I had an interesting discussion yesterday with some fellow clergy on how we represent ourselves on social media. I was the first to put my hand up and admit I have stuffed up in the past, however my brethren were very generous to me, pointing out I had done my best to make amends.
I shared with them that I had written to the then Mgr Marcus Stock about how we have represented ourselves via the internet. Some of the chaps were fascinated and wanted to see the letter (I think there was a tad of disbelief) but coming home with me and seeing the letter, which bizarrely was a year old on Friday, satisfied the need.
As we chaps talked at length about representing ourselves a recurring theme emerged, that of the online company one keeps. Two types of undesirable characters became recurring themes; the anons and the murmurers. There were others that were spoken of, such as the clergy who feel it appropriate to knock members of the hierarchy and the ones who tell us how marvellous they are, telling us how busy their day is and by insinuation attempting to prove their popularity.
We also spoke of how silence can be seen as accord. If any of my friends, no matter how close I am to them, wrote a piece paralleling the behaviour of my ordinary with that of one of his colleagues who had had to resign I would have to publicly disassociate with them, otherwise I would be seen as being duplicitous in the writing. Why anyone would not do so was beyond some of the chaps, until we pointed out any such article would most likely have been seen and approved beforehand.
By the same token, if an anon made constant, frequent unpleasant comments about someone, I would disassociate with them. In fact I have done. But when someone whom one is meant to look up to continues to associate with such people, they give the anons a false credibility. What appears to not be understood by any clergy who do this is by giving these essentially unpleasant characters credibility, they lose their own. Two particular cases were spoken of in considerable detail.
The clergy are ordained to serve everyone who comes into our path, we are not ordained for ourselves, we are ordained to serve the people. I was reminded frequently yesterday afternoon (even with just a glance at times) we are to set an example.
Aristotle said “The virtuous man has virtuous friends”. The interesting situation we could find ourselves in is when we come face to face with those who might be upset by the poor company we keep or the sly attempts at deriding others (this happens too) I wonder if the lack of bravery evident in the anons will be evident in the clergy of whom we spoke.
A very well perceived comment, Tony. Your twitter is edifying. The overwhelming majority of your comments build faith and support ordinary people struggling to live their faith. They are real. They are more real because your occasional slip ups mean that we can never put you on a porcelain pedestal and canonise you in this life. You are human like all of us. Surely this is the model chosen by Jesus for Discipleship- I mean look at the bunch of them . Not a theologian among them. Some of them you certainly wouldn’t invite to be a commentator on social media. More importantly, they were not anonymous, either.
The small cartel of self-appointed commentators who try to cause division and unpleasantness are about as far removed from those who went among wolves in pairs 2000 years ago, that I think I can safely say they are not on the side of Christ. Just reading the twitter feeds of the anonymous commentators on the Synod confirms this.
Tony, keep up your good work, keep tweeting and blogging and keep being the salt and light that God has called you to be. After a hard days’ graft at the coal face, I know whose blogs I relax with before night time. They are usually not anonymous.
One day I may venture back into social media under my own name. For now I am happy to encourage those who are heroic enough to do so, despite their own weaknesses.