More on Theological BarCamp…

I ran into Chris Walton at a meeting today, and he wanted to know what the heck I was talking about in my post on porting BarCamp to religion. Obivously, creating a religious BarCamp isn’t as obvious to others as it is to me, so here’s a more explicit description:

It starts out with half a dozen people excited about creating new liberal religious theology, and excited about spreading that theology through new media like blogs and wikis and podcasts. These half dozen people plug into their social networks and get another dozen people who share this passion. A date is set, a Web site goes up, the words spreads through the blogosphere, people commit to showing up and their names are posted on the Web site. Everyone who attends will be both presenter and participant, and everyone who commits to attending is planning their presentation.

The actual event starts at (for example) eleven a.m. one Saturday. You walk into the site, and you see a whole bunch of blank schedules for the weekend. You write your presentation on the schedule. Since this event focusses on theology, five of the presentations are worship services (opening worship, vespers, evening worship, midnight worship, sunrise worship), times and places where the entire gathered community will embody theology together. You see other presentations: a book discussion, a scripture study, a workshop on embodied theology and dance, a workshop on blogging (bring your own computer), a workshop on producing podcasts, a panel discussion with a pagan and a Christian, an experiential outdoor workshop on ecological theology, several discussion groups on theological topics, a project to read aloud the entire Torah and record it, a group who will work on a liberal theology Wiki together, and so on.

Opening worship is led by a neo-pagan. You go straight from there into lunch, and sit at the table table where people discuss the theological aspects of eating (one is vegan, one’s keeping kosher, one is macrobiotic, one is a hunter who eats what she kills, etc.). The afternoon starts with a workshop on blogging, and you get into a discussion on how Cascading Style Sheets can carry a theological message. You drop on the group doing the Wiki, learn how to edit a Wiki article, and actually contribute a paragraph about liberal theology. You drop into the blogger’s room, which has a T1 line and Wifi, and you do a quick update of your blog. You wind up in the outdoor workshop on ecological theology walking a labyrinth.

Off to Vespers, which is a Taize style worship led by a humanist. Dinner — you signed up to help clean up, and get into this intense theological discussion with a humanist while operating the dishwasher. More workshops and discussions. You had promised yourself that you’d go to bed early, but find yourself at midnight worship, because it is being led by the workshop called “Emergent Liberal PoMo Church,” with music supplied by the “Music-and-Theology Geeks” workshop. Lot of candles, a meditative video assembled in FinalCut during a workshop on video theology, the homily spoken over a meditative hip-hop soundtrack the music geeks put together in GarageBand (both audio and video put up during worship on the event’s Web site), then a swaying moody chant one of the musicians wrote during the scripture reading workshop. Somehow, all the theology you talked about during the day gets totally embodied for you during this worship service, or maybe it’s lack of sleep.

Anyway, you have to get up for the sunrise communion worship led by this guy Scott, and then after breakfast (eaten in silence, as decided by the community the night before), you lead your workshop on [fill in the blank], which is attended by five lay leaders, four ministers, three seminarians, two random geeks, and a denominational staffer. You run to the blogger’s room to do another quickie post. The whole thing ends with the host church’s worship service, the sermon preached by one of the conference attendees. After lunch, you go home to sleep — and to put into practice in your own religious community all the theological insights you gained over the course of the 24 hour un-conference. ((Did someone ask about child care? Yup, the children’s program, run by this guy Dan Harper, did their own theological workshops.))

There you have it. Maybe it’s not exactly BarCamp the way the technogeeks know it. But it’s one person’s vision for what a theological, embodied, geeky un-conference could look like. Totally open source. Totally participatory. Very rich theologically. Totally energizing. And we could make it happen if we wanted to.

4 thoughts on “More on Theological BarCamp…

  1. Philocrites

    Thanks! I think my initial incomprehension is rooted in something significant: Although I can imagine that such an “unconference” could be fun, it would cater to such a highly selective group — theology geeks — that I can’t imagine it serving the purposes I had been focused on. (I’m not actually that interested in “geek theology”; I’m just trying to figure out how to cultivate a broader circle of readers and writers of more serious religious writing.)

    But what you’re describing might be quite useful for generating new tools and strategies for using new technology to build communities, spread the word, etc. If that’s really more what you’re talking about, sign me up — despite the fact that I really don’t like “cons.” But I can’t begin to imagine why I’d prefer the theological perspectives of supremely technologically-inclined UUs over some other group’s perspectives.

  2. Administrator

    It’s really just an attempt at a different paradigm for doing theology — a kind of theology not based in the academy.

    The technology is there simply as a way to share beyond the confines of the relatively small group, as a way to try to be anti-elitist. (That kind of anti-elitism is one of the core philosophies of such technologies as the World Wide Web, Wikis, and open source software.) Same with the group process implicit above: we’re not looking at a hierarchical information flow, but more of a liberating model of mutual education, not unlike liberation theology and base communities.

    And what initially interested me about BarCamp was not the technology, but the group process: everyone a presenter/participant; a chance to do intensive cross-pollination face-to-face; no schedule set by someone who might have a limiting agenda; open to anyone who wanted to come.

    Still thinking out loud….

  3. Pingback: Bar Camp gets religion…? at FactoryCity

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