The anxious presence

A few days ago I experimented with my Facebook and Twitter feeds. This was about when the crisis in Baltimore was getting hot, and I could already see the signs. Unitarian Universalists — I’m thinking of ministers particularly, because that’s who I know mostly, but I see lay persons do this, too — would bring a particular intensity to, well, I can’t rightly call it a discussion.

It’s more like a frantic, often doctrinaire, echo chamber.

So I started muting people, leaving ministers who are close personal friends, old college mates, former co-workers and the like. Rather than falling into an insulated world of cat videos, the quality of discourse about Baltimore’s situation improved. Deep analysis and more varied voices, particularly from people who live or have lived there. (I do live an hour away by train, so this is also a regional story.)

What vanished was the anxiousness, the agita and the dubious logic of borrowed framing.

There’s a bad lesson in that. And I’m not sure I’m going to unmute the anxious presence. More importantly, who would seek it out?

Old models and new media

Before turning to the practical, following up on yesterday’s post about Unitarian Universalist functional discomfort with political power to effect good outcomes for people in hard situations. As before, I’ll keep this brief.

First, we give too much weight to “golden age” models of public witness. By which, of course, I mean demonstrations and opportunities for arrest. (Memorial vigils are a different thing, and I don’t include them here.) There seems to be something more than solidarity or justice-seeking going; something more akin to “anti-war re-enacting.”

The early to mid 1960s must have been a heady, perhaps a, frightening time to demonstrate. (I say “must have been” because like everyone else under fifty, I have no direct knowledge of any of it.) These demonstrations speak to a time of hope before it withered in the embitterment of the late 60s. Also when churches were influential and full. But those days are over and cannot return. Not only do “new occasions teach new duties” but the old idiom of social change looks quaint to younger progressives, and arthritic to the reluctant or hostile. The post-Ferguson demonstrations are the exception that prove the rule: it was the thing to do, as there was nothing else that could be done. But it doesn’t last, and without an action to follow, nothing changes and bitterness ensues. If the Occupy phenomenon shows us anything it’s that organization is hard, and all those in opposition have to do is wait for the fissures develop.

Sometimes people speak of the late 50s and the decade that followed as the “civil rights era” as if the strides made in the next two generations for women; persons with physical, developmental and emotional disabilities; and lesbians and gay men don’t have to do with civil rights. Or, to put it another way, if this isn’t the civil rights era now, what the hell are you bothering with?

The important part is something actionable. Seeking legislation, regulatory or procedural changes, public works adopted or abandoned, sincere apologies and so forth. How you gather the power to prepare and implement the plans is secondary.To paraphase: “without an endgame, the people perish.”

And that brings up social media: the new model. It’s helpful, but I’ll not praise it much, and I’ll be shorter here. Twitter and Facebook — each run by corporations that don’t give a damn about your revolution — can easily create an echo chamber. The number of heart-sick posts on each post-Ferguson told me people were spinning themselves straight from anger to despair, burning off any righteous energy that might have been applied to change. And we can’t afford that.

I’ve said enough for now; feel free to comment.

Me, in other social media outlets

There has been some buzz online about Ello.co, another in the would-be world of anti-Facebooks. Yes, I signed up for it; no, I don’t think it’ll kill Facebook. I’ll be happy if it survives. (Also, I’ve given away all my invites.)

I’d rather people flock to one of the notes of the distributed Disapora network — it’s technologically more mature — but after a flurry of activity three years ago, it’s largely gone dark. (Anecdotally, the Ello launch has revived interest, if some Twitterers are to be belived.)

A problem that each service has is finding your friends, even if they are subscribed. So these are my accounts; say hello:

Click this to join Diaspora. The schtick is that it’s decentralized, without a Big Bad Corporation at the top, so you can also pick a node from this list; it seems some people chose based on what country the host is in — to take advantage of privacy laws — or by the quality of service. That’s all I know.

I also use Newsblur to manage my RSS (blog and news) feeds, and I have a single follower. (Hello.) If you want to see what I’m reading and promoting, follow me here.

Regular readers: feel free to use the comments to promote your accounts on lessor-known social networks.

Signs of life at UUCF-MIN

[Later. Title fixed.]

One of the oldest Internet communities for Unitarian Universalist Christians is the UUCF-MIN list. But as email has lost some of its cachet, and Facebook and Twitter have taken over some of its utility, the list has had less and less traffic, and now is more often quiet than not.

I sent an email to check in: to see if the mailing list is live, and to see if its former participants were still present and interested. They are. Some people, after all, just don’t like Facebook or Twitter or any other social network.

If you are interested, and are a Unitarian Universalist and kindred Christian ministers or seminarians,in the United States or anywhere in the world, you are welcome to ask the moderators to join. (I think there was a provision for non-fellowshipped ministers who served denominational churches, but I cannot find any note of that now.) But don’t ask me: I’m not one of them now!

Revisiting the Disapora* distributed social network

I don’t have much love for Facebook, so why do I use it so much? Because other people use it, and I use it to attract people to this blog. But revelations about post manipulation and human social experimentation is coaxing me to try alternatives. I could use some, er, independence.

I’m revisiting the Disapora* social network, a decentralized and more privacy focused alternative. But its strength is its weakness. Personal privacy means its hard to find your friends, and if your friends aren’t there, you be back to Facebook to find them. It would be hopeless and dispiriting, unless you remember that AOL was once king of the hill…

So, I’ll use both and encourage you to reach out to me there.

Later. See https://joindiaspora.com/ to learn more. To sign up: You’ll need a “pod” — a node on the decentralized network — and the link I previously shared may not work, since it seem in the time I drafted this post, my pod has stopped taking registrations.

Here is a list of other nodes. Some people choose them based on the country they’re hosted in; others favor uptime or the version of Diaspora used.

I’m bitb on the joindiaspora.com node.

Now, which churches have dead sites?

The flip side of churches with an unreported web presence is those church sites, as congregations report to the Unitarian Universalist Association for uua.org, that no longer exist. But that’s not the same as saying they don’t have one.

Seven congregational websites have thrown a 404 or other error on three occasions in recent days, and have never worked. In two cases, it was as simple as the servers don’t support secure HTTPS, but use HTTP. One letter difference. I found Facebook pages for others. That leaves two congregations unaccounted for.

[table]

Website on recond,Congregation,City,State,Use this one
“http://uufellowship. homestead.com/ UUFellowship.html”,UU Fellowship of Porterville Inc.,Porterville,CA,https://www.facebook.com/ pages /Unitarian-Universalist-Fellowship-of-Porterville/ 162339087121352
http://macomb.com/~uuf,UU Fellowship of Macomb ,Macomb,IL,
http://www.uubrockton.org/,UU Church ,Brockton,MA,http://uubrockton.com/
“http://www.uuum.org/ 567683”,UU Congregation at First Church in Roxbury,Roxbury,MA,
https://www.littlefallsuu.org/,St Paul’s Universalist Church,Little Falls,NY,http://www.littlefallsuu.org/
http://www.nfuuf.org/,North Fork UU Fellowship,Jamesport,NY,https://www.facebook.com/ pages /North-Fork-Unitarian-Universalist-Fellowship-NFUUF /89653344099
https://www.newriveruu.org/,New River UU Fellowship,Beckley,WV,http://www.newriveruu.org/
[/table]

If not a website, then what?

In my post yesterday, I said that there are 36 Unitarian Universalist Association-member congregations that reported no website.

  1. But some do have one, including a couple of WordPress.com blogs, but it isn’t noted at uua.org (for whatever reason)
  2. And others use a Facebook like a church site, which I count as long as it’s reasonably up to date and has details that a visitor would want to see.
  3. I looked for Google+ and other like paces, but didn’t find any. Facebook has a lock on this.
  4. One church uses a Google Sites site primarily as a data store for its newsletters.

That leaves 17 churches on this list that have no website or like. (NA means I couldn’t find a site.) Interestingly, the median size is still 11. Next time: dead sites.

[table]
Church ID,Name,City,State,UU Members,URL
9012,The Unitarian Church of South Australia Inc.,NORWOOD,SA,111,http://www.adelaideunitarians.org.au/
8912,Brussels UU Fellowship ,Brussels,,20,http://uupuertorico.org/E/belgium/contact.htm
2036,UU Fellowship of Mountain Home AR,Mountain Home,AR,12,http://www.uufmtnhome.org/
2022,UU Fellowship of Yuma,Yuma,AZ,20,http://yuma-unitarian.org/
2535,UU Congregation of Whittier,Whittier,CA,11,na
2911,UU Congregation of Cocoa,Cocoa,FL,10,http://www.uucocoa.org/
3211,The Federated Church,Avon,IL,11,na
3215,UU Fellowship Eastern Illinois,Charleston,IL,6,https://www.facebook.com/uueasternillinois
3223,All Souls Free Religious Fellowship,Chicago,IL,14,https://www.facebook.com/pages/All-Souls-Free-Religious-Fellowship/316985258439
3517,Circle UU Fellowship,Indianapolis,IN,10,https://www.facebook.com/pages/Circle-UU-Fellowship-of-Indianapolis/509816002382146
4531,First Universalist Church of Hardwick Preservation Trust,Hardwick,MA,12,na
4833,Congregational Parish in Norton (Unitarian),Norton,MA,13,na
4835,First Universalist Church of Assinippi,Norwell,MA,8,na
4911,First Universalist Church,Orange,MA,15,na
5113,First Church of Templeton,Templeton,MA,10,https://www.facebook.com/pages/First-Church-of-Templeton/231571968510
3924,All Souls Universalist Church,Belgrade,ME,10,na
3833,First Congregational Society (Unitarian) of Eastport,Eastport,ME,6,https://www.facebook.com/pages/Unitarian-Meetinghouse-of-Eastport-Maine/131265246901834
3911,First Universalist Society,Hiram,ME,4,na
4018,The UU Church of Sangerville & Dover Foxcroft,Sangerville,ME,26,https://www.facebook.com/pages/First-Universalist-Church-of-Sangerville-Dover-Foxcroft/130890050306834
4013,First Universalist Church of South Paris,South Paris,ME,30,na
4022,First Universalist Church ,West Paris,ME,24,https://www.facebook.com/FirstUniversalistChurchOfWestParis
5236,Ann Arbor Unitarian Fellowship,Ann Arbor,MI,10,na
5514,Unitarian Fellowship of Grand Rapids,Grand Rapids,MN,22,na
5735,Kearney UU Fellowship,Kearney,NE,10,https://www.facebook.com/UnitarianUniversalistKearneyNE
5811,South Parish Unitarian Church,Charlestown,NH,26,na
5911,Newfields Community Church,Newfields,NH,1,http://newfieldscommunitychurch.wordpress.com/
6129,Hornell Alfred UU Society,Hornell,NY,13,http://hauus.wordpress.com/
6524,First Universalist Society,Salisbury Center,NY,14,na
7022,UU Fellowship ,Warren,OH,7,na
7214,First Universalist Church,Kingsley,PA,68,https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-First-Universalist-Church/1443588049208622
7435,First Universalist Church of Burrillville,Harrisville,RI,6,na
7512,Church of the Mediator,Providence,RI,11,https://www.facebook.com/Mediatorfellowship
8012,First Universalist Society ,Northfield,VT,6,http://www.unitedchurchofnorthfield.org/
8026,Universalist Society of West Burke,West Burke,VT,7,https://www.facebook.com/pages/Universalist-Society-of-West-Burke/121850654556564
8413,UU Fellowship,Marshfield,WI,8,na
8416,Unitarian Fellowship of Milwaukee,Milwaukee,WI,9,na
[/table]

 

Churches without websites: the (small) problem

Unitarian Universalists were early adopters of websites, and even in the late 90s I remember more than 300 or 400 congregations hosting their own site. These earliest available archive is from 1996, with 234 sites and more coming on line all the time.

I also recall — and thinking it wrong then — that someone-in-the-know opined that it was unlikely that many more churches would bother with one. That must have been around 1998 or 1999. (I wish I had written these predictions down. It was, of course, pre-blog.)

Today, only 36 of the 1045 member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association report no website. Most of these are very small (median membership = 11) and are overwhelmingly in New England.

The largest one listed (111 members) is The Unitarian Church of South Australia, but it does have a site, apparently for years.

But that’s not to say these other congregations don’t have a web presence, and that their choice isn’t the best one. But that — and a table! — is for next time.

“Young Universalists” on Facebook

While looking for something else on Facebook last night, I ran across a group that — alas! — I’m not qualified for, but might interest some of my readers.

Young Universalists logo

Young Universalists is a closed group, so I don’t know how it works or what it deals with other than its stated purpose to be “group for young universalists to support each other and discuss our faith.” One tag for the site — Christian Universalism — focuses its mission. And it had 58 members when I just checked.

FYI.