In 2012, I took a class at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan titled Staying Open, Writing as an Act of Faith. As a 70-year-old gray-haired woman, I joined a class of 20-somethings (mostly male) with no little fear and trepidation. But I was determined to join the technological era in some way, and since I was totally put off by the trivial pursuit of Facebook and astonished by the uselessness (to me) of 140 characters in Twitter, blogging was it!
I didn’t learn much in the class about the technology behind blogging, but I learned a lot about the spirit of blogging, for which I am daily grateful. (I also learned about two great books which any writer of any stripe should read: The Elements of Story, Field Notes on Nonfiction Writing by Francis Flaherty and Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’ Engle).
After that class I became brave enough to begin writing a blog in 2013, intended for the members of Christ Memorial Church in Holland, Michigan. When I retired as Director of Spiritual Formation in 2016, I figured that that would be the end of the blog, but members of the church strongly encouraged me to continue the blog. So I did.
Little did I realize that writing two or three blogs a week would make me a disciplined writer with a point of view all my own. Nor did I imagine that the blog would be visited by readers from 170 countries (many of which report only one reader) as far-flung as Brazil, India, Australia, France, and Ghana, as well as some I have never heard of. And I certainly never anticipated that I would write 1,000 blogs that have been viewed 83,206 times!
Sometime after that class ended, I received an e-mail from the instructor that I have been pondering ever since. He said, “I have been thinking quite a bit about how writing forms communities . . . .One of the biggest surprises I’ve had as a writer (and a heavy introvert) is that writing publicly has resulted in some kind of beautiful, patchwork community.”
As another “heavy introvert,” I have puzzled all my life about “building community.” Since I am very content by myself and consider more than three people to be a crowd, I have been always been challenged by the ordinary parameters of community. But his comment about the “patchwork community” of bloggers made total sense. How else would I get to know a retired professor in Hong Kong who posts a personal travelogue complete with gorgeous photography in every blog. Or the missionary in Italy who writes about simple living. Or Brian who describes himself as” a sojourner walking this spiritual path called life.” How else would I be able to spend the summer in Amsterdam visiting cathedrals and markets and learning about the travails of bicycle travel in Amsterdam streets?
Christine Pohl, a Christian writer who specializes in community, writes that the three requirements for community are: hospitality, truth telling, and promise keeping. It’s amazing to find all those characteristics in many blogs I have read and in many I have written. Truth telling is hard to find in in-person gatherings; people are always hiding behind their persona or their mask. My intention is to always be authentic and brave!
And then there is promise keeping. The very establishment of a blog implies a covenant between an individual and the writer within the individual: I will write and write, and write some more. There is also a covenant between the blogger and the faithful reader: I will write and you will read and because you read I will write some more. A blogger who posts consistently keeps a promise to his or her readers to continually dig deeper and find something to write about that is enjoyable or valuable, and, if he or she is fortunate, even precious to the reader. And the reward for all of this is a “beautiful patchwork community.”
Writing a blog has been more difficult in the past year or two because of my on-going health issues. But I promise to keep writing and I hope my followers and readers around the world will keep reading and our “beautiful patchwork community” will stay strong.