Monday, October 19, 2015

Why The Coracle?

It skipped my notice earlier this year, but my official "blogging" actually began ten years ago. While I had participated as a contributor to weblogs before that, I realized how fluid a medium for communication this could be in a parish, especially an active one with a broad congregation, so, on Easter Wednesday of 2005, while serving at St. Paul's Church in the Huntington section of Shelton, Conn., what would become The Coracle enjoyed its first post.

The people of St. Paul's were particularly good about reading the weblog and submitting information to it about parish activities.  It was so successful that the ancient parish complaint of "We need better communication" [which was usually voiced by those who never bothered to read a parish newsletter] was obliterated.  Recognizing the possibilities, I told a bishop of the weblog's existence.  His response was, "Be careful.  E-mail is tricky"  Historically, innovation isn't always well received in organizations.  That remained true with the people at my next parish, as they didn't really have any interest in such a thing as a weblog and, as the warden said to me, "We don't like to do e-mail."

[Seriously, what was it about the mid-00's that Episcopal Church leadership thought that every form of social media was "e-mail"?]

So, as the original mission could no longer be fulfilled as long as only a dozen parishioners bothered to read it, and as parish weblogs were now becoming more and more common, I thought I'd try something radical.  Well, radical for the Church.

Just about every parish weblog at the time presented parish information and links to official statements made by the local diocese and the national church offices.  They tended to the prosaic.  So, I thought it would be lively to present counter-arguments or perspectives not usually reflected in parochial weblogs, especially as most Episcopal Church thinking in those days [and these] was/is simply a re-statement of whatever was/is read in the New York Times or heard on National Public Radio.

It turns out that a lot of people who were blogging and engaged in Internet commentary had the same idea and online discussions, debates, and arguments became the contemporary equivalent of the Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park or the Oxford Student Union; a place of free thinking and freely exchanged opinion.  It was refreshing, especially since both churches and universities were becoming more and more monolithic in their ideology and more and more intolerant of any deviation from a preferred narrative.  Suddenly, my readership, which was around 6-20 people a week, reached over 300+ a day, and increasingly from international sources.

My current parish, while certainly much more attentive than the last, still doesn't use The Coracle for its original intention, although to be fair much of that information is nowadays presented through the parish's Facebook page.  As The Coracle has been in its current form since 2008, it has developed as an eccentric forum for religious and Christian news not often found in the mainstream, for archaeological developments, circumstances of a gently humorous nature, of inspirational people in danger of being lost to history, of uncommon sources of music, and of occasional commentary, especially when such commentary may be contrary.

Oh, and surfing.

Except for a few days or a week from time to time when I'm either traveling or on vacation, I have published 14,000 individual postings in 3800 days that have enjoyed over 180,000 views.  It has become the habit of my mornings, for indolent moments, or when afflicted with a bout of insomnia.  However, as I have to complete a project that will require every spare moment not serving in one of my paid positions, I'll need to clear some time.

To fulfill that need, The Coracle will be on hiatus from today until Tuesday, December 1st.

All I would ask is that those who read The Coracle by habit [I see you, Jeanne and Jayne] remember to come back on that day.  Believe me, there will be lots to read.  If you wish, a reader may sign up for notification whenever something new is posted by following the link at the bottom of the page that is marked "Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)"

Also, near-weekly videos and other information will appear on the parish's Facebook page.

For those who wonder why this is entitled The Coracle, here's an explanation from February, 2010:
The reason it's employed as the title of this weblog is because of an ancient Celtic story about three men who set out on the Irish Sea in a coracle to see where it would take them, confident that God would guide their apparently random and rudderless journey. This story is one that is often offered to illuminate the experience of peregrinatio, the Celtic Christian version of a spiritual walkabout. Since I don't know really know what any day's topic will be, and as this weblog seems to wander some, it seemed like a good title.