"And so I found myself sitting in a prison cell, politely thanking the police officer for bringing me a Bible, but telling him this one was no good. "Why?" said the officer. "Because I'm blind and unless it's in Braille, its no good to me whatsoever.""
The late Professor John Hull, Theology tutor at The Queen's Foundation, Birmingham, where I trained for ordained ministry.
John was giving a lecture on prophetic witness and telling us the story of when he was arrested for peacefully protesting against nuclear armament at a weapons manufacturing factory in the North. He'd handcuffed himself to the fence and sat patiently and quietly protesting. The police officer who arrested him was polite, apologised for having to arrest him, and was continually thanked by John for his manners and kindness throughout the ordeal.
Our subsequent questions about prophetic witness led John to say simply this, "Use whatever means you can or have at your disposal to share the good news of Jesus Christ, and to continually strive for justice, equality and the bringing in of the Kingdom here on Earth."
And so I find myself continually reflecting on this experience at Queen's and how we should always look for new, different and innovative ways to share the Gospel and all that it stands for.
One of the biggest gifts we have in order to do this and do it effectively, is the Internet, and in particular, Social Media. Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Vimeo, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and more. All digital social sharing platforms enabling people to connect with each other and make the world smaller, bring us closer together.
Many churches and faith organisations have a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, an Instagram page etc, and use them to share information such as service times, community events and prayers.
I have 2 online identities; as myself and on Twitter, as @VicarofDishley, the handle I use for sharing prayer requests, scripture, spiritual encouragement and the odd anecdote. The messages I receive telling me that I have encouraged someone today, or the prayer requests that drop into my inbox are all very humbling, but they make me realise that Social Media, when used correctly and for good, is possibly the most powerful way we have to share our faith and the love of God with the world around us.
Just think of the power of Change.org, an online petition platform which works for change for the better in the world against a variety of issues, such as social justice, animal welfare or humanitarian causes. 1 million people around the world can have signed a petition in as little as 24 hours.
I like to believe that Jesus, the radical, challenging Jesus who turned over tables, challenged the high priests, and who encourages us to come out of our comfort zones and fight for the goodness of this world, would definitely be on Twitter, would undoubtedly have a Facebook page, an Instagram or LinkedIn profile.
The Church is called by God to innovate, experiment, try new things and rise to new challenges in how it lives out its presence in Creation and how it carries out its mission in the world - the Internet and Social Media in this digital age, is God's gift to us to be used effectively, as well as affectively.
If ever there was a person who calls you to share faith, to tell of Jesus Christ, to 'fish for people', to fight for justice, equality and the preservation of the planet, it is God. If ever there was a way of doing that effectively, it is the Internet.
The Rev'd Elaine Wykes