I belong to a website community called The Ship of Fools. I have met some amazing people through the forums, kind of including The Mister in a round about sort of way. Every year they do a Secret Santa, but also a Paschal Penguin… ie. send a little Easter gift to the value of £5 to someone you don’t know.
My parcel arrived today. Two cute knitted Easter chicks stuffed with chocolate eggs, a flower key ring and a penguin eraser. It made my day very happy!
Had a brilliant weekend in Derby staying with a bunch of random internet strangers we know from the Ship of Fools. Of course the reality is that most of the aren’t actually strangers anymore as we have met several times before!
excuse reason for a meet this time was to do art. Well, to be perfectly honest, there wasn’t masses and masses of art going on, but The Mister and Anne and a few other people went off and did some painting and bits and pieces and I did some cross-stitch. The kids had a brilliant time though making boats and things out of cardboard boxes and doing colouring and stuff.
It was lovely to chill out this weekend with people I like to be with, to relax, drink wine and talk nonsense. Perfect.
The only less that perfect thing is that I have a cold and feel rotten. Other than that, everything is perfect!
Just one pic… but click through to see the rest on Flickr!
Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will know that I have been active on the discussion boards at the Ship of Fools website for many years. This week has been a sad week as Erin, the Community Editor died unexpectedly on 30 December 2010. Once again the value of an online community has been brought back to me in a vivid and real way.
The Ship has been a huge part of my life since about 2005. It has provided me with a breadth of information about subjects that I have never really had to think about. More than that though, it has given me such a diversity of viewpoints from people of all different Christian denominations, traditions and experiences. I have contact with people from all over the world, many of whom I will never ever meet. However, I have also been on many Shipmeets and met online folk who I would now class my ‘real life’ friends. Indeed six Shimates came to our wedding last April.
There are many people who say that true friendships and community can never truly be developed over a computer, and yet I would beg to differ. The outpouring of grief and shock is tangible and very, very real. Equally the support and love of the forum members is so real that you can almost feel the emotion as you read the messages of remembrance, support and love. The Ship is an amazing place with an awesome community. People often have disagreements and arguments, but these generally get resolved and/or tolerated.
Erin played a huge part in ensuring the smooth sailing of this Ship. She would cut to the chase in a few sentences and put people in their place if they were being arseholes. Comments written by Erin were always worth reading she regularly left me chuckling at something she had said.
The Ship is undoubtedly a much poorer place without her, but I am sure it will endure, and that is the most fitting tribute to her that I can think of.
Well, after our little trip to Egypt The Mister and I then trailed off the the Isle of Wight to meet up with some strange people from the internet. We decided to go down a couple of days early as we had the whole week off and it was nice to have a couple of days to relax.
We did all sorts of things, went to Osborne House, the zoo and saw the tigers, went to the beach, went on the steam train (yay!) and ate an awful lot. Anyone who says that real and lasting relationships cannot be developed through the t’internet are wrong. I have met lots of people on the Ship of Fools who have become really good friends, admittedly this is mainly because I have also met them in real life and our online friendships have become more significant and real.
The Wightmeet is a bit of an institution and I love it. The chance to spend time with interesting and insane people and the opportunity to do different things it always fun. So, my internet friends… here are a few pictures… if you want to see more then click on one and go to the flickr pics!
Yesterday was a really lovely day. The Mister and I went on a Ship Meet in London and we met down at Tower Hill, wandered across Tower Bridge and then along the South Bank past the Tate Modern and almost up to the London Eye where there was a Christmas Market. After a very slow meander we went to a pub where we had manage to acquire the whole of the upstairs to ourselves, where we proceeded to eat, drink and be merry. We were even joined by a bishop and the Captain of the Ship of Fools himself. Apart from being a bit drizzly it was such a fun day.
Days like this remind me just how important the Ship of Fools has been for me over the last few years. I am sure that many people would think that the idea of an online community is a little strange, and the idea of meeting up with members of that community really quite bizarre. However, the Ship has given me a safe space to consider different issues and to discuss them with a broad spectrum of people. The Ship is no longer just an online community, I have many ‘real-life’ friends who I originally met online, and yet these days they are just friends, not online friends. Ship-meets such as this one mean that these friendships can develop and extend, and they continue to be a vibrant and important part of my social life. I have met many good friends online and indeed I have met some particularly special people through the Ship.
So, God bless this ship, and all who sail in her!
Last year my Uncle Nick went off on sabbatical and went swanning off to South America for a while. On his return he wrote a reflection on his sabbatical called “Whatever happened to Solentiname? The role of intentional communities in the mission of the church”. Finally I got around to reading it. It had been looking at me from the coffee table every time I sat down to watch TV. It’s all good stuff, but there was one bit which really struck me…
- In our day there is a renewed interest in some sort of monastic order, whether to restore depth of worship, simplicity of lifestyle or effectiveness in mission. This is anything but new, and speaks of an urgency to recover something that has been lost: namely community. In ‘The Millenium Matrix’ Rex Miller writes: ‘As long as the church remains fragmented, hurried, pressed and driven, it will never be able to see much beyond ever-pressing urgencies. If, however, we restore the priority of relationships and community over projects, agendas, budgets and mission statements, then not only will we survive the transition into a digital world order, but the new environment will provide a potent soil for growth and expression of the body of Christ.’
Community is a funny thing. When you most don’t want it you are stuck in the middle of it and when you really want it you are alone. After leaving Newfrontiers I was desperate for real community; community that made a difference to my life. Community that supported and moved me on. Community that was both challenging and nurturing and yet gave me the space to be me. At that point in time I found my community online, firstly through The Ship of Fools and latterly through blogging. These online communities provided me with the space to ask questions and get answers, to mull things over, to rant, rave, cry and share in the joy of good things. Anyone who says that online communities cannot be powerful for the individual are clearly not part of such a community. The quote above really resonates with me. The need for relationships over agendas is so vital. It is the inter-personal which makes the difference to make life and I fully believe that the church needs to get to grips with this. Is having a large building so vital to community? Well possibly it could provide facilities, but it cannot replace quality relationships. Places like Greenbelt can contribute to this understanding of community, they provide an openness and understanding that is seldom found in churches, and maybe they encourage people to pursue this sense of community on their return home.
The strange thing is that over time my real-life and online communities have started to merge. The boundaries have become a little more blurry as I have met online people in real life. The queer community has sustained me all the way through, and the friendships have extended and endured throughout my wanderings and my journey. Henri Nouwen wrote, No one person can fulfill all your needs, but the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God’ faithful love.
Being part of a community which fulfills this need is amazing. Whether that be in real life or in cyberspace I am not really that fussed, but I know that I am fortunate to have people around me who continue to demonstrate to me God’s faithful, complete and enduring love.