First, let us say that anyone can start a blog. It can function as a way to connect with others, share ideas, or be a creative outlet. All you need is an idea and a dedication to post on a regular schedule.
That’s all the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) members had when we started a Lenten Blog. The idea came from Julie Burd, serving in the Diocese of Haiti, and the schedule was to post one reflection every day of Lent except Sundays. Our blog was inspired by similar projects we had seen at a church and a diocesan level, but with the idea of a globally-inspired set of reflections.
Ashley Cameron, serving in the Diocese of Santiago, Philippines, was the developer and technician. She and Julie worked together, hounding people to submit posts by the deadline and get them up on time for all to read.
There are always challenges with a blog, especially when collaborating with twenty-three others all around the world—in eight different time zones. However, it came together beautifully, and hopefully something was gained by all the readers who stumbled upon this small corner of the Internet.
When Julie’s church approached her to write a reflection for their annual Lenten reflections book, she got to thinking about how fabulous it would be to be able to walk this journey with her YASC companions around the world.
They are such an interesting and varied group of individuals, she thought, and they would all have excellent ideas to share. Simultaneously, it seemed like a way to give back spiritually to their sponsoring communities and connect with them on a different level than a normal blog post or update letter.
Throughout their year serving, the YASCers communicate via emails, blogging, and a private FB group. These outlets, however, don’t always provide a way to reflect deeply about the spiritual journeys they are on.
When starting this blog, they didn’t think of themselves as theologians or experts, simply Episcopalians or Christians trying to figure out their relationship with God.
That’s what Lent is all about: self-reflection. All they had to share were their own personal experiences with the guidance of daily Lenten scripture readings. The Lenten reflections blog provided the outlet in which to meditate and connect with other brothers and sisters in Christ during this time of quiet reflection.
Once the idea is there, you only need a name to set up your blog. Everything else can come later. For the YASCers, they went with “Meditations of Millennial Missionaries” for something with a ring to it that also captured the essence of what they had planned.
None of the YASCers are considered experts in theology, they all simply wrote from the heart. Their own experiences provided original and unique insights.
Once Ashley and Julie had the basics conceptualized, Julie set up a Google Calendar for everyone to sign up for two reflection dates each. They decided to leave Ash Wednesday and Easter open for a ‘group’ post.
With the idea approved, the blog created, and the schedule set, the YASCers were ready to begin posting!
Ashley and Julie both agree they couldn’t wait to get a new blog posts in their inboxes. They were like little kids on Christmas waiting to unwrap the magic from inside.
So much joy came from downloading someone’s reflection. Some ignited laughs, others tears, most of them a nod of understanding. Julie and Ashley shared duties on posting due to separate travel schedules leaving them without Internet access.
Some of the YASCers hadn’t heard from each other on a weekly basis. It’s hard to keep up with the individual lives of all twenty-three people with their own busy schedules, being in different time zones and with unreliable Internet access.
The blog provided the opportunity to hear about one another’s experiences, especially from those who we rarely heard from.
It was fun to receive feedback from friends or family members, and especially from other people’s grandparents. This network received the posts gladly, and the blog had at least a handful of devoted followers.
Of course, blogging does not come without challenges, especially when working with twenty-three authors from around the world. They included people missing deadlines, unreliable Internet access, being in different time zones, and minor technical difficulties (incorrect fonts or a picture not loading).
One major one was a limited engagement with readers, which led to never knowing if anybody was truly reading. Ashley installed Google Analytics to the site, but it can only tell you so much. According to that we had 444 unique readers from 18 countries.
Those challenges are minor and fixable. When something went wrong, it was important to remember that this was simply an experience. There was no money involved and no one’s job was on the line. It was all to share with brothers and sisters in Christ.
Overall, the joys outweighed the challenges.
The YASCers touched at least a few people’s lives, like one gradmother who wrote,
The posts are truly inspiring and I have saved every one of them on the computer so I can look at them whenever I need to.
and a mom who shared,
Just want to thank all the YASCers for the wonderful Lenten devotionals. Each morning I look forward to reading them, and I am amazed at the depth of your theology, and your commitment in being so far from home.
However, throughout the forty days the blog only received two anonymous comments. One lesson we learned was to encourage engagement by asking questions at the end of each post. Or use the power of social media to publicize the blog in bigger networks.
In the end, the biggest benefit of this project was that it brought a newfound connection between the YASCers. It allowed the group to meditate and write in a different way than they did on their everyday blogs and emails. The hope was to give back spiritually, and in some small way, the YASCers did that.
So whether you’re a small Bible study at a rural church or a large group from around the globe, a similar blog could be a new way to make a spiritual connection between the people involved and the larger Anglican Communion.