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This isn’t the first blog post about the Christian New Media conference that took place on 16 October. There’s a great video, some short interviews and other blog posts available – I’ll try to add more when I see them. As previously mentioned, I was there as an interested participant, a short paper presenter  and I’d helped pick the post-event pub. I tweet as Batty_Towers and enjoyed the backchannel going on; questions were asked, resources shared and jokes offered via Twitter during the event. There was a great buzz around the place, and I’m conscious that this post only gives a tiny and biased view of the day. 

I was  excited about the opportunity to hear Heidi Campbell speak during the conference, her work really does have its own tab in my filing system.

My PhD is firmly rooted in the relationship between actual churches and their use of the online as an add-on; the discussion about how online tools can change the nature of our relationship with one another and the assumptions we make about mission was thought-provoking. I do believe it is important to consider these things (is online pastoral support as valuable as something that involves tea and biscuits?) but I do have concerns that too much reflection and not enough doing can lead to the church being left out of the communities that are building around it. Equally, diving in without considering the implications of starting digital initiatives can lead to problems – so I can see both sides. I suppose I am just lucky it is not me having to make those decisions.

I talked with Tim Hutchings about his PhD work, as well as Heidi. (At one point in the pub I was with three people who are quoted in my literature review – that was pretty awesome).

Tim’s talk compared the experience of two US megachurches and their approach to online community – despite it being a logical step for churches working on the distributed campus model, one had decided it was not working. One persevered but not without issues – the treatment of non-Christians by existing community members, for example. I liked the idea that the church had bought Google Adwords for ‘naked dancing girls’ so that it appeared in the search results for that topic.  

The penultimate speaker, James Poulter, made me a little bit cross, as you might have spotted if you read my tweets. It seemed to me to be a justification for buying into the consumerist dream. We are more than the things we rent, buy or recommend and if our identity comes from those shallow trophies, we’re in trouble. If you think it matters whether your Streetcar is a Mini or a BMW then I think you are approaching life from the wrong perspective. I’m all for connecting online with people but not just via the medium of things I consume.  

The theological strand was repeated on Monday in Durham; it’ll be interesting to hear feedback from that too. The day job means remote participation was not possible for me though I would have loved to have been able to digitally earwig.