This May will mark twenty years of my blogging, with more than 4,200 posts behind me. But for the last few years, I’ve been writing very little; I hope to change that, sparked by recent events by one well-know social media outlet, and a bit of encouragement I found there.
The meltdown of Twitter is not complete, but even if it survives and even if it prospers, it’s hard to imagine that it could have the appeal it did in its early years. Indeed, through the Trump administration, it increasingly became a vehicle for horrors, and the case for it being good or useful in spite of this became harder to justify. But so long as it had a critical mass, leaving it in a huff more more performative than useful. Elon Musk’s chaotic takeover of Twitter changed this calculus, leading millions of people to seek alternatives. His sabotage of its technical capacity puts its continued functioning at risk, and the exodus of advertisers makes it financial viability even less likely. It might collapse even if it’s “reformed.”
I chose Mastodon (introductory guide) as my way out, as you will have seen in my last two posts. I’m finding an enjoyable community within a Mastodon, a distributed community with certain features like Twitter, but the change once made leaves me wanting even more. I want the writer- and reader-driver community we had before the large tech companies, including Facebook and Google and all their products, became identified with the internet itself. So Mastodon is good, but having a set of reliable long-form authors whose sites — often blogs — are worth reading is even more valuable. As an author, not having space limits or seeing your ideas vanish down the conveyor belt of attention is much more rewarding. This idea is bubbling on Mastodon, with wistful memories of what we had and might have again. (1) (2)
We may never have a new “golden age of blogging” but we don’t need one either. We just need good enough. And for small minority interests, like Universalist Christianity, having thoughts shared in the public, open web is invaluable. So I’ll take the “three post challenge” for January at bringback.blog.https://bringback.blog/. If you have a dormant blog, might you?
Part of me wants to start blogging again. Part of me says that the blogging age is over and that almost nobody would care.
I’m putting this out there not to cultivate sympathy, but to get a sense of whether anyone would read anything I write, and if so (and this is the important part) what kind of things would you like to see in 2022?
Thanks to several of you for kind words over the last few weeks. These have encouraged me do my best to "get back on the horse" and reactivate this blog and my Universalist Christian Initative project.
I suppose the pandemic (and before that the culture wars in my denomination) took its toll. As I look for a new voice, I’d gladly take suggestions about what I should address and what you would find helpful.
It been quite a month. A new article posted every day, and going back into August. But it’s not sustainable: making sure there’s something here every day keeps me from researching and writing deeper pieces, like that long promised connection between the Independent Sacramental Movement and Unitarianism. I’ve been reading less, too. There are more readers, but I’m not convinced that most of “them” aren’t bots indexing the new articles.
So, starting tomorrow I’ll post when I have something to say, perhaps in a longer format. Indeed, I have a sermon to write (and later post) for October 6. And for the human readers, thanks for coming by.
Looking back at the last two “what I’ll be writing about next” shows I’ve let some ideas slide. This is as much for me as you, the reader.
I’ll be focusing on
- Wrapping up (for now) the series on the Independent Sacramental Movement by looking at its historic intersections (plural) with Unitarianism
- Uncovering themes for those using the Revised Common Lectionary
- Looking back on Universalist non-geographic churches
- Revisiting by text workflow
- Reviewing Allin’s Christ Triumphant, which I have started reading
And, of course, preaching. I have a sermon to preach next week and in one in November. I’ll put those texts here, too.
Three days ago, this site weighed in at about 1.1 megabytes. Not the end of the world, but not keeping with a lighter internet and a shared responsibility for reduced server energy demand. It’s now just under 600 kilobytes, so quicker loading and better for your data plan.
Here’s what I did:
- I think I have removed all my trackers.
- Downgraded the “hero image” of the Jersey Universalist Church — though it now has a lot of artifacts (visual static) and it is still 100 kilobytes by itself. I should see if I can find an attractive theme without the hero image feature.
- Removed the large version of my photo from the bottom of the page.
- Hid large images below a “more” fold.
- Disabled the Jetpack plugin. Now I don’t see where people come from or what article drew them in. (Though the answer is almost always, “the United States” and “anything controversial about the UUA.”)
- Turned off Gravatars in the comments. I’m the only one who uses them, and my picture is already at the top of the page.
So now my site is more private, for you, too. Not sure if I’ll keep to all these reductions, and I might add more because those changes were those I could do quickly. Though if you really want to see a page fly, visit my Universalist Christian Initiative site, built in Jekyll with no images and a whisper-thin 16 kilobyte download.
Apart from clearing out half-started old draft articles and making some progress on the Independent Sacramental Movement, this month I’ll write on:
- Adapting liturgical elements
- Finding themes in the Revised Common Lectionary
- Revisiting free and open source tools for their church use
- Preparing for Universalist “Memorial Day”
- Perfecting the communion loaf
I take requests, too. Is there anything you, dear readers, would like me to research and write about?
I’m going through and cleaning up parts of the site, adding text where text is missing, moving links from the old Boyinthebands.com site and the like. The categories list is now a dropdown menu, and there’s a search bar in the site panel (desktop view).
The obvious change is the header image; it was time for something new. This is the Jersey Universalist Church, Jersey, Ohio, not so far from Columbus. I found the image at Wikimedia Commons, and although it was committed to the public domain, I want to thank user Nyttend for taking and sharing it.
I first learned of the Jersey church back in the 1990s but it wasn’t a member of the UUA but the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches. Here it is in the 1998 NACCC yearbook, under Pataskala, Ohio. Several Universalist churches became members of the NACCC instead of the UUA, but none with the word Universalist in their names remain today, Jersey included. But guessing by the sign there was some activity as late as 2010. Perhaps only a burial, as there is a cemetery next door. I wonder if they’re still going.
You can find it today on this Google map.
I’ve gotten a lot of interesting messages lately and some requests to share the articles that I’ve written. I wish I could say it’s about my reviews of prayer resources or research into Universalist polity. No, it’s almost always about the UUA, the UUMA or their action against Todd Eklof. There’s a lot of anger towards the signers of that letter out there.
Sure, share my articles. I post them in public to be read. (And if I said no, how would I stop you?)
But if the point of sharing the article is to stir up trouble in your church, please consider speaking directly and clearly to whom you have the conflict instead. Use the systems of accountability you have at hand, rather than relying on gossip and back-channel. While sometimes effective in the short run, gossip and back-channel are intensely corrosive to a church and that way nobody wins anything.
As my long-time readers have seen, I have written more here lately and hope to keep up the pace. Apart from historic connections between Unitarians and the Independent Sacramental movement I mentioned in my last update (that’ll be a longer piece), I’ll be writing next about:
- Why Universalists gathered parishes and societies at all
- Trying out short-format meditations tied to the Revised Common Lectionary
- Why I don’t engage in apologetics
- Notes about my eucharistic piety
- What Universalist “convention churches” were
- My tech-supported writing workflow
- Clippings from the Universalist General Convention
- Historic books I’ve started reading