It’s been six months or more since we last commended specific Signature Participation Projects (SPPs) to you via this blog, but three new good ones have come to my attention in the last few weeks that I want to share with you for our joint edification and encouragement along the TG Road. Each of these SPPs may be slightly or egregiously flawed, but you have to admire the chutzpah.
Here are brief summaries of each, along with my quick gloss on how I might tweak or totally rework each one in an effort to to make it better:
1. Tours of London, Led by the City’s Homeless
Inspired by London’s Sock Mob, which is a volunteer group that engages routinely with London’s homeless, Unseen Tours offer an entertaining and poignant walk through the streets of London with trained homeless guides, giving participants a historical but also unexplored perspective. The tours interweave the guides’ own stories and experiences, giving participants a view of the city through the lens of homelessness while introducing a new social consciousness into commercial walking tours. Four routes are currently available — more are coming soon, the group says — each culminating in a “merry pub trip” at the end.
Love it–the perfect SPP for a mission or homeless shelter. Helps prevent us from viewing homeless men and women as objects of pity and lets us see them as knowledgeable individuals whose insights on homelessness and poverty and grace are invaluable. For Christian orgs I’d use graduates of rehabilitation programs as the tour guides, and I’d replace the “merry pub trip” with a prayer and communion service back at the mission.
2. Journeys by the American Bible Society
Whether it’s a daily or weekly e-mail Bible study, audio, print, or a text message, you can explore the eternal truths of the Bible in the way that best fits your life. With a variety of topics topics to choose from, each journey contains verses and Bible studies each day of your journey—making God’s Word relevant and personal to you.
I like ABS’ setup which enables readers to build customized study plans of different lengths (7 days, 40 days, 100 days, ongoing) focused on different topics (Addictions, Anger, Anxiety, etc) using a variety of delivery methods (SMS, email, web, voice mail–my favorite, audio download) and searchable according to a variety of filters (themes, essentials, practices, faces, etc). My concern here would be the probability of users to fall into a perpetual “P” (participation) pattern of going from study to study rather than the study catapulting someone into an intentional formation process driven not by passing interest but rather by the desire to grow to full maturity in Christ across each Work of Mercy and Piety. An amazon.com-style “If you selected X, consider moving on to Y” could facilitate a workable Participation-to-Engagement-type conversion.
3. Crowdsourced Catholicism: New iPhone App Lets Users Forgive Sins
Penance, an application released for the iPhone in early December, allows users to absolve one another’s sins. After passing the application’s obligatory security PIN system (conventional online security measures are the app’s primary faith-orientation), you come to an interface resembling a confessional booth. Through the left door you can “confess,” offering your sins to whoever is listening; behind the closed door you can “absolve” any sins received; and at the far side you can “reflect,” considering the shared confessions of others, conveniently arranged like a pinball machine’s top-ten list.
The service requires that every user play both Sinner and Saint, and a novice is granted five bits of each one’s currency: Five Horns for confessing, and five Haloes for granting penances.
No. I like this. I really do. Well, I mean, as it currently stands it’s more atrocious than admirable, but there’s a germ of something good and helpful somewhere in here, currently wrapped up in something with all the delicacy and sophistication and health of deep fried butter. I encourage you to read the rest of the post and see if you share my sense that if O (Ownership)-level guides mature in their faith were there to guide…and greater opportunities were given for coaching and instructing Participants…and if some decent theology could be worked in there, well, then you might have something here. I’m just saying.
In this still-innocent new church, maybe it is unsurprising that gluttons seem only to regret single instances of pizza, chicken nuggets, or cheesecake, never wrestling with longstanding food addictions, and the wrathful never repent of physical violence. But in the nearly empty pews we find traces of real pathos. One penitent doesn’t know how to forgive a friend who called him “a fat faggot” over the internet and then accused him of forging his evidence. Another was thrown out of a strip club for saying “God must hate strippers” to a dancer who confided that she had a disabled son. Here and there, Penance hurts.
And you? See any good SPPs lately?
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