A guest post by Dr Bex Lewis
With a background in historical communications and teaching, I’m well aware of the importance of different learning styles, and after years of trying to conform to the expectations of others, I’m seeking out ‘ways of being’ that allow me to engage fully.
In the Second World War, many different poster styles and messages were used to get the message across, as the government sought to offer a shared sense of national identity that people were prepared to fight (and die) for. Some used humour, whilst others were more didactic. In the early days of the war it was clear that what had worked in the First World War would not work. Messages from ‘on high’ were not appreciated as this was ‘The People’s War’.
Before war was declared a set of three posters was prepared: ‘Freedom is in Peril’, ‘Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory’, and ‘Keep Calm and Carry on’ (kept in reserve for a real crisis, such as invasion). There were so many complaints about the first two posters, that Keep Calm and Carry On never saw the light of day during the war. by the time the Blitz occurred it was deemed ‘not fit for purpose’. Keep Calm and Carry On, however, has found its time as a message of the 21st Century, specifically the recession, as it has appeared in many different guises over the past few years – pushed by social media – I’m currently wearing ‘Keep Calm and Pray On” (Phil 4:6), which, combined with Matthew 6:34 (‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’), have been the verses I have been reminded of at many times in my life, particularly when I returned from travelling in November 2008, with no job, no money, and facing a recession!
Now, we also want more of an interactive experience, but many churches continue to broadcast sermons from ‘on high’. There will need to be a huge cultural change before we see churches in the UK running Twitterfalls, and taking Tweets from their congregation (although questions have been known to be taken in paper format). I think, however, that I have just about adjusted the people in my church to the fact that I take notes/tweet on the #sermon hashtag throughout the service. The vicar is called to lead and guide the congregation to live Biblically, and the sermon still provides a valuable way to do this.
For years I took notes in a notebook, and people are so used to that tool, that they don’t blink an eyelid, and it was easy to doodle/write shopping lists if your attention wandered. A phone, however, is a new adjustment, but for me, it allows me to engage far more actively throughout the sermon, and occasionally have a conversation with someone on Twitter as I’m unable to put a question forward in church. Finding passages in the Bible is also less stressful, as with YouVersion, I can ‘search’ for the reading and focus on that, rather than trying to think where the next one will be.
This is not necessarily for everyone, so we need to remember that ‘one size’ doesn’t necessarily ‘fit all’, the old ways of working still have power, but we need to be prepared to work with the new, to seek more of a conversation with our church members.
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping Christians be a positive presence in the digital world, and is Project Manager for The Big Bible Project. She has a background in historical communications, and wrote the history for the Keep Calm and Carry On poster. Bex is a polymath, so has multiple other interests too!