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Christian New Media Awards & Conference: Alice Goes Back to Wonderland

Last week, in the twenty four hours between 6.00 pm on Friday and 6.00 pm on Saturday, I lived in an alternative reality, like Alice in Wonderland.

It began with dinner in the splendid Wren church, St Stephen’s Walbrook, known to me as the London Internet Church whose Compline services I ‘attend’ every night. Superbly lit, the room seemed bathed in the light of an illuminated swimming pool in which we were collectively submerged.  Characters whom I ‘knew’ well came and went, like the Bishop of London (the Duchess, I think); Peter Kerridge (the Caterpillar perhaps?); Krish Kandiah (the Gryphon?); and Maria Toth (as the animatrice she would have to be the White Rabbit, but, unlike him, she remained calm, cool and collected throughout). In these surroundings, I wasn’t at all surprised when it was announced that I had won a prize – it was that sort of dream- and everyone was clapping and laughing at a (not very good) joke I made.

The baroque surroundings contrasted in an arresting and challenging way with the 21st century  trappings  of these awards for bringing British Christianity into the digital age:  the worlds of yesterday, today and tomorrow united to celebrate the newest expression of the good news which is over two thousand years old.

On Saturday the experience continued to feel surreal as we gathered in the contrasting surroundings of City University. In an audience of about 300, I in theory knew no one. But in fact, I must have had twitter conversations with nearly half of those there – and some I felt I knew very well, like Father David Cloake or UkViewer. We kissed each other on the cheek when we met – it would have been extraordinarily false and stand-offish merely to have shaken hands. (David has helped me considerably with the blog, and UKViewer, who frequently comments on these posts, helps me manage the Lay Anglicana Facebook page, as well as the forum here).

Behind the speakers were large screens showing the twitterfall for #cnmac11, the tag for the conference. Many of the contributors were sitting in the auditorium and tweeting because – another surreal touch – before the day began Vicky Beeching, the host, told us all to turn ON our mobile phones, laptops and so on and get tweeting! I had the strange of experience of reading a tweet on the screen by @noahsapprentice saying: ‘@drbexl, @boudledidge and @layanglicana all in front row’. He had obviously identified me from my avatar, but I craned my neck to look all round the room without being able to identify @noahsapprentice – very frustrating, and slightly spooky!

I did manage to make contact with a large number of the people that I am in touch with online. But we all felt, I think, that these very brief contacts were rather unsatisfactory because so brief. It is hard to see a way round this for the organisers (short of reducing the number of presentations and perhaps having a communal picnic lunch which could be protracted enough to allow more time for talking to each other). I felt as if I were still talking in 140 character soundbites (the length we are restricted to on Twitter)!

The presentations themselves I found uniformly interesting and good, though the highlight of my day, as for many people, was Dame Catherine Wybourne, the Digital Nun, who spoke on ‘Ten Rules for Online Engagement’. I put my pencil down, so engrossing was what she had to say. Luckily she has put up a blog post about it (see hyperlink), and perhaps will not mind this short extract:

Before we go online, we need to ask ourselves why we are doing so and what our purpose is. A little reflection will show that the ‘friend’ model of online relationship I’m writing about is not suitable for every situation; and if you are wondering what the ‘friend’ model is based on, I can’t do better than quote St Aelred: ‘You and me, with Christ making a third.’


7 comments on this post:

Sr Catherine said...

What a lovely post: it converys so well the atmosphere. Your award was richly deserved and I’m sure all of us who were able to have even a few words with you were delighted to be able to do so. Next time, if we are allowed a ‘next time’, may I have a peck on the cheek, too?!

Lay Anglicana said...

Yes please!

18 October 2011 19:45
18 October 2011 18:25
UKViewer said...

Great summary of what happened on quite a frenetic day. I was going to blog it, but still thinking about some of the things covered and some of the people who met.

Wonder if we will every meet such enthusiasm and humour in church? I know we need reverence, but excitement with it would make for great worship.

Lay Anglicana said...

Many thanks UKViewer – ‘frenetic’ is a good summary of the atmosphere, I think, and it is finely balanced whether one should blog early with one’s immediate impressions or wait until they may become stale (I am still processing the course at Gladstone’s Library!)

UKViewer said...

I still haven’t got round to blogging it. I am still working through yesterday’s funeral and some reading I need to do before next week.

Will try later this week, before my memory fades and I can’t read my notes any more.

19 October 2011 18:03
19 October 2011 12:47
19 October 2011 11:52

[…] Alice goes back to Wonderland Christian New Media […]

20 October 2011 10:19
Jon Air said...

I had the pleasure of sitting next to you for the awards ceremony and I was so pleased when you won. Well done again.

I have thought about our conversation may times since and think that you are an inspirational and wonderful person. Keep going and keep inspiring.

24 October 2011 16:41

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