#PokemonGo #community and #technology

Pokemon Go is not new technology, its based upon Ingress which uses google maps landmarks to create a fun reality that layers on top of the landscape of life. In fact, the idea is not that different from Geo-caching which has been around for a LONG time.

PokemonGo.jpg

What PokemonGo has done is hit all the right notes at the right time.

-Classic Fandom that has been around for 20years

-A pre-written motif to “Collect” & “Catch” them all

-The fact that it is the Age of the Geek, most adults who complain about the overuse of technology unashamedly own smartphones and use facebook….

ageofgeek.jpg

-A year that has been…rough….2016

Let’s be clear, millennials and young people have grown up in an age where getting to know your neighbors is a rarity.

Its not because we (because I’m a millennial) are addicted to technology and antisocial–its because we are a displaced generation, overworked and farther away from home than any of our parents were…this means that technology has been USEFUL for us….

Its not all sunshine and rainbows but through facebook my parents and in-laws see pics of their grandchildren (after all what else is fb for?), through cell phones I can call my best friends in Seattle, NYC and Alabama without crazy charges pretty much whenever I want, through meetups I hold a weekly playgroup that has touched at least 300bfamilies, through twitter I can virtually attend many conferences and conversations about racism, community, church and technology, and through etsy I can find items that have my autistic son’s favorite character, through instagram I can take pics of what I am reading and hopefully find people with like interests…..

Technology makes manifest our longing to connect, giving us opportunities to find new ways to reach out. It was only a matter of time before technology would turn things on their head and actually succeed in bringing people physically together.

It brings people together in communal spaces, inviting them to talk and interact…and what is amazing is they do!

It would be easy to pooh-pooh the effects of a fad…but why not celebrate? Is this not what we hope the ultimate goal of technology to be? Isn’t it wonderful when people get together? (and yes, people are imperfectly using the technology, a handful of people have taken advantage of it and people need to remember to be SAFE on their cellphones–but you should see the hundreds of churches seeing positive effects of one game)

When things are tough, and community is hard to find, I see PokemonGo as the opposite of escapist, its creative. Its creating community in what has otherwise been a fairly lonely year of tragedy. As communities of queer,Latinx, African-Americans, police officers are effected, as Baghdad, the Middle East and France are attacked, as time is hard, PokemonGo is just what the Dr ordered.

So GO! Don’t capitalize or dismiss the game.

Enjoy it, live into whatever interactions it creates (whether you play or not)

and be excited for what it might mean for the future, because that future won’t come unless we dare to dream it.

 

My Being #poor : Personal Thoughts

I didn’t know how poor we were.

I mean on the one hand, I knew we were living paycheck to paycheck for going on 5 yrs

I knew we have ongoing credit card debt

But our credit is ok

We eat healthy food

We are able to provide for our 3, yep that’s right 3 children

Although I would sometimes wonder (at least in my head) if there was a different decision we could have made

Like maybe saved a little bit of money during seminary? Maybe we shouldn’t have backpacked thru England on our honeymoon? Maybe we shouldn’t have had 3 children? (

But I don’t think I realized that we have literally been on the line for qualifying for food stamps for now close to five years…this is on top of our way too much in credit card debt, two car payments………and college loans which (thankfully) we don’t have to pay back yet.

We don’t own a house, we rent, and of course that price goes up every year.

I guess I’ve been raised middle class, my family are middle class, everyone is very white collar, and we have education. I have great education, I went to Seminary at Princeton, I undergraded at Oberlin. We know how to make smart decisions and we don’t have to worry about the power being shut off or not having enough gas to get somewhere (about 99% of the time at least). We make our decisions from a middle class, long-ranging, educated mind-set.

I work hard. My husband works hard.

I work full time. My husband works part time and has been trying to get full time forever working a little more every year (at one point working 3 jobs just to get 20hrs a week), oh and helps take care of our 3 children 2 of whom are still in preschool…esp. now that the kids are almost all in school, its going to be totally worth it…

Someday..

But I’m tired. I’m tired of stressing about what money comes from what. I’m tired of just paying off one medical bill and getting another one in the mail having had no clue what it will cost and having no extras to budget towards it anyway.

I don’t know if we really will get food stamps, its close. Too close, probably we won’t get it (should I not have been negotiating for raises every year?)

People act like being poor is one big bad decision, or one big bad thing that happened.

I can’t find that thing, and I think because I couldn’t find the “wrong” thing we did, I couldn’t consider us poor. We went to school, we pay our bills, we work as much as possible, we trade, we economize, we don’t waste, we accept help from friends and family, we spend money on a few things to keep us “sane” but try to continually cut those costs.

So we are poor. This is why I get so angry about the “lazy Millennials” narrative. This is why I’m so vehement about offering vacation and sick to even our most part time workers on staff at the church (we can’t pay them lots but at least we can treat them like human beings). This is why I relate so well to those who facing socio-economic problems and come to the office. The number of times we have granted a congregant/community-member a short term loan when prob. I should be asking for one for my family…..

Its not like the church doesn’t pay me, they do. That’s another reason why I didn’t realize we were poor, because my church is struggling off of an endowment. And any pastor (esp. a female) who is working as a solo full time pastor is considered a good gig, plus I get paid above the minimums which makes the job seem downright cushy in these tough times.

I must say and clarify that I love my church and they pay me well (plus the professional/personal benefits are awesome). There are obviously other factors at work here.

When I consulted with a financial adviser last year the advice was basically, your making all the right decisions, you just need to be making more money.

“just”

Theologically, I believe in the abundance of God.

The other reason I had trouble believing I was poor, is because God has been abundant with me. I have friends, I have an amazing husband, I have three healthy children. My family and I get to talk regularly, as do my in-laws and I. I am working in a field I love, full-time. I am able to be me and connect to the community. We have love and laughter and libraries full of free books. I have a housing allowance and health insurance. I also don’t want to take for granted some of the hegemonic rights that we are privilege too including high education, white ethnicity and cis-hetereo-normative identifiers.

So…I don’t know what to do with all of this. It ends up being a laundry list of data, which tends to remind me that most people consider themselves to be middle class without having a clear idea of what that means, other than being part of the American Normative…

But of course, I’m not normal. I’m a fantasy – loving pastor who is open-minded but runs a traditional service, who desperately believes in queer rights but wants to walk with people wherever they are. I’m a millennial who got married and had children exceptionally young and yet am highly educated. I have lotsa children (statistically for my generation) and yet work full time. Plus, I’m a solo woman full time pastor who loves small church contexts. Oh, and I like to dress weird.

Plus, most Millennials I knew are struggling as much as I am, living with their parents for an extended period of time, always searching for more work, learning home-made crafts and arts as hobbies.

I’m not sure what all this means…but its def. a lot to think about….

#Presby #PCUSA #Media & #Marketing #notmyOGHS

Hmmm…..

The #notmyOGHS movement on twitter points to 2 deeper issues.

The first of which is the utilization of stereotypes to market (even if meant ironically). The deep and complex issues of this campaign is summarized well here https://storify.com/breyeschow/concerns-raised-over-2015-oghs-campaign These are amazing issues, that are too complex to address in one blog post, please read over the variety here.

OGHSfishcal260x260

The other issue is media….some people raised the fact that an outside (non-theologically) based company was hired to help with the campaign.

In the quest to be hip(ster) and cutting edge, the denomination mis-stepped…In fact, from what I know about Millennials they might be some of the first to point to the hegemonic issues that exist in such an advertising scheme. I think this was part of the issue with the One Thousand and One Worshiping Communities scandal as well…

#wecandobetter

We can find new ways of speaking…We can do better in media…but we can’t leap ahead, we need Presbyterian marketers, we need to groundsource our young pastors to help with twitter, tumblr and instagram (FB is already passe)….

Media is so, so important…if we are preaching the Gospel we need to translate into all kinds of language–we learn this lesson over and over again.

How can we translate the Gospel into these forms of media, how can we get digital natives to do the translating? If we want to be hip to hipsters…shouldn’t they be the ones helping with the campaign (or give a substantial slice to them?)….

We have so many gifted resources, we should be using them.

Family Church

I went to General Assembly in 2012 as an observer…which meant, literally that I was there with absolutely no ulterior motives, I just wanted to see how things worked. My husband, my three children and my mother came with me. Luckily, my husband had friends in Pittsburgh, where it was, so he was interested in seeing them. Luckily, my mom is a Presbyterian Pastor so she was interested. Luckily my youngest was an infant so he could easily tag along with me. Luckily, I could go.

But it was a hassle, and there I was a young pastor burning with the call to do things–and I couldn’t find the young/contemporary people.

And, I want young people to go to church–maybe, perhaps, even more than my elders do. I want young people to come not just because they are the “future of the church” not because “we need them” or even “the church is dying” but because I am young, and I feel alone. I want my peers to be into what I’m into, I want friends and partners who understand what it is to be fulltime working, raising children, on all the media and a millennial…it hurts, it hurts because its tempting to take the weight of an entire generations’ conversion on my shoulders (which is stupid because I don’t convert people, Jesus does, but I’m only human, so I slip), one night I cried all over my best friend’s shoulder because it just felt so overwhelmed and sad and alone

There are a few gaps that I see that I think that are obvious to me that do not seem to be a part of the conversation in the greater church.

Churches are NOT family accessible:

I could write the laundry list of why, but lets just say…most timing is very inconvenient and children are NOT included in most of church life…they are either tucked away somewhere else or ignored.

and there is never any babysitting…there certainly wasn’t any at GA….and then they wonder why young families aren’t coming.

This is all to say that I am going to the NextChurch conference next week, and no I am not bringing my children, but there is BABYSITTING. This alone makes me know that nextchurch is on the right track.

“We WILL have childcare available for the National NEXT Gathering. Childcare will run from 8:30a-5:30p on Monday and Tuesday and 8:30a-12:30p on Wednesday. Childcare will be located at the Hilton, the conference hotel. We’re outfitting a playroom there. It will be staffed by fully vetted childcare providers through the service College Nannies. The fee for childcare is $75 per child for the whole conference. Please bring a check made out to Village Presbyterian Church, earmarked “NEXT Childcare.” If this cost is prohibitive, please be in touch with Jessica Tate (nextchurch2014@gmail.com) to discuss options.”

Millennials, Fantasy & Faith (and why does Katy keep putting them together)

Here is an article about our continued consideration of the “God is dead” question…

“Was Nietzsche right in thinking that God is dead? Is it truly the case that—as the German sociologist Max Weber, who was strongly influenced by Nietzsche, believed—the modern world has lost the capacity for myth and mystery as a result of the rise of capitalism and secularisation? Or is it only the forms of enchantment that have changed? Importantly, it wasn’t only the Christian God that Nietzsche was talking about. He meant any kind of transcendence, in whatever form it might appear. In this sense, Nietzsche was simply wrong. The era of “the death of God” was a search for transcendence outside religion. Myths of world revolution and salvation through science continued the meaning-giving role of transcendental religion, as did Nietzsche’s own myth of the Superman.

Reared on a Christian hope of redemption (he was, after all, the son of a Lutheran minister), Nietzsche was unable, finally, to accept a tragic sense of life of the kind he tried to retrieve in his early work. Yet his critique of liberal rationalism remains as forceful as ever. As he argued with masterful irony, the belief that the world can be made fully intelligible is an article of faith: a metaphysical wager, rather than a premise of rational inquiry. It is a thought our pious unbelievers are unwilling to allow. The pivotal modern critic of religion, Friedrich Nietzsche will continue to be the ghost at the atheist feast.”

 

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117082/nietzsche-and-death-god-new-books-peter-watson-terry-eagleton

 

Deep, deep thinking in this article and in these reviewed books. This is a response not only to this, but also the Pew Research Poll on Millennials (which I believe I was surveyed for)…..its time for us religious folks to look beyond culture and get creative in trying to understand where people are and why they are there–ie the unattached, economically underemployed yet hopeful millennials

This is an article the re-examines the “God is Dead” question from a modern perspective….Here is the way I understand it. Nietzsche, in light of the prominence of science, tried to make a moral code not dependent on religion.

Interestingly enough, this move away from religion relied heavily upon a “Superman” theory, in my nonexact layman’s terms think of it as the “myth of progress” which is the story/belief/mythology that humans are getting better and will always continue to get better, It is a different theory than the theology of Reformed Christianity, which states that the human condition is an imperfect/broken one, but that God intervenes to work within and among the gaps to create his new kingdom.

Here is one of the most exciting parts of this article, for me “Yet Watson is not mistaken in thinking that throughout much of the 20th century “the death of God” was a cultural fact, and he astutely follows up the various ways in which the Nietzschean imperative—the need to construct a system of values that does not rely on any form of transcendental belief—shaped thinking in many fields.”

Why, because I see where that played out in culture/the fantasy genre, and I THINK ITS CHANGING in the 22nd century!

If you are a fantasy reader, you quickly notice a trend in 20th/most of the 21st century fantasy (ie since Tolkien  formalized the genre)–technology is on the rise, and magic is recessing…sercreting itself away and becoming more and more inaccessible. Imagination is on the decline, the elves are retreating across the sea, the Ents are disappearing, Oz is put under an invisible bubble, the Neverland Fairies keep on dying, Narnia is very remote and mysterious, there is only one unicorn left and she is the last. The fantasy genre usually is a reflection of the Western understanding of spirituality. The more science comes, inevitably the less faith will play a part…..this belief was so true in 20th & 21st century.

Behold the changes

J.K. Rowling & Harry Potter: Muggles and Magic live parallel and not so separate worlds, and once you know about it, you are a part of things (and muggles and wizarding folk are all related in a myriad of ways)

Charles De Lint/Neil Gaiman: Fay are a PART of the cities, they integrate into the varied spectrum of the city, oftentimes helping to explain the richness of human interaction. Ex: Charles De Lint “ I’ve taken to calling my writing “mythic fiction,” because it’s basically mainstream writing that incorporates elements of myth and folktale, rather than secondary world fantasy.

Once Upon a Time/Fables/10th Kingdom: The meta-fairy tale genre is relatively new in literature and cemented itself in the mainstream media with Once Upon a Time. No longer are we “stuck” in one fairy tale/one kind of understanding of magic/one culture–but sectarism gives way to the fact that we can all learn from one another and get a greater understanding of ourselves and the human existence! (rather like how the internet now instantaneously exposes you to so many other stories/people than ever before)

 

I really, really think that we should be studying this change, because it signals a CULTURAL shift in how we understand the human condition and faith. No longer are we sure that technology will change everything. Instead, the increased exposure, the uncertainty of the economy and the advances in technology have all influenced the Millennials.

Millennial Pastorin’

During a clergy luncheon a pastor related a story where her confirmation mentor was part of a women’s fellowship, so she spent much of her adolescent spiritual life with a group of post-menopausal women……the clergy women laughed and then reflected on how this was probably the perfect experience a young pastor needs to lead a church.

Besides the inevitable “How are you at leading people of differing generations?” transl. “Can you motivate and be respectful of and as yet still relate to people who are 10, 20 and mostly 30 years or more older than you?”There is, of course, a real generational gap…..

I love worship, I ENJOY God, and I think that church can be/should be and is (in its essence) a joyful and open place for people to do “Real Things” To change the world

I also understand that 90% of the congregation won’t ever see much less understand basic things like “what’s our online presence” are we “really actually, accessible to families (daycare? changing rooms? non-judgmental worship? meeting times convenient to non-retirees?)” and that the world understanding of a generation who is underemployed and over-indebted is probably Really, really hard for those who are comfortably off to understand (ex: I was once explaining how my generation feels both unfulfilled by our work and worthless due to our debts, and a fellow pastor noted that her daughter was in the same state of working a random job that didn’t actually help with college debt, but she “didn’t understand what I was getting at” when I explained the predominance and importance of these feelings–talk about a generation gap)

Here’s the hard part of millennial pastoring

1. I am a different generation from those I lead, and I want to honor and understand those experiences

2. Other generations may have trouble understanding the millennial perspective, and (I’d go far to say in some cases) not even understand why these differences are even important

3. Something like only %7 of Mainline Protestants are under 40

4. It is hard to value a “young person” for who they are, oft. times being “young” is the most important quality–one that I’m well aware I and other millennials will lose, and the actual “person” part of the young person is lost

5. This is why some churches can’t do “real” things, because they can’t understand the “real” issues facing these “young people” (note how labels begin to play a large role here.

6. I can’t just walk up to a millennial and have a conversation with them about the “Real Things” Church, Ministry, My Profession, My Struggles and Successes in my Profession, because church is not (yet) important to them, and they don’t see it as a “vehicle to do real things that are important and good” and so the cycle begins again. Plus I’m socially bereft when it comes to who I am and what it is I do….

Here’s the thing, church is the only place I know where many different people from all different walks of life can get together and do almost any kind of “good” that they want. Heck they don’t even have to be members of the congregation, if you have a great idea for a neighborhood, the church is a good vehicle to get it done. All you have to be is respectful and nice, and willing to work and play well with others and the possibilities are endless…I think that’s what God wants us to do…(church should function more like TEDtalks and less like exclusive clubs)

So the question is, why do churches have so much trouble doing it? I’m ready…who is with me!

My God, Your God, let’s call the whole thing off

Ok, recently there was an article in The Atlantic about the state of religion in America. Some salient quotes include

“They found that young non-Christians have profoundly negative views of Christians. For instance, among 16- to 29-year-old non-Christians, Christians were viewed as “anti-gay” (91 percent), judgmental (87 percent), hypocritical (85 percent), sheltered (78 percent) and—surprise—”too political” (75 percent). In 2010, respected academics David Campbell and Robert Putnam’s landmark book, American Grace, concluded that partisan politics was directly to blame for the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans. “The growth of the nones,” Campbell argued, “is a direct reaction to the intermingling of religion and politics in the United States.”http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/02/the-changing-face-of-christian-politics/283859/?utm_content=bufferd0f38&utm_source=twitter.com
and the one that is about where I am “the sudden need to make clear that they were “not that kind of Christian.” Pastors increasingly found that a partisan politics was pushing people away from faith and causing tension among those in their churches. ”

Recently I posted something about Christianity on “The Facebook”. It was an article by someone who said they wanted to be Christian, because most of the world is Christian and it is high-handed to assume the world is wrong. (It sounded a little….um….condescending in tone)

Anyway, I posted it on FB because, it was interesting/good food for thought (despite the tone). I did that usual pull a quote from the article to highlight it thing.

Unfortunately, some people (who granted I hadn’t talked to in a while) thought I was the one who was being condescending…I got some comments basically amounting to “I know your religious, but I think this whole God thing is ridiculous–and this article shows why” subtext: I can’t believe how crazy you are.

It made me sad. I mean, granted that the quote looked like it was from me, but still, they THOUGHT I WAS THAT WAY TOO!

I’m religious, I love God, I have three children, I’m only 30….

Yet I am also an intelligent, fantasy-loving feminist, who believes in LGBTQ rights.

I think I can do all of it at once, and I dream of the day when I find other people who feel the same way I do.

So far, not so much….

Haven’t really found them…

I have found a lot of “you can’t be a real pastor because you are a. a woman b. don’t condemn people to hell”

and a lot of “Oh your religious, right, can’t take that seriously so….moving on”

To “Fantasy isn’t religious, your crazy”

don’t forget “church is boring”

and finally “Religious people are the cause of all wars, and if your religious it MUST be because your a bigot”

The thing is, my God isn’t really the same as most people’s God

and it makes people uncomfortable.

Here’s how I feel about religious beliefs

1. Every relationship with God is different, maybe yours doesn’t look like mine, but thats ok…

2. Atheism is ok. In reality I don’t “get it” so its hard for me to be more than “ok” with it, but I think “ok” is pretty good, and more importantly, pretty honest, and I try not to get worried about it, because its up to that person/God to work it out, not me.

3. If your peddling hate and call it Gospel, that is where I draw the line. It hurts me, I mean actually physically gives me a stomach ache, when people purvey hate and call it Christ’s way. How can anyone even think this is beyond me…Jesus Christ hung out with the NONRELIGIOUS and AMORAL people of the time, because Jesus loves everyone, if you can’t get that, I don’t think we can really converse about beliefs

4. I’m not sure I can believe in a God that would send Gandhi to hell……seriously, that is how it is for me

5. And finally, If/When I face God I would MUCH rather get in trouble for Leaving the door way too wide open than too closed. I’d rather be in trouble for letting the wrong people into God’s house than keeping the right ones out. 

So that’s my God, it might different than yours…but I don’t see how denigrating each other can help……

besides, think of all the good we could do if we could band together against those things that all humans agree are wrong….

And if it happens in church, that would be awesome, because that happens to be where I like to go….

The Token Young Family

“It’s exhausting being the young family in a church” This sentiment was shared to me by one of our “young families” about what another “young family” told them.

Its exhausting. Of course, I speak from the “young family” and “pastor’s family” congruently, but I know what they mean.

1) Getting the schedule

I’m not sure if it was just very different for families back in the day when our older members were young, or if they’ve forgotten just how crazy it is, but there is some kind of generational divide between what people think young families’ schedules are like and, well, reality. Events that seem easy are actually not. Babysitting is not considered (nor the lead time needed to get a babysitter) and the whole, I have to work for a living is similarly forgotten (which is ironic since I work for the church so hanging out is part of my work but sermons and paperwork need to get done too..I can only imagine how this increases for regular families)

2) Responsibilities

Most things these days require some level of participation that is beyond us: school, clubs, jobs, job-related socialization. Church responsibilities are the same, churches try to toe the line between keeping families involved and yet not being overdemanding, but honestly, most events are more fun if there are children there, except for the ones that children need to stay home for. The truth is, juggling kids at events is tricky, I’d prefer if every event was welcoming and helpful for kids to be present at.

3) Regular attendance

For most families attending once or twice a month is the very best they can do…they are just too busy, and making them feel guilty is not helpful.

Of course the easy solution to this is to no longer be the only “Young Family” at a church, but its hard to figure it out….I toy with ideas of starting a TEDtalks Bible study or doing more Family Oriented programming (Kids Clubs, Parents Night Out, Exploratory Music Classes), but timing is tricky. And I want church to be FUN. In the meantime, the hope is that there are advantages of being the “young family too” such as a. the kids getting more attention b. the church can listen better to your needs c. the church starts to be a better and better place for young families to hang out at…..

4) Welcoming

Being desperate is not the same as being welcoming. Church’s “need” young people to keep going, so they look at young families as their literal salvation (oops) and get very needy very quickly. Prime examples: Expecting young families to have their teenager to help with technology, expecting young parents to teach the Sunday School, Expecting young families believe the exact same things that the church grandparents believe are a few examples.

i.e. The Church should be more than a vampire looking for Fresh Blood!

Being welcoming is accepting the natural gifts of the family and asking them where they want to help out. Being welcoming is allowing for give and take….ask what the family needs from the church, not just vice versa…

What would help you to feel more relaxed and less stressed about families and church?

Nanowriting and other musing

Culturally I am very interested in how the arts are playing out for millennials. 

I mean we’re mostly broke, so maybe creativity will abound? (this is my hope)

Let’s review

Couch Surfers

Open Source Computer Programs

Etsy

Carshares

and now I’ve re-discovered nanowriMo: National Novel Writing Month(which I’ve heard of briefly last year): in which you set yourself a goal to write a novel through writing about 50,000 words by the end of November

What I love is, you are really doing it for you….the website is (to me) like a self-determined excercise program where you count calories…no wait I mean words 🙂 on your own time and set goals for yourself.

I probably won’t keep up with the word count…but (partially inspired by avidly reading Robin McKinley’s KES) I’ve decided to give it a try…..I will definitely be farther along than I have been so far, I’m four short chapters in already 🙂

GO CREATIVITY! 

YAY BOOKS!

 

My Fairy Tale for 20 somethings….

http://fairytalesfor20somethings.tumblr.com

Wizard of Oz by Katy Stenta

Dorothy thought that chasing the first tornado would have landed her the weather job. Instead she kept having to travel. Meanwhile her parents wanted her to click her heels and come back home, problem was no work there. She was not moving back in with her parents (again). She kept following the yellow brick road, and following and following. 
 
Finally a TechWizard convinced her and her three traveling companions to Kickstart a book about her journey.
Shannon A Thompson

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