New Religious Media

An email from David Frumm, formerly religion reporter for the Detroit Free Press, says he’s leaving the Free Press to operate a new website, read the spirit. com, that will offer “creative ideas that have never been been attempted in religious media.”

Beyond this promise, what’s interesting is the assessment of this veteran reporter that we’re at the dawn of an opportune time for religious voices.

Frumm says the challenge is to find a voice. It’s no longer enough to write about religion, it’s necessary to tell stories that give voice. He also says there is tremendous untapped energy in traditional denominations. In a nod to the historical story of Luther’s posting 95 theses on a church door, Frumm’s creative colleagues posted their theses in the form of ten 21st century principles for religious publishing. They’re an interesting set of propositions.

I’ve been contending in this blog for quite a long time that there is a reserve of energy in the oldline, so-called mainline denominations that, if focused and freed, could bring renewal to the church and probably the society. Frumm doesn’t make quite that broad a claim, but the move into digital media coupled with the promise of doing new things in religious publishing moves in the right direction.

The great challenge I see for the mainline, at least at the level in which I work, is to break out of the traditional constraints and constrictions and experiment with new forms of mission and ministry. On the face of it this would seem to be obvious and easy to do. But it isn’t. It involves cultural change, and that kind of change comes only with the pang of birth, or the pain of urgent, emergent threat.

The threat is at hand. The challenge before the mainline is whether they can enter into the 21st century and bear the risk that comes with efforts to breakthrough the past and enter into whatever the future holds. And it means cultural change that will be hard to accept, I believe. It will require freeing up clergy and congregations to innovate, experiment and risk failure. But this is the only road to renewal.

Perhaps most important is finding a voice in the language of the street today. I don’t mean the common language so debased it’s become devoid of passion. The “f” word and the profane have lost all meaning with overuse. I mean language that communicates about sacredness in a society that knows only a secular vocabulary. It’s about finding a voice.

As Frumm notes, it took seventy years following the first use of movable type before Luther found his voice. Digital media are significantly different. They compress time and they are asymmetric. They’re everywhere and becoming available to almost everyone. How do you find a voice in the cacophony? There’s the challenge. Breaking through the clutter and using words that communicate.

That Frumm and his colleagues are moving in this direction in digital media is yet another example of the change that is already afoot. More power to them.

Join the conversation!

Post a reply in the form below.

Leave a Reply:

Gravatar Image