I started blogging in January 2007, so I can hardly consider myself an expert, and I'm not one to worry about who is reading my blog. At first, it was sort of a novel way to keep a journal, which I've never been good at doing for longer than whatever crisis I was journaling about lasted. This time, though, I've layered on some other experiences and kinds of meaning (to me at least), that have made it a much more successful attempt at journal-keeping than in the past.
I intentionally named it Telling Stories and Learning Faith, hoping to emphasize both my desire to become a better storyteller and narrative theologian and also my sense that while I may be going on to perfection, I'm nowhere near there yet. I meant it to be a place to post whatever writing I do, and perhaps encourage me to do more, and initially to be a forum where I could express myself honestly and openly, without having to censor myself too much. That focus quickly shifted as my senior pastor and I thought about how the blog might let me be more transparent to our congregation, and I began not only to publish my weekly newsletter articles in the blog but also to censor myself a little more often and be a little more moderate in how I express my frustrations. As a very open person, that's occasionally difficult for me, but down the line, I found other arenas for that type of expression as well.
In the first couple of months, I felt all alone in the blogosphere. I would occasionally get email or verbal feedback from a parishioner about something I had written and very rarely a comment from someone I didn't know who had stumbled on to my blog. I learned to use the "next blog" button at the top of the Blogger page to surf through randomly selected blogs, and discovered that I really am not interested in much of the content out there. As a free blog provider, Blogger hosts many blogs with commercial and "adult" content I'm not interested in. But one day, I stumbled on to the RevGalBlogPals site...I've honestly forgotten if I was chasing a link from a comment someone left me, or blogsurfing through random blogs, or possibly someone had mentioned the webring to me.
At RevGalBlogPals, I found content for and by clergywomen, many of whom had experiences in ministry similar to mine, and others whose lives and settings were completely different. My connection with RGBP is two-fold: I'm now a member of the webring, so more people may stumble onto my blog through another RGBP member, and also there are a variety of weekly and monthly features through which we interact on the blog.The Friday Five, a "get-to-know-you" weekly event, is my favorite weekly web ritual. Each week a RGBP member posts 5 questions for visitors to answer on their own sites, and then refer to their post in the comments on RGBP. I have grown to look forward to the exercise both as a means of stimulating me to write something each week and as a way to connect with peers I might never meet in person. Through the Friday Five and reading others' responses, I have developed a list of blogs I check on a regular basis. Among them are The Best Dog Ever (yep, purportedly written by a dog), Catz and Best of (yep, by a cat--there's an informal RevGalPetPal network, too), Abbey of the Arts (and a bi-weekly poetry challenge I have added to my blog/writing discipline), and freshly ground and freshly brewed, although there are many others.
In addition to the RBGP Friday Five, I check in on Tuesdays for Lectionary Leanings as the RevGals discuss the week's lectionary texts, on Wednesdays for the Wednesday Festival, where site visitors are encouraged to visit blogs having particularly interesting content, from a great recipe to a prayer concern to a project, and on Thursdays for the advice column, Ask the Matriarchs, where we can all join in to share our experiences and counsel when one is facing a difficult situation. I have also been invited to share in a joint blog kept for and by other UM clergywomen looking for a sounding board and a sense of connection.
I did not anticipate finding a sense of community in any way when I began blogging. It started as a selfish exercise: I wanted a place that would be my own for reflecting on what was happening in my life and for writing a bit, so that one day I might be able to figure out what I want to write (I feel that as a sense of calling, not as strong as my call to pastor, but certainly strong and persistent). It became, however, a place to make connections: a fellow blogger from Tennessee offered me company and a seat at his Emergent cohort meeting when I was in TN visiting my sick mother-in-law. Another blogger who is currently in Iraq with the military has stumbled upon the RevGalBlogPals, and finds himself asking questions as he reads our posts: questions about faith, about the Bible, about grace and Jesus Christ. I never anticipated that I could feel a sense of relationship, at many different levels, as I sat in my office typing on a keyboard. It's been a surprise, a welcome one, and a gift as well.
crossposted on Any Way You Slice It