I am writing this letter to let you know that I can no longer continue my relationship with you during the season of Lent. I chose to write instead of talking face-to-face because there is so much that I have to say and I feel this will help you understand my decision.
I have truly enjoyed the good times we’ve had together since I first met you in November of 2007 and I regret having to make this decision. During our time together you have always been there for me, offering me a blank page to engage my creative impulses. Our 694 posts (including this one) have made for some beautiful moments. I could always count on you and thanks to the never, ever going away nature of the internet I will cherish those memories always.
Within the last few years you may have noticed that I have been very distant during the 40 days and 40 nights of Lent. These are periods when we rarely spoke to each other and it has, frankly, gotten quite awkward to even be on the same computer screen.
The truth is, during Lent, I have been increasingly unfaithful. I have forsaken you for another website, www.lentmadness.org. All my creative energy has gone into this new love and it has left me no emotional spark to share with you.
I want to be happy and I want you to be happy. Fortunately Lent, like life, is short. While it is now time for both of us to move on, I promise to return to you during Eastertide. It might be hard at first but I will do my best. If this doesn’t work, I know there is a guest blogger out there for you who can make you happy.
If you need to talk about this and make arrangements to change your password, feel free to call me or send me an e-mail.
I am truly sorry that Lent Madness has come between us. Best of luck in the future.
PS. It’s not you, it’s me.
You know you’ve been blogging too long when you blog about blogging. But here I am blogging about a new blog. It’s not really a blog per se, but I’ve been working on a long-term project to house all of my sermons in one place. @FatherTim Sermon Vault holds all 440 (and counting) Sunday sermons I’ve preached over the years categorized by liturgical season.
I don’t expect people to visit it very often — it’s really something I did for myself — but it’s out there in cyberspace. A few people have subscribed to the blog, meaning they’ll receive a copy by e-mail every time I upload a new sermon. If you find some inspiration there, have at it (you can subscribe from the homepage), though a text isn’t really a great way to experience a sermon unless you’ve heard the preacher and can hear the delivery in your mind. So if you haven’t heard me preach, know that my style is identical to Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina (and if you believe this, please never visit my church).
As the 17th century Anglican priest and poet George Herbert put it, “The country parson preacheth constantly. The pulpit is his joy and his throne.” I’m not sure if I’d characterize the pulpit as “my throne” but I’m always mindful that preaching is both a privilege and a joy and I’m grateful to every congregation I’ve ever served for the opportunity to publicly reflect on God’s Word.
“Snark” is one of those wonderful terms born of the internet. It reminds me of some of those great Yiddish words that sound like what they mean – like klutz, shlep, and schmuck. The word is basically a synonym for sarcastic, an amalgamation of “snide” and “remark.” Depending on your perspective, to call someone “snarky” is either a compliment of the highest order or a derogatory term for an overly negative person.
Snark often plays out on social media as a sort of public gallows humor. You can spot it on Facebook though it’s more prevalent on micro-blogging sites like Twitter that offer opportunities for real time back and forth repartee.
Some clergy are particularly adept at snark, making cutting comments about everything from liturgy to church meetings to the seven habits of the highly dysfunctional. At its best, snark highlights deeper truths that bubble just beneath the surface in a humorous manner. When engaged in a lighthearted rather than angry way, snark can be a delightful respite from the profound responsibilities of ministry. Indeed, I’d contend that true snark, while at times acidic, is never without a degree a levity.
Christians with a predilection for online snark occasionally encounter pushback from those who don’t think it’s appropriate. The best snark comes right up to the line without crossing over it and that can push people’s buttons who expect more positive output from their clergy and lay leaders. This all begs the question: Is snark un-Christian?
If you get back to the original definition of “sarcastic,” I don’t think you have to look much further than Jesus himself for validation. While it’s rarely put this way, Jesus had a wicked sense of humor that made extensive use of both hyperbole and sarcasm. If Jesus was Tweeting I’m pretty confident he’d be a master of the medium (though I doubt he’d have as many followers as Justin Bieber).
Here are some examples:
1. “Let the dead bury the dead.” (Matthew 8:21-22)
2. “How can you say to your neighbour, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4)
3. About John the Baptist: “What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who put on fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces.” (Luke 7:25)
4. Upon his arrest: “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit?” (Mark 14:48)
5. “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.” (Mark 12:38-40)
6. About the scribes and Pharisees: “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:24)
7. About profaning the holy: “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you. (Matthew 7:6)
There are countless other instances of Jesus using a cutting remark to make his point and, yes, he also got a lot of flack. Obviously I’m not comparing snarky Christians to Jesus but there is a place for snark in the Church. Snark, like all humor, simply looks at life and faith and ministry from a slightly different angle and we all need that. Ultimately it’s about taking our faith but not ourselves too seriously — which is critical to the health and vibrancy of the Church.
I’ve been both accused of and lauded for my degree of snarkiness. Much of it is simply personality and the internet allows me to share this “gift” with a wider group of people. I take solace in the fact that it’s something that people can opt out of by not following me on Twitter or not reading my blog or not friending me on Facebook. In other words, it’s snark-optional.
Of course, if you’re into this sort of thing I also have some Twitter clergy folks you’ll want to follow: Laurie Brock @drtysxyministry, Scott Gunn @scottagunn, Megan Castellan @revlucymeg, David Sibley @davidsibley, and Anne Lane Witt @VaPriestess. Oh, and a couple of anonymous snarkers: @ChurchSnobTEC and @MapleAnglican. Your life will never be the same.
So snark on, friends. You’re in good company.
As you may know, I was recently slandered by my archnemesis, Scott Gunn, in a blog post entitled “Top nine list of annoying blog post topics.” It seems Scott took offense, on behalf of all Facebook users, at my brilliantly snarky “Annoying Status Updates” list that was posted last night.
You’ll note right from the start that mine was a Top Ten list while Scott, pathetically, could only come up with nine items. But perhaps his Top Nine list will start a trend. Get Letterman on the phone.
Scott’s famous for turning his blog into a glorified infomercial as he hawks Forward Movement tracts and book. He recently posted about the latest best seller Walking With God Day by Day which, I might add, I wrote. Sure, my contribution was only 1.37% but the whole book was basically built upon my shoulders, er pen. Thus, while I’m busy paying his large, CEO-like Executive Director salary, I’m being exploited like a migrant writer. Perhaps I’ll just take my talents to South Beach. Or Abingdon Press.
If you’ve ever considered your own personal archnemesis, let me assure you it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. Plus, it’s irritatingly time consuming. Now it’s back to my important work of running a parish and saving souls. Scott used to have such responsibilites but he gave it all up for a bigger computer and, presumably, a more comfortable chair.
Since everyone else is doing their annual retrospectives (including, but not limited to, my archnemesis) AND since Bryna’s partying in New York City with friends from high school while I’m stuck here with three weekend church services, I thought I’d do one for Clergy Family Confidential.
So, here are some statistics and tidbits from 2011:
- There were 98 new posts this year bringing the total to 517.
- About 120,000 people clicked onto the blog bringing the all-time total to 435,927.
- The top three most popular posts in 2011 were Final Four: Thomas Becket vs. Perpetua (from Lent Madness 2011); Diocesan Convention Survival Guide; and What’s Up with the Pink Candle?
The hard-working staff (of one) at CFC is proud of making it through another year in the blogosphere. Thanks to everyone who read posts, left comments, and in general didn’t try to get me kicked off the internet. I hope you found some inspiration, some humor, and enjoyed being connected through the virtual world.
When I started blogging (after avoiding it for a number of years) in November 2007, I swore to myself that if it ever became a burden I’d stop. Four years later I’m still having fun and it continues to bring me joy. Blessings to you all in the New Year.
It’s not easy having an archnemesis. Just ask the Rev. Scott Gunn — I make his life nearly unbearable with my verbal repartee, blogging prowess, and stellar example of good Christian living.
I attended Scott’s “Good Riddance” party yesterday in Rhode Island. He and his lovely (though deluded) wife Sherilyn are moving to Cincinnati in a few weeks where Scott will become the new Executive Director of Forward Movement Publications. Yesterday’s shindig was actually billed as Scott & Sherilyn’s Farewell Fiesta put together by some of his “friends.” But we all knew the subtext.
I had been trying to get him out of New England for some time and all it took was me muttering “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” within earshot of some 815 bigwigs. The next thing I knew the Presiding Bishop herself had signed off on this “promotion.” There’s nothing like having someone kicked upstairs to get them out of your geographic domain.
Scott will soon take the reins of a fairly staid publishing house (think “Forward Day-by-Day”) to become a full-fledged media mogul. I’ve taken to referring to him as the Rupert Murdoch of the Episcopal Church. Given his social media guru reputation (he’s been riding my coattails as we’ve put on some workshops around the Church) and his penchant for technology honed as a cog in the IBM IT industrial complex, I’m sure he’ll have an app for the world-renowned Episcocat Calendar in no time. Which may well be the salvation of the Church as we know it.
Occasionally people (who have little else to think about apparently) ask me about my “archenemy.” I spend a fair amount of time laboriously explaining the difference between an “archenemy” and an “archnemesis.” There is a distinction. Archenemies seek to destroy one another; an archnemesis seeks to irritate his counterpart to the point of victory. So while I don’t actively hope that Scott will hit his head on a rood screen and tumble to the ground in a heap of priceless vestments, the thought does make me smile.
Here is the Urban Dictionary’s definition of “archnemesis:” They are “friends from a long time ago that have more or less equivalent powers, but also have opposing ideologies. They are therefore always fighting with each other. Example:
- Obi Wan and Darth Vader.”
Now rest assured that Scott will have all sorts of arguments in attempting a rebuttal to this friendly and respectful post. Once he heads for the Midwest he’ll condescendingly acclaim me as no longer being the “Second Most Popular Blogger in New England.” He’ll brag about having 350 more Facebook friends than I do. What he won’t tell you is that the only reason he started a blog in the first place was because I had recently started one. And that he’s leaving parish ministry because he could no longer abide trying to live up to my standard of homiletical and liturgical excellence.
What will I miss about Father Gunn living in New England? We’ll our monthly outings for coffee and conversation for one. But only because he would treat me to free refills using his Starbucks card. Which may have been unethical now that I think about it. And I’ll also miss catching up with Sherilyn on occasion. Perhaps I’ll one day run the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati with her. She, at least, promised me use of the guest room. Scott’s role will be to drink coffee at different points along the route. Which does remind me that Scott will at least assume one new title: “Most Caffeinated Priest in Southern Ohio.”
We all have our crosses to bear. Mine just happens to be 6’6″ and skinny. Remember, Scott, you can run but you can’t hide.
According to the site stats, this blog was viewed nearly 180,000 times in 2010 with 140 new posts. The top posts of the year were 1) Barbie Gets Religion 2) Vuvuzela vs. Shofar 3) Conventional Wisdom 4) RIP Captain Jack 5) Lent Madness: Julian of Norwich vs. Francis of Assisi.
This doesn’t quite tell the whole story, however, because the two most popular groupings of posts were Lent Madness and the Goose Gate series. Good stuff.
What does all of this tell me? I’m not sure. But when I started this blog in late 2007 I promised myself that if it started to become a burden, I’d stop blogging. It has yet to feel like anything but an outlet for spirituality, humor, and creativity. I’ve always viewed it as my “sketch pad,” a way to get some thoughts down and have some fun. It is not, of course, an official publication of my parish community. While many parishioners — current and former — read it, the blog is full of things I’d never proclaim from a pulpit or write for a newsletter. I’ve always thought that if God doesn’t have a sense of humor, I’m in big trouble. But the sapient reader can distinguish between satire and serious issues of faith. And, needless to say, they are not always mutually exclusive.
Thanks to all of you for regularly or occasionally checking in with Clergy Family Confidential. It keeps me from having to wonder “Is this thing on?”
Blessings for a healthy, fruitful, and Christ-filled 2011.
This question keeps popping up in church circles these days. Several friends have asked me whether I have any clue who this is. He (or she — it’s apparently a pseudonym) has started a blog titled “Acknowledge & Bewail” and I have to say it’s quite a hoot. Fr. Late appears to be a somewhat cranky Anglo-Catholic with lots of opinions on liturgy, vestments, and even bad stained glass windows. In other words the “Christian Troll” for catholic-minded Anglicans.
Through a touch of detective work (ie. reading the initial blog post) I’ve surmised that his name is a play on the verb “to osculate.” The celebrant osculates when he/she kisses the altar — this usually happens at the offertory just before the eucharistic prayer. How’s that for liturgical minutia?
Fr. Late is on Facebook (he friended me and I accepted a few days ago) and Twitter and even obliquely mocked my appearance in a Nightline segment on the U2charist that took place several years ago. I incurred his “wrath” for not wearing a chasuble on that (one!) occasion.
He lists his employer as “God” and his position as “Cardinal Rector” and has made reference to having various curates. Recent status updates have included “Oscar Late is done for the day, having sung compline in his home oratory” and “I have prayed the Office and am now awaiting my junior curate to fetch me my third cup of coffee. Where is the young lad?”
Fr. Late seems to be the “Deep Throat” of the Episcopal Church. Perhaps his/her identity will one day be revealed but in the meantime I, for one, am enjoying the ecclesiastical grandeur and pomposity.
“New Year, New You.” That’s the usual post-New Year’s health club enticement. The staff at Clergy Family Confidential has been working out (minimal steroid use was involved) and we now have a new look for our blog.
I’ve been hearing grumblings that the previous format was a bit hard on the eyes. Or perhaps I have a middle-aged readership that’s transitioning to bifocals. In any case the new “theme” should help with that. The font size is larger and the contrast is better. Unfortunately the content itself will remain about the same.
I nearly went with a hip black background. Bryna vetoed it and anyway I think it said you had to have a goatee and/or tattoo to select it. The next one I almost used was black and orange. I thought what better way to honor my last place Orioles than through blog colors? Ben nixed that one.
The theme I chose is called Quentin. It’s pretty simple and it reminds me of “Pulp Fiction” for some reason. I’m all for feedback on this. If you like it or hate it let me know. I try to always be responsive to my readers. Like Dear Abby but in a cyber-don’t-tell-ME-your-problems kind of way.
Thank you for your continued patronage. I’m making a lot of money off this site (you can tell by all the ads that clutter it up). Excuse me while I go give out large staff bonuses.
As you may have heard, the pope recently encouraged Roman Catholic priests to start blogging. Start? What have they been waiting for? If social media is all about building community, this is precisely what “communities” of faith should have been doing all along.
Sure, Benedict himself still writes out his speeches and sermons by hand in German. Probably on those yellow legal pads. But he’s now encouraging younger clergy to get out into this new-fangled thing called the World Wide Web. It’s unclear how this was communicated from the Vatican hierarchy: snail mail, fax, carrier pigeon, or message in a bottle.
His message, released on the Catholic Church’s World Day of Communications (who knew they had one?), has gotten a lot of press. Here’s the article from MSNBC titled “Pope to priests: For God’s sake, blog!” My friend, fellow blogger, author, and communications expert Meredith Gould (herself a Roman Catholic) grieves “the too-pervasive lack of awareness and understanding about the power and value of digital communications” by the Catholic leadership. Check out her recent post on the subject here.
I’m hardly an expert blogger. At least on the technology side: I’ve been blogging for a year and a half and I can’t even figure out how to add a Twitter widget! But I do look at this as part of my ministry; an extension of the pulpit. Though of course I can have a bit more fun with such an informal medium and I cherish the back and forth with those of you willing to leave comments.
Meredith concludes her post by expressing pride in the Catholic clerics who have embraced digital media. “But does the Pope and his advisers truly think average parish priests have either the time or talent to blog on a regular basis? Will they have the freedom?” It’s a good question — I’m interested in seeing ( and reading) the answer.