Thursday, 22 March 2012

Yet Another Blog Dies

She might not think so, but I still miss viewing Reverend Lesley Crawley's blog. It was effectively shut down not long after her marriage and move of husband to a new locality and full incumbent ministry, where Lesley was to be in priestly assistance. The reason for the closedown was her obvious preference for local ministry, and her blog with its larger issue controversies was undermining this. She hasn't bothered much to use it to add her sermons, even. She was very much an open-ended liberal, even a religious humanist-Christian by how she justified (or didn't) a number of beliefs. The problem is that locals read a blog and then form a loop or two of suspicion and questioning. At least Lesley carried on co-ordinating the anti-Covenant coalition.

Rachel isn't such a liberal. In fact she has resisted any such movement. When she returned from India and doing lots of Diocese of Derby indaba with them and Americans, Deacon Rachel Marszalek was going to make her blog a private access matter (me included) but then changed her mind. Given that she was evangelical, with an ongoing encounter with some contemporary theology, I never thought that her blog would be a problem. But after settling into her curacy she suddenly received feedback through the channels by people reading her blog and not understanding it. So she thought she would make it private, then preferred openness. Now, with further events, she will close it down altogether, leaving it 'paired down' as a resource.

Well that's a shame. Rachel is the only virtual person I've since met in reality, visited on the way back from ministry background information (Unitarians) in Manchester. I diverted via Belper. Our chat then included Lesley's blog and all around it, and there was no controversy around her own. I liked chatting with Rachel because there was an openness and honesty and lack of coding around her speech, though this has since diminished (as you'd expect given these developments).

Rachel has had no recent direct contact with me, and so I am no more aware of what is happening than her own public output. Her background is conservative evangelism and pentecostal type worship, but moving across to more space in the Church of England where evangelicals accepted women leaders. She was rapidly accepted for ordination training. But anyone reading her blog will have noticed that she did Indaba in the United States and came back somewhat enlarged in mind, like eyes had been opened. She continued bringing forward some theology as encountered at theological college. She went to India and came back with some interfaith intentions as well as concerns. However, there has also been a change out of keeping with some of these impressions from the United States Episcopalians in New York and the (ecumenical) Church of North India at Mumbai. First of all there was an appreciation of the whole Church of England and what it offers, but since the Indian visit there has been a moving back to the emotional attachment of charismatic even conservative evangelical forms. She suddenly wants the Church of England to be more thoroughly evangelical. I find this in contrast with some of the (even conserving) postliberal type theology she was using, and in fact for some weeks I have been a little puzzled as to what is going on. Her own family apparently have criticised her attachment to the broader Church of England.

She writes:

I have been hearing for a few weeks that I might be finishing here. Today is the day - I returned to safe territory and was reminded about the importance of prayer and evangelism - the ground is shifting. I am going to start over and might relaunch something different at some point. This site will still float around in cyber-space as a resource, I suppose, or even as a testimony to a few years of my life.

If this is explained to me privately, and can go no futher, then the puzzle involved in its half-explanation cannot then be transmitted. But I'm not expecting or seeking information (ultimately it's none of my business) and all I've said so far here is what has been in the public space. It's not obvious to me what is involved, but it can be considerable with a tied house and a chap who is a house-husband. Perhaps another curacy involves a fresh start, or there is even a fresher start and all will be revealed (or not). I've even thought, humm, that new profile picture on Facebook is the one where she removed the white clerical collar bit before she actually became clerical (worn on a fashion show).

Anyway, what this shows is that blogs do seem to be dangerous even beyond the pools of Anglican liberality. Peter Ould also moved out of paid ministry, from a very conservative position and his blog continues. Incidentally I have had local [Unitarian] feedback (from one person and others beyond) that doesn't like my dives into controversy or the parallel universe, especially where I use the name John Sendmehome. You might notice that I have carried on - yes, I did reduce the Radio Chadderbox entries but they were going that way anyway, and have been revived as I please. Of course I am not in a paid position of expected behaviours and performances and the feedback loops aren't as critical. I'm not in the business either of training people to understand this blog. Take it or leave it: if you don't like it, don't read it. You're entitled to your opinion and that's it. I never have commented on ratings (and Lesley's blog was forever going on about female bloggers and ratings, including Rachel's). Other people who use this blog for their controversies might get their comments removed, but I'll defend what I do if all is within the bounds of reasonable comment.

So blogs are dangerous. Well, those that are not marketing add-ons. Some websites are publicity and so are some blogs. They have limited use - on line noticeboards.

I have thought about reducing and closing this blog, especially when it has diverted energies or stopped other events. But several controversies are coming to fruition at the moment and then matters may quieten again. So this is open ended commentary. Some of these entries will be slightly altered and become actual website pages. My website is my resource, and it is actively awake in a few places (e.g. lists of hymns for service takers) and otherwise makes itself available according to what is there. Once the Covenant business is through there will be some new webpages, charting its (surely now) rejection. I've a few new Unitarian pages to add too. So this blog is likely to evolve, quieten a bit, but should carry on. I'm noting however just how controversial they are when people are in a job that is supposed to be about personal growth and honesty. Expressing this seems to be a problem inside institutional religion.


Lesley said...

I'm rather flattered although surprised that you are missing my blog :)

In my case I wasn't asked to stop nor did I get the impression that it was a problem.

I think now I have some distance from stopping that I started during a painful and lonely time - being separated, and the blog helped me heal and also gave me emotional intimacy with others which I was missing. But when I remarried I no longer had the time nor really the need or inclination to blog.

Plus, I think blogs are more interesting when people are in the stage of faith when they are doubting and questioning - in the way that music and literature is more interesting when written by a tortured soul. I found peace, I worked through the "dark night of the soul" and came to a place where I just wanted to "be"... not really very interesting to write about.

Plus getting married and having more kids and more family in general completely removed all my spare time!

Rev R Marszalek said...

"I think blogs are more interesting when people are in the stage of faith when they are doubting and questioning" - I like this from Lesley - this is very helpful for me. I hope at some point to return to academic theology, until then my life becomes so consumed with the everyday narratives of all people's stories, that I find that there is now little to share. With the imminent retirement of the ABC and the women bishops debate nearly over, my topics of interest are on hold. As I venture out to discover my evangelical roots, which is largely what I am up to now and think through an authentic Anglicanism, I am more likely to rally against much of Anglicanism as it manifests itself in day to day life and deciding to work within the structures for an authentic expression ie the life and death and resurrection of Christ, the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit as central to faith, I am only likely to restate what Anglicanism originally set out to be anyway. If i am not doing that then I will only be voicing my frustration and disappointment with the church and in my own hopes to be a good disciple of Christ, I want instead to be known to encourage and equip from the inside rather than criticise and lament. The decision to stop blogging is a healthy one for me. Do call again however, if ever you are passing by. :-D

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Thanks for the explanations - both of them. Rachel is saying that she wants to work from within, and the blog would just sound too negative institutionally for what she wants to achieve more positively. I can understand that. It might have academic content but there is no time with the pastoral load. I can understand Lesley's change of focus too - I simply took what was said at the time in public but I can see the change of scene meant a loss of need to put out the personal stuff. It was always clear that the doubting and questioning had an emotional force behind it, whereas mine is more detached.

Anonymous said...


Feeling a little used there Lesley. You're alright, blow the rest of us. Some of us valued your words, and would never have thought for a second that we were part of your Shrink's Bench!