Meeting Mary, Preaching Mary - Crafting a Sermon Digitally
The potential for technology to enrich the lives of a congregation was shown when a minister reached out across digital and denominational boundaries to prepare a sermon on Mary.
The Revd Richard Littledale of Teddington Baptist Church recently invited those from different traditions to help him better understand Jesus' mother.
'I feel like I am betraying some ancient non-conformist drumbeat by talking positively about her,' he explained in his blog.
'This is probably made worse by some experiences in Belgium as a teenager, where boxes on the outside of houses occasionally owed more folk religion and superstition than Christian faith.'Hence, he continued, he was deliberately reaching out online to ask those in different traditions about her.
'Doesn't this space provide the perfect place to discuss such things without denominational or traditional restrictions? Isn't this just the kind of place where we can poke our head above the ecclesiological parapet and not feel we shall cause problems by doing so?'
Through comments on his blog and through his Twitter feed via the hash tag #WLTM Mary, he received thoughts from people representing a range of denominations.
These included those who echoed his discomfort about the veneration of Mary and the fear they may be missing something by not talking about her; to the Benedictine nun and blogger Sister Catherine Wybourne, who explained that 'to Catholics the position of Mary rarely occasions much argument. She is there.'
There was even a response from Le Menach Foundation, a conflict and peace building NGO which has created the Mary Initiative to bring a women's voice to the peace table of religion, to create a bridge of mutual understanding to Christians and Muslims. Richard (pictured) fed the comments into his subsequent sermon, as well as printing them out and attaching to a poster.
He said it all had an impact on what he said, and consequently made for a more rounded message. 'People's input did affect the sermon - especially in terms of the significance of the presence of women at the foot of the cross and its implications for the ongoing role of women in the church.
'This is an aspect of which I had not thought, and therefore it enriched the preaching.'
And Richard, who explores many creative ideas through his blog and social media, said there was much scope for more collaboration of this kind.
'The possibilities for collaborative involvement in the advance preparation and subsequent evaluation of preaching are enormous.
'There is great scope here for ensuring that the congregation are part of the sermon, from inception to conclusion, I believe.
'I have yet to fully explore ways in which this could be used after preaching too - although this makes some suggestions: http://richardlittledale.me.uk/2011/01/28/circular-preaching/