Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Magical mystery moderatorial powers

Photo of Bruce Reyes-Chow at Heartland Presbytery, April 28, 2009It's hard to tell exactly what Bruce Reyes-Chow is doing in this photo taken while he was visiting Heartland Presbytery yesterday.

Is he summoning a manifestation of the Holy Grail?

Is he causing a chalice to levitate?

Is he doing a little bit of stage magic?

Or is he simply "doing his thing" as the photographer modestly describes?

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

When is a blogger a newsperson?

Will the New Jersey shield law protect a blogger doing research for an article?

Wait a month to find out.

My cousin gets involved in the most fascinating cases. And this one about a blogger being sued for slander over online conversations to research an article really piques my interest.

I've observed that my own blogging takes me in different directions, sometimes engaging in conversation about an article someone else has written, and sometimes producing original content to which someone else might respond.

When I started attending borough council meetings I wanted to learn about the issues that were important to the people in the community. My blog was a convenient tool for me to record my perceptions and to share them with others.

I noticed that sometimes our local newspaper had a reporter there to cover the story, and sometimes not. It is easy for a local government to stay off the radar screen. It can hold meetings at the same time as the well-attended school board meetings. It can cancel agenda meetings and make the public wait for the actual meeting to find out what business is to be transacted. It can make clever use of executive session, misstating the purpose for excluding the public, or reconvening in open session after most of the public have gone home.

Some friends and acquaintances appreciated what I wrote. And some politicans made ingratiating comments to me about how my blog posts were so much better than what the newspaper had published. Come on - I had read the newspaper stories and I knew that they were just fine.

Was I a journalist in what I wrote on my blog? I don't know. Was I journalist when I started writing original local stories on Perhaps. But in both cases I am sure that I made a contribution to keeping the public informed.

I never faced a lawsuit over sources - or for anything else related to my blogging. But I am really looking forward to learning the outcome of Shellee Hale's case.

And I hope she wins.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

I like Facebook's new Terms of Service

After following a careful process in developing new Terms of Service, Facebook gave its users an opportunity to vote on the new document. A strong majority (around 74%) of the small sample who looked at the documents approved of them. Facebook is still going to take some time to verify the accuracy of the data from the voting process.

Stan Schroeder raised some questions about whether Facebook needs to be a democracy, and if so what process it should have followed.

My opinion:
I don't think this is democracy at work, nor does it have to be. It is a business gathering marketing data before restating or changing its contract with users. I appreciate that Facebook took the time to do this.

I was one of those who initially joined the Facebook protest back in February, until I realized that it was based on an odd and inaccurate interpretation of what Facebook was trying to do. If people want to complain about the new documents that were in fact well-publicized and for which the users did have an opportunity to respond, I am one user who does not want to hear about it.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Panel on Youth and Violence

Photo of panel on Youth and Violence at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary on April 16, 2009

Yesterday before the meeting of Pittsburgh Presbytery, the Peacemaking Ministry Team sponsored a panel discussion on Youth and Violence. Panelists were ministers and elders from five diverse congregations of the presbytery: Bethesda United Presbyterian Church (in Pittsburgh), East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church, Southminster Presbyterian Church, and Verona United Presbyterian Church.

Photo of Rev. Dr. Ronald Edwards PetersThe Rev. Dr. Ron Peters of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary moderated the panel discussion, inviting the panelists to respond to various questions. How have youth in your church and community been affected by violence? How has your church responded to violence among youth? How is your church uniquely gifted to help? Where is God leading your congregation in regard to the problem of violence among our youth?

One of the common themes that emerged is that there will be "push-back" from within the congregation, i.e. that when we are dealing with genuine spiritual problems we should not be surprised that resistance conducting such a ministry will appear even from within the congregation.

The Peacemaking Ministry Team has prepared resources for churches who want to deal with the problem of youth and violence. Download links for three published resources are going to be made available to all who were in attendance at the panel discussion.

The walls in the lecture hall where the panel discussion was held were decorated with various mandalas made by young people at the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center.

photo of one of the mandalas made by youth at the Shuman Center

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Friday at TUPCNK

Last night I attended the memorable and meaningful Good Friday service at the United Presbyterian Church of New Kensington. The service was organized by the youth group, included leaders of all ages, and was well-attended by a broad spectrum of people from the church.

When I arrived at the church I immediately saw yellow police tape blocking off the entrance to the church. It was an eye-catching reminder that something special was supposed to happen, and that it wasn't going to start in the sanctuary. Posters directed anyone who hadn't heard about the starting place for the service to go around back of the church.

In back of the church a crowd was milling around on the patio, some warming their hands over a fire. Others were sitting inside the fellowship hall with a view of the activity that was going to take place outside.

We sang a praise song from newsprint being held out of upper windows overlooking the courtyard. Then the drama began.

photo of actors portraying a police officer arresting JesusYoung people in the crowd were asking questions. Checking whether anyone had heard about Jesus, and what had happened to him.

An unmarked police car drove up, lights flashing. Judas (played by Colin Yuckman, the pastor) identified Jesus (played by one of the young people)to the officer. The officer arrested Jesus, who went along peacefully. Meanwhile the crowd made comments about how it was about time somebody did something about Jesus.

Some people in the crowd recognized Peter as one people standing around the fire. Peter denied he knew Jesus when challenged by the crowd and the police officer; after the third denial he ran off.

Then we all moved inside to the fellowship hall where scripture was read and we sang more hymns. We were invited to complete a statement on a piece of paper: "I denied Jesus when I ..." The unsigned sheets were collected and pinned to a wall. Kathy Davis spoke to us about our denials and our forgiveness.

We turned our chairs to the side and Colin Yuckman offered a dramatic first-person monologue portraying Judas as he defended his choices and contemplated what he had done and was about to do.

We then moved ourselves upstairs to the vestibule where we joined in a litany posted on newsprint on the walls, committing ourselves to follow Jesus.

After singing another praise song we proceeded into the back of the sanctuary, where we watched Pilate conduct the trial of Jesus. At the conclusion of the trial we moved to the front of the sanctuary where we watched the crucifixion.

The young people did a great job in organizing this service. I am sure that everyone walked away from the experience with insights to ponder.

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