This thing that we do, blogging, is a reasonably new thing. It is odd and still strange to a good number of people and so it seems to fall to bloggers to expound the rule-book (were such a thing to exist) to those following shortly behind. Bloggers blog, then they tell other bloggers how to blog. There is a specific appetite for such material if hit-counts are to be believed - so I work on the basis, as a fairly new bloggist in my own right, that this must be the case.
I am increasingly of the opinion that there is an implicit etiquette in this activity, more especially where weirdos like priests have their crack at this particular whip. Priests are, by very definition, public figures (paid, employed or otherwise) as our titles and Orders have a valency of their own which cannot and should not be ignored. So, a Sunday List for you - one that is neither exhaustive or to be regarded as anything other than my opinion:
1. At the centre: I believe very firmly that if someone blogs as a priest, that they have a duty to centre all that they do on the hope of Christ. The hobby-horse becomes, after a while, a pain in the bottom! Individual posts must vary, of course, but a priest should always exhibit the hope and grace of God in the overall work.
2. Read Ye Lest Ye be Read: At the side of this post you will see a list of other blogs. Most bloggers display a 'blog-roll', partly to attract traffic and partly to create it for someone else. It is the community aspect of this passtime and is healthy and good. However, I believe too that a balance needs to be made in the authorship of those blogs. Priests can gain considerably by reading often barely read, modest writings of ordinary lay Christians. Their blogs tell us what those in our care are thinking, and we ignore them at our peril. They write without the constraints of Orders, the need to be sensitive or to package things for public consumption. One of my blogs-of-choice is Daydreamer - who is a perfectly noble barometer for the life of our parishioners, and a woman who is blogging at the same rate as getting to know how to use a computer! Reading the high hitting levitous priestly writers is only half the job for us - find a parishioner and 'follow' them!
3. Word Counts: We have something to say and we say it in our blogs, but again, this is half the work for a priestly blogger. I am guilty of failing in this a lot of the time, but I wonder if it is not 'better' for us to write more words in comment on other blogs that are written in our own posts. Other blogs talk about other things, and to fail to engage in those postings is to state by actions that what we have to say is of greater value that what others have to say. I know that, for me, I sit here and blurt out an 'absolute statement' and post; then I play with the kids or eat (or sleep or do the paid job etc). I am trying to comment on other blogs more, as in those engagements I am likely to learn more in the end. Also, let us not forget our valency - rightly or wrongly - as we perhaps even have a duty to engage with those who share our hobby.
4. For Whos Sake? The central kernal in offering spiritual direction is also applicable here. When we type our words, why are we doing it? Whilst I know no such bloggers personally, I have encountered writing here and there in other work that has taught me that self-aggrandising priestly bloggers are a danger. The 'look at me' tendency of some odd little outputs here and there is akin to the desire ot be ordained to the be one 'at the front' or 'to wear the uniform while walking the dog': just plain wrong. For the sake of clarity, I follow no such blogs - but I will 'out' them the next time I find one.
5. For Whos Sake II? I perhaps take this to the edge, but I am troubled by some blogs that would not reflect the person who people would expect to see the next Sunday. I am ranty and a little sweary at times, but I hope that in this blog you would read the same person who you would meet after. When people read the blogs of priests and other ministers, they expect a behaviour, rightly or wrongly, to be that of priest. Only blog what you are prepared to say from the pulpit - or else don't. To do otherwise causes injury, I believe - and that is not the business that any of us are in.
This is the start - and I hope to be challenged, corrected or added unto below. What we do as priests, we don't do in our own name, and to forget that would be, well, difficult!
To the blogs I follow - thank you for what you do to help me in this and for being a part of this funny world we inhabit; you all do far more for my writing than you imagine and I just love pawing over your work!