A passion for for photography and digital communication with a background at the BBC and ITV.
Currently director at the School Media Club making cinema films for schools and working for Oblong Leeds a community development organisation. Also a member of All Saints Church in Ilkley and involved with communications in the parish.
This blog features posts about photography including some of my photos, while the media posts will include thoughts about filmmaking and online media - particularly to do with PR activities.
School Media Club
Category Archives: Faith
Here’s an Easter meditation I photographed at the wonderful Calvary at Middleton, Ilkley.
The stations of the cross there are hidden away in the trees and a great place to reflect, pray, look, listen. The music for the mediation is by Tino Alberti who gave me permission to us it. At first the music seems random and formless but out of it comes amazing grace.
If you would like to use the video a download is available via Proost
In the next few weeks I am acting as a social media encourager among a few local churches. The CofE while broad, brave and innovative in many ways, carries a lot of inertia on these kind of things. Centuries of doing things a certain way means that anything introduced in the last 50 years isn’t going to catch on quickly – but still I remain hopeful.
I’ve just been chatting to the lovely people in the Bradford Diocese mission control and this is the idea they have for tweeters over Easter. If you are a CofE parishioner in the Bradford Diocese may I encourage you to get behind this.
The Church of England is asking Christian tweeters to share the good news of Easter on Twitter by using the hashtag #everythingchanges. It’s hoped that #everythingchanges will trend on Easter day as people tweet from their sunrise services until the last service of the day.
If your church is willing Alison Bogle at the CofE in Bradford would like to follow your activities and maybe write up an article for the #everythingchanges story in local media.
Please contact Alison firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in being a tweeting guinea pig (now there’s an oddity).
Lent is a great time for reflecting on how things are and where we would like them to be. My pondering today has been about the nature of commitment. I won’t lie, I’ve been inspired by at least one person who I feel lacks commitment (not you I hasten to add).
The kind of projects I get involved with require quite large amounts of commitment if they are to succeed. Usually the projects are either new ventures or are in some way disruptive to the normal pattern of things. Oblong in Leeds is a project which has involved the complete refurbishment of a community centre, and the staff there are impressively committed to making it work. At St Joseph’s Primary School in Keighley where we ran a school film project recently the teachers were impressively committed – yes it’s true.
It’s easy to show enthusiasm for a project and even put lot’s of energy into it, but commitment is more than that. Commitment is about taking a risk and going all the way. The commitment is usually shared with other people and so there is often a demand for compromise and trust. It’s really hard.
By definition commitment takes you to a point of no turning back – where there is no return path, all of nothing. What I see in so many areas of life is an absence of true commitment. Folk will work hard and be totally professional, but only to a point. Even in family relationships there is a growing tendency to believe that you can get out at the first sign of trouble, there’s an escape route.
So why am I reflecting on this now? I suppose it’s because I have been examining my own commitment to the things I believe in and the people I relate to. My track record is chequered. More and more I feel as though I don’t want to be bothered unless I can be really committed. Why be half involved with something? There are people in my life who deserve my wholehearted commitment, without question. Maybe there are people who don’t!
Lack of commitment shows itself in an unwillingness to change, and as we all know change is necessary for the survival of all of us. People without commitment often appear dull or lacking in energy. To stand still is to wither away and risk is an inevitable part of being alive. And where people are concerned that change might also involve forgiveness.
So my promise to myself through lent is to give up the things that don’t mean much and to be more committed to the things that do. To be unafraid of taking risks or embracing change, and to be forgiving.
I’m not saying I’ll succeed but I’ll try.
I’ve been having a number of conversations about the way the church communicates. There is undoubtedly an urgent need for the church to get a few key messages across more clearly.
If you set aside (difficult to do), the central thing of Christ dying for our sins, non church goers are even then confused about what the church is or does.
I work part time for Oblong Leeds, a secular community development charity. Oblong runs Woodhouse Community Centre. We let out rooms to organisations at two rates – the normal commercial rate and a discounted rate for non profit organisations. The values of Oblong are around support for the poor and poor in spirit, equality, celebration of gifts, respect and care towards one another and so on. We have collectively decided to charge political and religious organisations the higher commercial rate. I don’t fully agree with this but we are a flat management and out of respect I go along with it. Here are two arguments:
- Churches are rich and so can afford the higher rate (a local church is spending a few million pounds on refurbishments)
- Churches are only open to those who believe or are prepared to be converted.
Any argument for the lower rate is undermined by the perception that the church is both rich and powerful. The finances in the voluntary sector are shockingly fragile. Some unemployed volunteers would struggle to get to the centre if we didn’t give them bus tickets. We literally have to count the pennies ourselves. We can hardly afford cleaning but we figure everyone cleaning the toilets keeps us grounded and equal. I heard a story about an unemployed man in Chapeltown who complained that all the jobs were in Leeds. Chapeltown is only a few minutes by bus from Leeds centre.
There are many churches in poor areas that are struggling and attending to the poor, yet it is often the richest churches we hear about first. The focus in the press is often on conflict, division, power and money.
On the issue of being open to all. I feel strongly that the church should make it clear who it is for and open its doors a little wider to people who are struggling physically, mentally and spiritually regardless of their place on the journey.
I remember attending a big church service in Birmingham during which a vagrant entered at the rear. A group of stewards flocked round and “encouraged” him out. “We get a lot of this but we have a system for spotting them and moving them out” one of the stewards told me. I remember the words clearly.
There will always, of course, be a distinction between those who believe, those who want to believe and those who reject, but actually there may be less clarity on this than we are prepared to accept. I am open to welcoming anyone and not make up my mind until I get to know them, and even then understand that we are enriched by our differences. Failing to engage with people who are “not like us”, make us feel uncomfortable or cause trouble is a curse of modern life – perhaps it is driven by the media and advertising in particular?
Let’s see some evidence of how poor and open to trouble makes the church can be. Making a difference perhaps begins with accepting a difference.
Help me to make a case for the lower rate.
Had an interesting afternoon at Kadugli House in Steeton yesterday at the Bradford diocesan centre for the Church of England. I was there on behalf of All Saint's Church, Ilkley. The session was led by Bryony Taylor social media manager at Reach Further
Feedback from the group suggested that there were fears about embracing social media as a corporate communication tool – mostly around the flood of information that is difficult to assimilate or control. The Bishop of Bradford made it very clear that it was easy to lose control and how vital it is that churches become adept at engaging with the media.
The Bishop's knowledge and command of the media, and his support for these sessions suggests that more churches may want to improve their media skills and visibility.
In the long term, online media will continue to transform the way people share information and interact, the internet has become ubiquitous. We have gone from being somewhere to everywhere.
With a few exceptions, it seems that there is a drift away from specific destination sites to a presence which is defined by content rather than channels. The bishop gave an example of using twitter to search for articles published by the Guardian. The use of search terms and other forms of metadata seems to be the key. For this reason a website based on a blogging platform may be better than a static site – offering better connectivity and a more dynamic experience.
The internet is all about links (of course) and an internet presence should be designed around the use of multiple services linked together The automatic distribution and flagging of content between services like Twitter, Facebook, blogs and the new kid Pinterest
But let us not forget the much bigger picture in which old forms of media continue to be important – flyers and posters, notice boards, phone calls, house to house drops. The media mix of any communication campaign should be broad and appropriate for the message and the audience. Online media does not replace old media. As Bryony said – "E" stands for enhanced (does not replace). The people who provide the content for websites should not be the geeks – encouraging newsletter editors to submit content for the web may be a way forward, but remembering that editorial has to be re-written and presented in a different way; different audience, different media.
The provision of quality content continues to be a challenge but increasingly there are sources of content issued under a creative commons licence. Flickr & Mixter for stills and music. Even if you have to pay for content iStockphoto is a source of affordable quality images. Evidence shows that stories without images tends not to engage readers quite so well – newspaper editors have always known. And many are saying that without video you may become invisible!
So what do I think? I'm really pleased that the diocese is seeking to encourage and equip churches to be more media literate. This signals a willingness to connect with the outside world. I am loyal to my local church which does some superb work but it feels like the Galapagos Islands (where isolated evolution has thrown up unique species that are not able to associate with normal creatures).
In the business world it would be unthinkable not to have a communication strategy of some sort. Identifying need, mindful of language, finding creative ways of connecting with new customers, listing – being outward looking. It seems to me we at last have communication tools that are cheap and actually fun to use.
"Go out into all the world" if you dare.
Christians from across the churches in Ilkley and Wharfedale are joining together for three-months of united, continuous (or 24:7) prayer from Sunday 18th September to Sunday 18th December.
This is an amazing effort from the nine churches in Ilkley here in Yorkshire. Prayer is taken very seriously among our churches, as you might hope. I think this will be a significant step for the Christian community in the town. Already people are asking pertinent questions about what to pray for, how to pray and what to expect as a result of praying. Great questions to work through.
Big ideas and projects like these are always worth the effort, they bring people together and enable the community to build good working repationships, potentially. And of course it will encourage a lot of people to engage with each other over matters of care, concern, joy, blessing.
Any media types out there I'd encourage you to promote this effort by downloading or passing on the press release. The download link for ther press release is here
We had a meeting at All Saints Church, Ilkley last night to discuss the website. These discussions are aways difficult to get started, mostly because there are many different staring points.
The most obvious questions is, what's it for? Why do we need a website? The answer is often that everyone else has one; not having a website somehow resigns you to the dark ages. In a way, the idea of having a website is more compelling that the reality of having a web site. It's a bit like having a gym membership – you like the idea of being healthy and part of the "forever young" club but having the membership is only symbolic – actually turning up and pumping iron is another matter. If you ask a church if they need a website they will agree, but the reality is that it perhaps won't be used.
Perhaps we should see the website as a something which is far more utilitarian? What do we want to use it for? What mission critical need do we have as a church?
There is a cliched media reference to the opening words of Howard's end – "Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer".
We are indeed living in fragments but even small fragments have gravity and will attract nearby particles. Eventually those fragments, by accident or design, will consolidate into new worlds. A web presence can be a tool for directing that gravity towards those with whom we wish to connect.
A mission critical need for the church is to connect with new people and put bums on pews – but for a greater purpose which is to bring people into a relationship with God.
For church members there are social groups, steering groups and prayer groups; some are musicians, tea makers or flower arrangers – endless activity. But the opportunities to connect are often quite restricted to existing and ever decreasing circles. The gravity which pulls people toward the church may include the need to belong, to serve, to make a difference, to find something greater than ourselves, to share ideas, to be creative. We somehow need to extend its range beyond our own universe.
A glossy marketing pitch (provided it is honest), may be a valid part of a communication strategy, but the challenge is to turn attention into connection. Once you have logged onto a website and seen the front page do you then have a reason to come back? Does the website change what you think, feel or believe about the church? Is there a call to action?
Poor websites are disconnected and lonely, they are more like museums full of fossils – and there are many of them. They are backward looking, historical, quiet. Better websites, I think, live in the present moment and are all about now. They're personal and relevant to me – and I should be able to see them at wherever and whenever – on my phone or in my office. The website should tell me when there's something new posted and send me an alert – it should talk to me. It should be connected to Facebook and Twitter. I should be able to talk back.
A test of a good website is whether it brings people together who wouldn't otherwise engage with each other. A good website will provide an opportunity to sign up to something in the real world that they wouldn't otherwise have done.
There is an obsession with the number of visitors to websites, but the real measurement should be whether people have been nudged in a different direction. Have the visitors made new friends, made a donation, turned up to an event because of the website? Has the website simulated word of mouth?
If you are one of the two people reading this, please feel free to leave a comment. I may just have to delete my account and pick up a book otherwise!
Meeting this evening to talk about a 24 hour reading of the King James Bible. The event will take place in Ilkley on the 16th & 17th August from 7pm to 7pm. The event is being organised by the Churches Together in Ilkley – there are 9 churches – which generally get on well together.
The plan is to stream the audio live on the Churches Together web site. There are a lot of older, house-bound people in Ilkley and I'm sure they will be interested to listen in to this.
Hoping also that it will be a prayerful reflective space at Christchurch to accommodate overnight supporters.
It's not often a church comes out in praise of twitter. The Rev Lee Townend the vicar of my church, All Saints in Ilkley, has written a piece about communication and has delivered it as one of his blog posts.
"Recently I've started using Twitter and also, in light of our new blogging Bishop, a weekly blog appears on the church website"
I can only say that I heartily approve.
We may sometimes be critical of some inane comments on twitter, confusing websites and information overload, but I think it's a jump in the right direction. With practice and acceptance of these tools I think there are some huge opportunities to be made in relationship building. The All Saints Website is improving all the time and the Churches Together Ilkley website is aslo gradually improving.
So just an encouragment for you to keep going on this, Lee and Huge. Thanks.
At All Saints Church in Ilkley we are currently debating the future of our church development. The conversations are inevitably fueled by the cost and the awareness that the church is about people and not primarily buildings. So what we need is a clear connection between the building and something deeper.
I was inspired to remember (thanks to Jonny's links) that church buildings have been places where faith is expressed through art. But it seems that in many churches art has become fossilized – you can see the glass windows, the paintings and the hear the music, but it has somehow become trapped in the past, museum like. Hardly anyone is inspired or changed by walking into a church building these days.
The outside world is experiencing an explosion of creative expression. It's a multi-media, multi-coloured world where ideas and fragments of people's lives are shared and presented in wonderfully imaginative ways.
St Paul's Cathedral has commissioned two permanent plasma screen alterpieces by artist Bill Viola.
Leftbank Leeds has reworked a church building to become the focus for a community of artists.
In Brighton the church is engaging the whole community in The Brighton Passion
You might like to read this article in the guardian which notes that 1.8 million people visit the Tate Modern every year while church attendance declines.
Art can help people reconnect with great themes such as life, death and suffering. "The aim of art is to reveal, inspire and question. It is a tragedy that many do not know or cannot accept that belief shares these aims"
It's not just about providing a space to hang art, but a place for people to dig deeper into their soul and worship God in ways that they are being denied by the church.
So let's put art into the vision for our church development and particularly make the spaces flexible and open to the participation of creative people.