Magazine article The Christian Century

Revgals Online

Magazine article The Christian Century

Revgals Online

Article excerpt

I NEVER MEANT to start a blog. But one day I was reading Real Live Preacher (reallivepreacher.com) and followed one link to another link, then landed on a page where a woman was describing how she told her young daughter that a beloved congregant had died. She wrote with graceful prose and a few pinches of well-timed humor. On another site, a preacher discussed fingernail polish, evoking a spirited conversation about whether or not the well-dressed clergywoman should wear bright colors in the pulpit. Several pages discussed reactions to the PBS documentary film The Congregation. The conversations were lively, funny and tender. I kept reading.

Blogs, unlike informational Web pages, are interactive. In comment boxes following each post, readers can add to the conversation by typing in a few strokes at a keyboard. I was a lurker at first, reading the posts and the responses from the sidelines. Eventually, however, I left a comment, and then another. I began checking back to read how others had responded to what I'd written, and then I read the blogs of other commenters. I was hooked. A few weeks later I had a blog of my own, a pseudonym and a small network composed mainly of fellow women clergy.

Since my career straddles ministry and academia, my blogging network expanded rapidly to include a large number of professors and graduate students. Soon it was out of my hands. Today my blogroll (sort of a blogging posse) consists of a cadre of stay-at-home moms, computer specialists, musicians and expatriate grandmothers. Most evenings I spend time at the computer checking up on friends, composing posts and finding more gizmos (booklists that link to bookstores, word-of-the-day links and other features) to put on my blog page.

For the uninitiated, blog is shorthand for Web log, or online journal. Several platforms, or technologies, are available on the Internet to help one set up a free or low-cost blog site.

There are as many blog topics as there are bloggers, but certain bloggers congregate together, regularly reading and commenting on each other's blogs. Correspondences develop, and these can become online friendships. Most pages include a blogroll, a list of links to other blogs that the writer enjoys checking regularly. Visitors can click through and meet the blogger's friends and acquaintances. When I read a new blog, I often check out its blogroll.

Estimates of the number of blogs range from 3 million to 30 million, but no one knows for sure how many there are. This is because there is no uniformly accepted definition of blog, and no way to determine what constitutes an active blog. Since software and Web space are generally free, there is little incentive to remove an inactive blog even if one is no longer maintaining it, so discarded blogs live on in cyberspace.

I spent my first ten years after divinity school in places where there were few other clergy of my age or gender. Not having a peer support system was hard in those first bleary-eyed years of ministry. I was unabashedly jealous of divinity school classmates in more populous settings, and coveted their clergywomen's groups and their lunches with mentors. The shift from the ready-made divinity school community to the isolated existence of a 20-something college chaplain was rough. What a difference my new online community would have made back then!

It is a community. We pray with and for one another. We offer advice and hold one another accountable. When trouble hits, we respond. Every day I check the blogs of a second-career Methodist seminarian and a new Episcopal priest somewhere "out there" in Montana. I eavesdrop on conversations between a stay-at-home mother and her four-year-old; I advise a southern-lawyer-turned-Christian-educator on what to look for in a mother-of-the-bride dress. A midwestern clergywoman writes about officiating at the funeral of a beloved church member; a West Coast counterpart presides over the closing of a church. …

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