This photo-a-day challenge wasn't intended to provide any sort of road map—just more companions on the journey.
by Sophia Agtarap, minister of online engagement, Rethink Church
I serve as the minister of online engagement for Rethink Church. My task? Reaching out and engaging and encouraging conversation on social media with the 18-34-year-olds who have been disconnected from the church, as well as those who have chosen to stay, about the intersections of faith, spirituality and culture, and what the church is and could be. Lent doesn’t provide an easy entry. The invitation to self-denial, penitence, fasting and a deeper prayer life for 40 days isn’t necessarily what I’d lead with. It’s kind of a conversation killer.
So I took a cue from theologian, Karl Barth and approached Lent with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. Or smartphone, rather. As a 30-something young adult who spends much of her life immersed in social media, and who sees over and over the ways the church looks past these social spaces, I know there are authentic ways where people of faith, people searching for faith and leaders in our faith communities could truly meet one another where we are in this faith journey.
The attempt at engaging culture was this: a Lenten photo-a-day challenge. The photo-a-day concept isn’t something new. Made popular by Fat Mum Slim
, these daily photo challenges have been a call to have fun, be creative and invite everyone to play. As someone who works for a global denomination, inviting everyone to play isn’t always easy.
As we journey through this season of Lent, some will choose to give up something. Some will go about their lives as if it was ordinary time. Some will choose to be more reflective. Whatever your practices this season, will you join this photo-a-day challenge and share with the community how you perceive each word or phrase for the day? No explanation needed, unless you want to. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. Tag us on your instagram photos with @rethinkchurch or on twitter (@umrethinkchurch) with #rethinkchurch and #40days. We’d also love for you to share your photos on our Pinterest boards!
You don’t have to be a great photographer. This project is hopefully more about the practice of paying attention and being intentional, than it is being the best photographer [though we encourage you to get creative!]. If you don’t have Instagram or Twitter, we’d still love for you to share your photos. Just share them on your Facebook page and tag us, or post them on our Facebook wall.
Let’s start this 40-day journey together, sharing glimpses of our lives with one another. Let this be an intentional time, even for a few minutes a day, to pause, remember and reflect.
We are in the final days of this project. As of the publishing of this piece, we've had 19,063 photos tagged with #rethinkchurch [the tag we’re using on social media for this project] on Instagram alone. People from other denominations [and no denomination], young, old, inside the US and outside, are participating. It’s gone viral in mainline denominations, as a clergy friend tweeted me.
Originally Posted: Mar 27, 2013
This challenge has sparked something in its participants, to say, yes, I’ll make some space to do this daily activity. And that carving out of some space that's supposed to let God in so we could hear God more clearly as we practice simple living and fasting during Lent? The hope was that this could happen by the simple act of centering ourselves on the word or phrase of the day. By allowing ourselves for just a moment to focus on something other than the frenzy we seem to find ourselves in, we can look within ourselves and at the world around us and perhaps be transformed as we begin to see with new eyes. The experience so far, based on about 200 of the participants, who filled out a survey, can be summed up in this way:
The 40 days of Jesus’ wandering in the wilderness isn’t unlike where many of us find ourselves today. It’s sort of our story as people of faith. This photo-a-day challenge wasn't intended to provide any sort of road map—just more companions on the journey. And companions it has provided. I just saw a tweet from a participant, Stephanie
, who with her friends, is going to keep blogging past Lent.
If you haven't participated but would like to, you have a few days left. The instructions and schedule of the word-of-the-day may be found here
, as well as our daily devotions
and our Pinterest
board where a number of photos have been saved.
This experiment has been met with great success in more ways than one could measure. But the question remains, what are the practices learned that will sustain us past this season as we continue to grow in our faith, and the relationships we've made along the way?
Sophia Agtarap serves as Minister of Online Engagement for Rethink Church with United Methodist Communications, and is a candidate for deacon in The United Methodist Church through the Pacific Northwest Conference. She spends lots of time musing and crafting stories of and for the church over a good cup of coffee.
• Faith and belonging ► read more
• Busting the myth of a simple life ► read more
• Sabbath clearing ► read more