a most inspiring award

Well, blow me down. I’ve received a nomination for  a Very Inspiring Blogger Award from Ivon from his Teacher as Transformer blog.

Isn’t that lovely? And isn’t the award a great way of building community? Now, I’ve got to nominate 15 other blogs and their authors as “Very Inspiring”, by which I mean that their blogs are inspirational to me. I know it’s not going to change their life, but it’s proof to them that they are making sense – to me, at least. (And it is reassuring to know that we are making sense to others).

And it’s going to get their oxytocin levels going! Dr Love – aka Paul Zak (can I change my name?) has researched the “moral molecule”, the chemical in the blood called oxytocin. It turns out that “being treated decently causes people’s oxytocin levels to go up, which in turn prompts them to behave more decently, while experimental subjects given an artificial oxytocin boost – by means of an inhaler – behave more generously and trustingly. And it’s not solely because of its effects on humans that oxytocin is known as “the cuddle hormone”: for example, male meadow voles, normally roguishly promiscuous in their interactions with female meadow voles, become passionately monogamous when their oxytocin levels are raised in the lab”.

So, let’s hear it for the male voles, and for social networking. Zak recommends, according to Oliver Burkeman writing in the Guardian

we should all be doing more to boost oxytocin in benign ways. He recommends a minimum of eight hugs a day (pets count, too); massage and even soppy movies seem to work: he has done the blood tests. Interactions on Twitter and Facebook seem to lead to oxytocin spikes, offering a powerful retort to the argument that social media is killing real human interaction: in hormonal terms, it appears, the body processes it as an entirely real kind of interaction

Get pressing that like button! William James claimed that “the deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated”, and a Harvard psychologist speaks of the importance of having a praise-criticism ratio of at least 5:1. Does anyone ever complain that they are praised too much?

Award ceremonies contain suspense, appreciation and thanks. Awards are prized and hard to come by – when we think of the Oscars, Olympics and such like. But there are everyday awards that are not so hard to come by, but are equally prized and create community. I had my own New Year ceremony which you can read about here. But there are awards to be made in our everyday world. These awards are not made with fanfares or fine words, but may consist of a “thank you” or simply a smile.

I’m not going to think too hard about the awards I am going to make today, but among them are my nominations for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award. (I am only including blogs which have recent posts).

And the nominations are (in no particular order and chosen from those who post regularly):

  1. Spirit 21 – Shelina Zahra Janmohamed
  2. Inspired Beeing – Cat Jaffee
  3. The Painted Prayerbook – jan Richardson
  4. Growing up with God – Rachael Elizabeth
  5. Simon Marsh
  6. shinystuff – Jan Dean
  7. Beyond the Edge – Viv McWaters
  8. Another Angle – Stephen Cherry
  9. Lost in the North – Dave Mock
  10. Plaza – Oliver Herbert
  11. People Reading
  12. Do not dance UK – Jose Campos
  13.  On the plus side – Lynn Walsh
  14. Christopher Burkett
  15. The Six Doyles – Katherine Doyle

The rules for accepting the nominations are:

  1. Link back to the person who nominated you
  2. Post the award image to your page
  3. Tell seven facts about yourself
  4. Nominate 15 other blogs
  5. Let them know they are nominated

So here’s the award

And here are seven facts about myself:

  1. I’m part of a lovely family – Jeanette, Adam, Oliver and Leo and their loved ones
  2. I was ordained in Sheffield in 1974
  3. I am still listening to Leonard Cohen and Paul Simon after all these years
  4. I love the beach – Patara and the beaches of Wirral and North Wales
  5. I’m intrigued by ideas of leadership and ministry (nominating here Dee Hock and Meg Wheatley for Very Inspiring Author awards).
  6. I follow the ups and downs of the Foxes – Leicester City – my home town team
  7. I recommended a book by Jay Griffiths to someone yesterday – A Sideways Look at Time

Thank you Ivon for nominating me and for inspiring me to today’s awards and community building. You would have been on that list.

Image rich

>I think it takes a particular mindset to respond to opportunities of the new media. I was pleased to read that Liverpool Diocese is “working to engage with the online community” and has a twitter account to prove it. My own mindset seems to make me hang back awhile till the case is proved.

I delayed getting my first PC – I couldn’t see the point until friend Richard Todd persuaded me and guided me so that ministry in Tarvin became revolutionised through the new media we could use. I too have now been dragged into Facebook and Twitter. I don’t know how it’s going to work, but I am getting a kick out of getting messages from John Sentamu and Ed Milliband!

I used to search for images for hours when I was a young curate in Sheffield Manor. I wanted to make things presentable to youngsters who were preparing for Confirmation. There were no images in books. Books were text-books. All that was possible was using a stylus pen to create line drawings on a stencil for the old Roneo copier. The drawings had to be so simple because otherwise you ripped the skin of the stencil and it was back to square 1. (I spent many a Saturday night with duplicator ink up to my elbows!) It was a major technological breakthrough when electric duplicators were introduced – a lot easier on the arm, though jamming became the new issue.

Now we are image rich – particularly with digital cameras. We no longer count the cost of taking photos. The challenge now is how to manage them all. One person using images to amazing effect is Dave Perry through his Visual Theology blog. He is creating some stunning images to go with the lectionary. This is a real gift for preachers – and a wonderful new way for people to “read” and “hear” the sermon.

Hospitable Space

> Turkish people were able to gather together to watch their team in the Euro finals because one of them had started a facebook to see how many Turkish people there were around in the north-east. Facebook, ebay, youtube are typical self-organising communities in our networking society. They don’t need community workers or developers. They don’t need leaders or rulers either. Facebook has over 75 million members with 250,000 joining every day.
On the other hand, membership of many other communities are in sharp decline. Membership of churches, voluntary groups, political parties all report falling memberships. Some cynically say that people are avoiding commitment – or are they avoiding commitment they are not willing to give. Or, are people leaving things where there are rules and regulations – where they are feeling they are being organised by somebody else?
What does this say to people who want to see the development of community?
The size of membership of Facebook indicates that I am not alone in wanting to develop community and belong to community. But I operate in an institution (because the Church of England operates as an institution)and as part of “leadership” implement initiatives which create frustration when the “followers” don’t respond. Myself and others who have been hide-bound by institutional community need to learn is that communities which flourish are those which are self-organising, and which are movements rather than institutions.
Isn’t this what the early church looked like to St Luke? He describes members meeting in one another’s houses, sharing everything. He underlines how fast the community was growing.
What Facebook offers is a space for people to move into. Maybe that is what the art of living is – providing spaces of hospitality in which people can belong and grow – which reminds me – I must go and lock the church. Oh dear!
This is what the Rhett Smith has to say on the subject:

Basically, people are organizing themselves in powerful ways that thwart the traditional means of organization through leaders in authoritative, hierarchical positions. No longer do people need to go through an institution to achieve their end goal. Many churches already know this, and still, so many other don’t. Those who recognize the shift will be in positions to harness the unbelievable creative power of a church community. Those who don’t will find themselves struggling to carry out the vision for their church community.