For the past three days I’ve been attending the annual Theology and Communication conference THEOCOM17 at Santa Clara University in California. The conference describes itself as “A gathering of Theologians on Digital Communication” and this year’s theme is “Digital Shepherding: Pastoral Theology and Ministry in a Digital Age”.

The schedule of presentations is below, which I’ve annotated with relevant web links. Overall, some very interesting papers and excellent conversation.

Theological Foundations

    • Matthias Scharer
      From Pastoral Theology to Practical Theology: The Impact of Karl Rahner’s Understanding of Practical Theology in a Digital World
    • Archimandrite Alexandros Salmas
      St. Gregory the Theologian: A Patristic Paradigm for Pastoral Theology and Ministry in the Digital Age
    • Thomas Boomershine
      The Embodiment of the Word: A Pastoral Approach to Scripture in a Digital Age
  • Nadia Delicata
    Moral Theology in a Digital Age: Retrieving the Past for the Future

Media and Ministry

Education and Formation

    • Mary Hess
      Storying Faith Amidst Digital Cultures: Renewing Religious Education in the 21st Century
  • Rev. Jose Palakeel
    “Feed my Geeks”: Reflections on Ministerial Education and Formation in Digital Culture

Theology in Context

  • Theo Nicolakis and George Sarraf
    Conciliarity in a Digital Age: A Study on the recent Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church
  • Alba Sabaté Gauxachs
    Digital media, the New Space for Religion to Meet Youth. The Catalan case
  • David Trobisch and Seth Pollinger
    The Technology outreach of the Museum of the Bible

Pastoral Responses

  • Levi Checketts
    The Persona of the Pastor on Social Media
  • Antonio Spadaro, S.J.
    Social Media Practices

Pastoral Implementation

  • Fran Plude
    Building ‘Listening’ Communities of Faith: A Response to the Appeal for Dialogue of Pope Francis
  • Caroline Cerveny SSJ-TOSF
    To Be and Become Digital Missionary Disciples

Also good to see the book on Authority and Leadership from THEOCOM15 coming out in September (which includes a chapter I contributed).


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On the beside table

Looking forward to a few weeks of catching up on novels and audiobooks.

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Latest issue of Gamevironments is out.

Source: Gamevironments – Current Papers and Archive (2017)

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Gaming statistics (NZ)

Hunting around on the Internet over the past few weeks looking for some statistics on computer and video gaming in New Zealand. A few links so far:

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Queen’s Birthday Honours

I am increasingly impressed with The Spinoff’s more in-depth coverage of politics at a local level than the mainstream media (TV or newspaper). Even if you don’t always agree with the conclusions of their articles, you certainly have a lot of material to think about – rather than repeating what other people have tweeted (I’m looking at you, TVNZ).

With the knighting of our former Prime Minister in the QB honours list (Former PM John Key tops Queen’s Birthday honours with knighthood for services to the state |, the following two articles made good reading today:


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Who should decide the fate of ChristChurch Cathedral? – The Listener

An insightful article in the New Zealand Listener on the ongoing saga around Christchurch’s Anglican cathedral years on from the Canterbury earthquakes.

Source: Who should decide the fate of ChristChurch Cathedral? – The Listener

At one level, an interesting case study on the interaction between religion and society in a ‘secular’ or ‘post-Christendom’ environment.

At another level an ongoing situation that is extremely upsetting and damaging to those involved.

(Photo: David Alexander (UCL IRDR) –

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Protestant Technology Myths

An interesting post over at Michael Sacasas’ “The Frailest Thing” on what he names the myth around the relationship between technology and Protestant Christianity, which he describes like this:

The myth, briefly stated in intentionally anachronistic terms, runs something like this. Marin Luther’s success was owed to his visionary embrace of a cutting edge media technology, the printing press. While the Catholic church reacted with a moral panic about the religious and social consequences of easily accessible information and their inability to control it, Luther and his followers understood that information wanted to be free and institutions needed to be disrupted. And history testifies to the rightness of Luther’s attitude toward new technology.

Sacacas contends that this myth isn’t untrue to some extent, but it does get used to sanction or ‘baptise’ technology uncritically, and to support a narrative to technological progress connected to an “adapt or die” mentality.

It’s worth a read, not the least because it comes with the caveat “Finally, big generalizations ahead. Carry on” (something more of my some of my students should use), and a reference to  Borg Complex claims about technology and church.

You can find the article here: The Technological Origins of Protestantism, or the Martin Luther Tech Myth | L.M. Sacasas

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Moving books

WP_20170106_15_40_29_Pro_LIProbably the most important thing I’ve read so far this year.

Probably needs how to add to move DVDs and comics too. (Comics are hard to pack and are heavy in bulk).

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Goodbye 2016

Last post of 2016, a year with about 700 days of life experience compressed into 365 days.

Mistakes were made; lessons were learned. Some projects unborn or uncompleted, other projects unforeseen in 2015 brought to fruition. Various companions on the way departed; new ones joined the peregrination; and others faithfully encouraged as we walked through the year.

2017 will be both different and the same. Given each of the last four years have turned out completely differently than I expected, I can make no predictions except anticipating ongoing, rapid change.

My prayer for 2017 (shamelessly flogged from Babylon 5)

God be between you and harm in all the empty places where you must walk.
Babylon 5, 2.4 “A Distant Star”

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Christmas, Sin City and John’s Gospel

Our Christmas Eve evening service focused particularly upon the opening of John’s Gospel with the Word coming into the world – “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (Jn 1:9). With glowsticks instead of candles (the wax on the carpet from previous years being avoided), the dimmed church highlighted that the smallest light can make a real difference in a darkened place. And that the darkness did not apprehend (by understanding or restraining) the light of God in Jesus of Nazareth.

That’s all well and good, and something worth meditating on, but in the southern hemisphere when the we’ve just had the summer solstice a few days before, where it’s beginning to head into summer proper, and the night comes late in the evening, physical darkness is sometimes hard to come by, obscuring the very real emotional and spiritual darkness that is present in parts of our everyday world.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been watching the cinematic adaptation of Frank Miller’s “Sin City” (2005). It’s a film noir series of vignettes in a world bereft of hope and love, starring an ensemble cast of well-known actors, and can be watched in one sitting or story by story. The vignettes intersect with each other, with characters crossing paths in their own stories, and with a single story in two parts, “That Yellow Bastard,” bracketing the film like a kind of inclusio.

The film is brutal both in its violence and its portrayal of a world without hope. The cinematography aids this with everything in being monochromatic, with the occasional splash of colour, such as the red of lipstick or blood to emphasise the inherent sexuality or violence in a scene (and similar to two other film projects of Miller’s “The Spirit” and “300“). All of this rams home the world as dark and violent place, with a few anonymous good people and where any act of love or kindness is ephemeral; stamped out by the darkness.

Perhaps then, this is a portrayal of the world that John’s Gospel describes the light of God entering into – one which captures the inability of humanity to save itself from itself, and where human efforts at love and hope, as political theologian Duncan Forrester notes “tends to disintegrate in the face of radical evil.” As such, it is a world which cannot imagine, let alone apprehend, the light and life of God, full of grace and truth, because it has no place such a thing.

And this is the mystery of Christmas, which is borne out at Easter and beyond – violence, despair and hopelessness – are recognised as inescapably part of a human condition. Not the only part, it must be said, but the particular part that needs the ultimate source of hope and truth as found in, borrowing Eugene Peterson’s words, “God becoming flesh and blood and moving into our neighbourhood” and in doing so adding much needed brightness and colour to the monochromatic landscape.

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