well, work together, and worship together each week, we post and read each other’s posts with a hermeneutic of trust and charity—not always true in other online communities.
Almost any moderately tech-savvy worship team can use a communal blog for its own purposes. Commenting on a blog is no more difficult than sending e-mail, and setting up a blog is easy—many companies offer software for minimal expense to anyone with an Internet connection. For instance, the resources at blogger.com are popular, easy to use, powerful, and free.
That same site suggests that while blogs began as personal diaries, they have evolved into many other things: “a daily pulpit, a collaborative space, a breaking-news outlet, a collection of links . . . whatever you want it to be.” Our worship pedablog has elements of all of these, and I can imagine its use stretching beyond our own private group someday—I can imagine congregations and worship teams across the country sharing with each other information, insight, resources, and conversation about worship week by week. In fact, there are a handful of communities already on the web doing just that. Check out What’s on the Web (p. 45) to find out more.