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Hallo again to all.

'Words are icons for Anglicans.' That sentence, spoken by a participant of a conference we recently attended, gave a jolt to the entire room. Earlier this year we read that by 2017, 74% of all transmitted internet content will be video. Video is shared more often than any other kind of content, YouTube is the second most popular search engine, and video can double engagement on social media.* We shudder as we type this.

We are people of words. Our news is gathered in the written form, our journals are still scratched out in bound notebooks, cook using worn, annotated cookbooks, and read our favourite theologians in bound volumes or on our tablet. As Anglicans, we are brought together through the Book of Common Prayer and the bible, we pray together, we read together, we share books, letters, and emails. Illustrations often accompany words, of course. We grew up with a now-falling-apart illustrated bible that had previously belonged to older generations. Our weekly letters here are accompanied by illustrations—indeed, we acknowledge that illustration is humanity's oldest form of communication.

Images with words are often used to bring people together. Humans of New York, a webpresence with over 17.5 million followers on Facebook, has brought people together through images and stories. Founded six years ago by Brandon Stanton, a former finance worker, the project started with the goal of photographing 10,000 New Yorkers on the street. The project instead developed into a pairing of pictures and stories, and has spawned three books, fundraisers bringing in several million dollars for a variety of causes of those photographed, and 'Humans of' pages representing cities across the world.

Last year, an American-based group began a Kickstarter for what they called their 'Parallel Bible.' They crowd-source photographs through their app and email, to match with scripture verses: connecting stories, community, and scripture. When we first heard this project described to us, a founder told us it was 'Instagram meets Scripture.' We balked. This seemed the very opposite of 'slow church'. Then he took out a paperback book to show us. Parallel Bible Volume 1: Sermon illustrates Matthew 5-7, with both pictures and words, from contributors on every continent. Rather than seeming like some new-fangled mix of meme-culture, it actually stopped us, it slowed us down, letting us drift over the words and images. Walter Brueggemann writes

Parallel is a dazzling way to read Scripture. To bring in contemporary imagery both permits and requires us to see that the Biblical text is profoundly engaged with our moment in history...

The Parallel Bible team are already asking for contributions for Volume 2: Parable, with specific verses they are looking to illustrate. Give them a look, send them a picture.

An icon, in our context, is typically a written pictorial representative object of devotion. Often painted on wood and illuminated, it is a place where we lose ourselves and find God. Perhaps words are our icons. Is that such a bad thing? But lest we forget, images, moving or otherwise, are valuable places of finding meaning. What are your icons? Let us know.

See you next week.

Our Signatures

All of us at Anglicans Online

12 June 2016

*This January 2016 article, from Covert with Content was shared to us by Anglicans Online Founder Tod Maffin.

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