It’s been than two years since my last post. If you’re still subscribed, thanks! I don’t know why I haven’t been posting – probably just lacking capacity, and then you lose confidence. I’ve challenged myself to get back on the horse and get into the discipline of writing over Lent, so I’ll be trying to post something every day. I’ve decided not to set the bar too high in literary terms so I don’t spend hours agonising over a word or phrase. So the posts should be shorter and sweeter (but also more frequent). Let’s see how that goes…. So thanks again for being here, and read on!
Since starting a new job recently I’ve made another resolution – that as far as I can, I want to remind people that ‘the medium is the message’. This phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan was applied to the use of communication tools by human beings and the way they affect what the content of communication. I think it’s something we need to build in to all our church structures and activities.
I used to be a teacher and we’d list all our subjects on our website and in our prospectus. As I trained in school leadership I realised there was a ‘hidden curriculum’ too. Students thought they were coming to school to learn to cook or do algebra, but what they actually learned was that it was important to conform and keep the rules. They learned that society values academic intelligence above emotional intelligence or organisational skill, and that power in schools lies mainly with the adults, even though it’s the students who are mainly affected by when decisions are made.
One of the challenges of our church life is to recognise our ‘hidden curriculum’. We can’t talk about a living God and have a church building that looks like a mausoleum. We can’t have church services which talk about resurrection if they’re dreary and stale. The vicar can’t preach on transformation if she isn’t visibly being transformed herself or at least open to the possibility of it… Whenever there’s a gap between what we say and what we do we lose integrity, and that undermines our message and our mission.
The best ever example of the medium being the message is Jesus. In coming to share our humanity he was self-giving love, humility, reconciliation, compassion and outreach. He was the Word made flesh. We really need to follow his example and audit everything we do, not just for the content of all our services and structures and activities…. but for the way we do them. Because on a subconscious level, this is what people take in. They know if there’s even a tiny gap between our message and the way that’s embodied and acted out.
At the moment I’m thinking about this particularly in respect of emerging conversations about new pioneer training routes. The reality is, any pioneer training route has to be pioneered and pioneering in its essence. To use a theological word, it has to be ontologically pioneering. A pioneer training route that isn’t breaking new ground, creating a fresh charism of theological education, giving a platform for unheard voices or challenging existing structures, risks undermining the integrity of pioneering.
For me personally, ‘the medium is the message’ represents a huge challenge… as someone with a call to use my words to influence the world around me, it’s easy to think the words are the most significant thing. But they’re probably not… the way they are offered and controlled and sometimes even withheld probably is.