On Palm Sunday, at the start of the Easter(LIVE) project, I shared my critical thoughts and fears about approach the 2011 approach was taking, and suggested an alternative project to support. There were some great comments on the post and via Twitter: many in support of my critique, and some from people who wanted to reserve judgement (participants & skeptics alike).
So as both projects have ended, it seems right to reflect on them in light of my original comments & my experience.
Initially I feared that the Easter(LIVE) updates would swamp my Twitter stream (because at least 10 of the people I follow were participating in the project). This fear was realised. After a particularly frenzied start, the posts in my Twitter stream calmed down a little, to an almost manageable level. My twitter stream wasn’t completely overwhelmed, but was considerably busier than usual, which made catching up a chore and took much longer than usual.
I decided that I would try to follow two users’ Easter(LIVE) updates, and try to ignore the others. It didn’t feel right skipping over the majority of the updates (due to my slight OCD tendencies), but it was necessary, otherwise my productivity would’ve taken a serious dive last week.
Even though I was following just two versions of the story, I found the experience very confusing. One user created a story using a vast array of characters and tweets; the other used one or two characters and far fewer tweets. But I found the two stories following different time lines and the events they were describing not aligning with each other. This detracted from the overall experience. On Good Friday and Easter Sunday the updates (predictably) reached a peak, creating a ridiculous amount of Twitter updates.
During the course of the week I ‘overheard’ discussions on Twitter between two participants who were niggling about their different interpretations of the project (too many characters & updates vs single character and fewer updates).
Of the participants I followed, very few made use of anything other than text updates. The project had encouraged the use of other media too – video, images and sound. I recognise that text updates are easier and require less preparation which probably explains the proportion of text to other media (that’s not to rubbish the amount of time and creativity expended by everyone in creating their stories). I saw a few uses of images, and heard about one user who created a number of videos for the project.
So my fears about the project’s approach in 2011 were entirely founded. But of course that’s based on my own experience – I can’t speak for anyone else. But the team behind the project retweeted a number of messages on Sunday & Monday which expressed how helpful they’d found the project and thanking the team for their work. So it was clearly of value to and appreciated by many.
As I said previously, the number of participants and updates generated is clearly testimony to the fact that the project captured people’s imaginations. I still appreciate the project’s use of Twitter as a vehicle for such an innovative project, and still question the downside it had (for me at least).
I look forward to seeing what they have planned for future projects, but hope they tweak the approach to eliminate the downsides. I also hope they don’t simply keep innovating for the sake of it. If a project works well (as it seemed to last year – one creative telling of the story, great story-tellers, and a more cohesive approach) stick with it, making tweaks along the way.
The Passion Experience
At the end of the original post I suggested that people support the Passion Experience project as an alternative. It was following a similar approach to the EasterLive 2010 project, but encouraging users to sign-up to text updates on their phones (at no charge), or to receive them via email.
I signed up to receive the updates via text, and followed the instructions they sent back. Unfortunately, despite the process reporting that everything was OK, I didn’t receive any updates via text. I received them in my Twitter & Facebook streams, and by email. But not via text message. I had been relying on the text messages to break into my busyness during Holy Week and Easter preparations, providing a constructive disturbance and a chance to remember & reflect. The lack of updates detracted for the overall experience for me personally. However, I had encouraged others to sign-up (and 23 did via our Church affiliate link) and they successfully received text updates and found it really valuable.
So I received the updates via other means, and loved the content and found it really helpful (if not timely). It provided a manageable number of updates from one source, resulting in a more cohesive way that the Easter(LIVE) project.
On reflection, I think more people would’ve signed up if they realised they could follow in the Facebook stream (this didn’t appear to be made clear), rather than the slightly more complex text/Twitter sign-up process.
Both were innovative projects, attempting to use a new method for retelling and old story, and are to be commended. Both had weaknesses, but in spite of these, they were hugely valued by those who followed them. Each to their own ;o)
- Did you participate in Easter(LIVE)? What has the feedback been like from your followers?
- Did you follow any Easter(LIVE) stories or the Passion Experience? What was the experience like for you?
- If you could make one suggestion for an improvement to future projects, what would it be?
I’m a big fan of Easter. No really, I am. But this year I’m feeling a bit grumpy about it. It all started about two weeks ago, and has been building since then. Let me try to explain why:
I’m also a big fan of Twitter. I find it an incredibly useful tool for connecting with people who have shared interests and discussing said interests. I use it to learn from others, to reflect with them, and to interact on a whole number of things. This year Easter & Twitter have aligned – or perhaps collided.
It’s Passover week in 1st Century Jerusalem. A bustling throng of Jewish pilgrims have gathered in the city. But this year a preacher/carpenter from Nazareth is set to turn the tables of history – right before their eyes. This is the Easter story and this is your cue.
By Tweeting your story, the Easter(LIVE) website allows you to showcase your very own Passion Play. Be it a historical and Biblical account or a poetic, visual, musical or creative retelling – it’s up to you. It’s a chance to explore, to learn and be creative. Give it your personal stamp, bring it to life and share it with everyone.
So they’re encouraging people to send out their own version of the Easter story, using Twitter as the underlying tool, and collating the tweets into a user profile on the Easter(LIVE) website. Last year they took a slightly different approach which I encouraged our Church to support, and I found very helpful & valuable. Everyone was encouraged to follow the @easterlive account on Twitter, and they published a retelling of the story to anyone who was following. I thought this was a fantastic idea, and was well executed (similar to the Christmas story being told through the Natwivity project).
There’s a lot about this project which I love
- anything which gets people hearing & talking about the Gospel has to be a good thing
- I love that the story is being retold from different perspectives – some people will be writing their account with their own friends, family, community, context in mind which is really important
- it is encouraging people to reflect on an “old” story in a new way
- and as a recovering techie, I love the fact that they’re making great use of an existing & popular tool (Twitter)
But I have number of issues with it too:
One gripe is that a number of the people I follow on Twitter have signed up to the project. So they’ve been busy developing the characters through whom the story will be told, and carefully crafting their updates, waiting for the launch today (Palm Sunday). When I read about the project I quickly realised that this was going to have an impact on my Twitter feed. With approx 10-15 of the people I follow having signed up, and with one or two of them having mentioned that they have 120-160 updates “ready to go” during Holy Week, I was bracing myself to be inundated with Easter(LIVE) tweets. Since midday approximately 70% of the tweets in my Twitter feed have been #EasterLive updates (of course, that represents a great success my the project’s organisers to get people involved). Initially I feared that my general use and experience of Twitter would be negatively impacted by an abundance of EasterLive updates. It’s still less than a day into the project, but so far, that fear has been realised. That’s a bit of a selfish gripe though – who am I to moan if my experience of Twitter is impacted, when potentially thousands of people will hear the Gospel message?
I may also sound like a bit of a hypocrite as I’ve said it must be a good thing to tell the Gospel story in a new way and encourage people to reflect on it (some for the first time). But I want to question just how useful it will be for people to hear the Gospel told from multiple perspectives, in multiple styles, and each of them crossing over the other. How easy will it be for someone to follow the story for the first time? How helpful will it be at helping someone reflect on the story in a new way, when it’s actually presented in a number of new perspectives all at once? Only time will tell.
Personally I haven’t signed up to join the EasterLive project, not out of protest, but due to a lack of creativity (and time) on my part. Instead, I’ve signed up to a project called “The Passion Experience” which is using a similar approach to that of EasterLive 2010. It is also a retelling of the Easter story, and uses Twitter as it’s underlying vehicle. For me it seems to involve most of the positive aspects of Easter(LIVE) without the negatives.
What do you think?
- Am I being selfish?
- Is it confusing to retell the same story from multiple perspectives at the same time confusing?
- Do you feel the approach taken by Easter(LIVE) this year is effectively spamming Twitter?
On 21st March we held an event, in partnership with the Milton Keynes Bridgebuilder Trust [MKBT], which aimed to ‘bless, refresh, resource & encourage’ Christians in Education across Milton Keynes.
We were joined by 18 attendees, representing 9 Churches & 11 schools/institutions/organisations. Delegates included teachers (current, supply & retired), teaching assistants, deputy headteachers, assistant principals, administrative officers, KS3 coordinators, a reading recovery teacher and private tutors. We were also joined by the MKBT Office Manager and a Trustee.
The evening started with refreshments (yummy cakes, freshly brewed tea & real coffee and the option of apples, of course) and time for delegates to introduce themselves and chat. We then assembled to introduce the plan for the evening and the presenters (myself & Rachel Foster, Primary Schools Worker for MKBT). The primary audience for the evening was those involved in teaching, but the event was also intended to bless the whole range of roles involved in the Education Sector. We wanted to say a big ‘thank you’ to Christians involved in Education, for the long days and late nights, for their hard work (blood, sweat and tears) and for enduring stress and occasionally despair.
I shared some of my reflections from my school days, the adults who stood out among the many I encountered. Some for the right reasons (tailored teaching, excellent personal care and attention) and others for the wrong reasons (because I was a hormonal adolescent – but enough about that).
I included this video by Taylor Mali, which seemed to catch the mood of those present:
In preparation for the event I had been asking friends, family, colleagues and, occasionally, strangers about their experiences at school and what made individual adults stand out to them when they look back now. Their reflections helped to shape part of the evening. I shared two testimonies with them:
- The person she reflected on was her 6th form tutor and A-level Psychology teacher.
- ‘she understood that I didn’t want to talk about the issues I was dealing with, but realised that I was depressed and self-harming’
- ‘forced me to sit down with her and organise an action plan – helped me stick to it’
- ‘took walks with me during lunch breaks just to chat about how things were going’
- ‘treated me more like a daughter than a student’
- ‘was concerned with my welfare as well as being an awesome teacher’
- ‘she let me take naps in her office when I had insomnia’
- ‘she stayed in touch with me for a few years after school to see how I was doing’
- ‘generally took care of me when I was unable to take care of myself’
- ‘I definitely wouldn’t have made it to Uni without her support’
- ‘and may not have even made it out of A-levels alive’
- She reflected on her secondary school RE teacher
- a ‘consistent presence during six years at secondary school/sixth form
- ‘an amazing teacher who knew and loved her subject’
- ‘she genuinely cared for the young people in her class
- demonstrated personal care and support during a key crisis point in Alison’s life
- above and beyond what was/is expected
- long term support, care, encouragement – two years after the crisis
- ‘two of the toughest years of my life’
- ‘she helped me to believe in myself, because she believed in me’
- ‘her constant encouragement and reassurance enabled me to achieve my A-levels when they seemed to be impossible’
- ‘she inspired and encouraged me to follow the path of higher education’
- ‘I will always be massively grateful to her for that’
I followed up by reflecting on my own experiences of pastoral care & support at school. But then pointed out that simply providing great pastoral care isn’t what makes a Christian teacher distinctive from any other teacher. We would be pursuing that later.
We moved on to briefly introduce the resources which we’d provided around the room which delegates were free to browse and take away as they wished. Rachel started us off by explaining the role of the Bridgebuilder Trust and detailing some of its projects, then I introduced the following resources:
- Mindset Conference
- Prayer Spaces in Schools
- Pray for Schools Network
- Association of Christian Teachers
Then we broke for further refreshments and delegates had time to chat together and browse the resources.
When we reconvened we spent some time considering what makes Christians in Education distinctive by exploring Ephesians 2:12-18. I summed this up with the phrase ‘I AM @ work’ – that God is at work in each one of us, through all our interactions & relationships. [Further notes on this section can be made available if desired.]
Then Rachel led the part of the evening where we commissioned the delegates to go in the name of Jesus and continue their ministry in the Education sector and prayed for them. The evening closed with further chat, and delegates completing feedback forms about their impressions of the evening. They were overwhelmingly positive, and have given us a great deal of food for thought about future events. Plans are already in motion…
‘If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 30 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.’
Here are a few images of the set-up – I didn’t get any once the delegates arrived as I was busy chatting…