Wednesday 31 December 2014

Tweeted BCP Evening Prayer

As promised yesterday, the tweeted Evensong – or TwEvensong – happened. As a result of having a very public first attempt at something like this, there are things which need refining both for the producers and consumers (or ‘foundation’ and congregation) of the event (or service). I have compiled and sorted all the feedback that I received both personally and via the choir's Twitter feed to provide a record of the event and to help me - and others - in such an endeavour in future.

The way in which Twitter handles multiple connected tweets needs to be considered. I had found that two or three replies to one’s self without the @ name at the start got linked, but beyond three verses of the psalm this got confusing. As someone tweeted
sorry but you lost me at Isaiah.
and what appeared on people’s timelines seemed confusing (I also glanced some instances of this on a separate computer and account I set up just to watch the event while tweeting)
....and repetition of out-of-order verses ( tho' not in 2nd lesson?)
As @davidbartonmus commented
Yes, very entertaining (!) - could work well with a hashtag
and this is something that I did explore but felt tagging each tweet ate into the available characters too much which would have meant more verses of psalms and readings needed splitting. However, I do accept this would be necessary next time; indeed, there is a competition in the making with @AnnetteRubery suggesting
@LichfieldChoir Ah yes, bit of a challenge; you need to crowdsource a short hashtag via a Twitter competition ;) 
A private message on Facebook also got as far as the first reading but ‘then it seemed to stop’. I guess it is possible that Twitter though so many posts were spam and therefore blocked some of them. This needs investigating.

From a production perspective, it was difficult to try and keep tabs on the whole thing and know when to tweet your portion. As the Dean of Birmingham and Bishop of Cork tweeted at the end
Of course Evensong is always exciting, but rarely that nerve-wracking
nerve-wracking indeed!
This could probably be resolved with practice, as things did seem to calm down after the initial flurry of activity. However, this hectic beginning was apparently obvious to the consumers too:
Bravo! Team Evensong!  (just a tiny bit stressful at the start)@WealandsBell @LichfieldChoir @RevRichardColes @CatherineOgle @b2dac
As the Cathedral Choir’s Twitter account is linked to Facebook (to save having to create posts for each manually on a day to day basis), all of our contributions were also sent to Facebook without any of the other participants' tweets appearing. It would have been sensible to disconnect them for the duration of the event as highlighted:
Les Robertson
Actually it was bloody irritating and just clogged up the facebook timeline! Keep it to twitter if you must but somewhat loses its impact some hours later on fb for those of us who have been at work all day. You clearly have too much time on your hands!
Only downside of #Evensong via Twitter- it dominates my FB stream, surreally jumbled!
In order to keep things tidy, the Facebook posts have duly been deleted manually.

Whether Twitter is the best medium for such an event is something that needs further consideration, but what an alternative which is so widely used and easily accessible would be, I don’t know. Nevertheless, from the three hours following the TwEvensong, this is a compilation of the rest of the feedback received with the most recent first:
Very well done everyone ! Thank you
Kudos to @LichfieldChoir @WealandsBell @b2dac @CatherineOgle @RevRichardColes for the TwEvensong earlier. Loved it! When's the next one?
thank you, such a good idea, I normally avoid Evensong but found that lovely.
much enjoyed. Thank you
What a great idea! Please do it again and I'll have fresh coffee ready to remind me of Evensong at York.
How lovely.
...and I translated the bits common to our liturgies into Hebrew. Thanks again
I liked that it came from multiple accounts, and found other juxtaposing mid-office tweets rather amusing!
thank you for an enjoyable evensong! Made my day!
@rachywakey the tweets of @WealandsBell @RevRichardColes @LichfieldChoir @CatherineOgle @b2dac since 5.30. Ace Twitter evensong #fb
it was stunning thank you
should add that my chorister daughter enjoyed her own private game of "guess the next tweet". Great service!
really wonderful idea. Brilliant. Thank you. Well done
Thank you. The traditional Anglican liturgy is profoundly beautiful.
So, what time is Morning Prayer?
 *shakes hand* wonderful service, thank you :-)
pretty good for a first go, bravo
thank you for this evenings worship, nicely done, God bless
Thank you!
 *shakes your hands on the way out* Nice not to have to walk a mile home
Thank you, that was lovely. Well done all.
Many thanks to you all. That was very lovely. Xxx
Thank you to everyone I enjoyed it
*Shakes hands of clergy* Thank you all for a very different #Evensong.
a little bow of the head to you all, acknowledging & appreciating your ministry.
thanks all, was interesting!
that was fun. Fast typing fingers needed. Bit more practice for @RevRichardColes tho 
Thanks Guys !
Louise Stewart
I found it purposeful, prayerful and innovative; thank you, Lichfield Cathedral Choir!
and during the event, @GeorgeDay27 tweeted a photo of someone on their mobile phone standing in the snow outside a chalet with the caption: 'catching Evensong on twitter in Switzerland'.

When I wrote my blog post 24 hours ago, my hope was that it was appreciated by someone somewhere. This collection of tweets suggests that my hope was met. Yes, the whole thing needs a little refinement and some people were disappointed and saw it as a waste of time, but for it to come together so quickly and to be so well received was beyond my expectations. People are already asking about the next event, and I look forward to the next one being even more successful and building on what was learnt to day. Indeed, sorting through the feedback, the question of music – something I had wondered about but decided to leave on a back burner this time – was raised:
Next time a tweeted Choral Evensong? Music via Soundcloud/YouTube?
Didn't recognise the setting?
while @rogbi200 fully entered into the spirit of things and transported themselves to their own Evensong with their music list
@LichfieldChoir I went with Psalms from St Pauls (incl Willcocks Ps148), Howells Coll Reg, Radcliffe Resp, & your most appropriate anthem!
this is another logical step and one to consider for the future.

Watch this space.

Monday 29 December 2014

Tweeting BCP Evening Prayer

For a while, I have been musing on the nature of the daily Evensong in which I sing being an enforced (but not in any bad sense) sacred space in my life. Apart from being a part of a centuries’ old tradition and therefore being made to feel somewhat insignificant in the grand scheme of things, part of this is inevitably down to the fact that technology – and its concomitant connectivity – are banished to pockets for the duration of the service.

This led me to think about the extent to which our connectedness through social media is preventing us from having that quiet personal time and space for religion, reflection or relaxation, as even when simply watching television or listening to the radio, we are being told to email or tweet with comments and feedback meaning that, without a great deal of self-discipline, our escape is never possible

If our connectedness is inescapable – my thinking went – I wondered how such a space could be created in our online connected world. The inevitable answer is ironic and I duly contacted a priest fried of mine and asked if he would like to lead an online Evensong with me tweeting as I do regularly on behalf of Lichfield Cathedral Choir. His enthusiasm for the idea led me to think that it was not quite as foolish as it felt.

Although this creates a lot of work for those taking part, one of the beauties of Evensong is knowing that it is happening in cathedrals up and down the country on a daily basis and while there are some people who attend regularly, there are plenty of others who just drop in for a single service or are there for just some of a single service. Another beauty of Evensong, from the congregation’s point of view, is that the majority of it is said (or sung) on their behalf by the priest and the choir, so they are able to partake as passively as they wish.

My idea of an online service is an attempt to create exactly the same thing. It will happen tomorrow – 30th December – at 5.30pm GMT whether or not people are reading the tweets. People can choose to follow us for as much or as little as they like. The text will all be delivered in tweet-size chunks: there will be the full psalms and readings for the day, along with prayers and an anthem text to read.

The Twitter accounts to follow will be @WealandsBell, @LichfieldChoir, and @RevRichardColes.

To the best of my knowledge, there has not been a tweeted act of worship before. There are online churches and religious communities but, as far as I can tell, they do not – or have not – offered something like this before.

It is an experiment. It will happen. I am sure there will be some people who see it as a waste of time and a foolish endeavour; however, I do hope that people will find the time to take out of their day to drop in on the event, and I do hope our efforts will be appreciated by someone somewhere in the world.

If details change, I will update this post and I welcome any comments, suggestions and feedback, but I look forward to my next post being a reflection of how the first tweeted service went.

UPDATE 16:27: Having enlisted a Dean and a Bishop to help us, please also follow @CatherineOgle, and @b2dac

UPDATE 31/12: After the event I compiled all the feedback I received and it can be read, with comments, at