So several months ago, not long after I started working with the Church of Scotland, I was asked if I might want to participate in their Tomorrow’s Calling campaign, which hopes to show the diversity of forms ministry within the church can take. Except there was a slight twist in my case: I was to do a vlog, a video blog, over an extended period of time.
Me being the attention-seeking, overly-confident, camera-loving extrovert that we all know I am, I said yes.
(Dear readers who do not know me in real life, I may not be shy and retiring, but my loathing of cameras, my off-the-charts introversion, my lack of confidence are no secret.)
In reality, I said yes because I would get lots of really cool video kit to play with, and who doesn’t love some new technology, right?
So in September and October when I was out here for three weeks, I played around with it a bit, filmed a few things, did some commentary and thought maybe all would be ok.
Then I moved here. I started hearing different perspectives. I started making new friends. I started slowly acquiring relationships of trust. I realised just how much I need to keep my mouth shut and listen. How much I want to stay neutral. How much I do not want to be pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli. Life in a new country is lonely. And these new relationships feel so fragile.
I just want to be pro-love, pro-justice, pro-peace, I said when I came out. But even that is naive. Because one can’t be pro-love, pro-justice, pro-peace in a bubble. One can only be those things in a complex web of relationships with real people with real feelings.
So when it came time to record the first video blog, I was nervous. I want to talk about my ministry out here, not make a political vlog. Yet E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. that one says here can be construed as being political. For one of my past blog posts, I was told here that I was causing problems for being too critical of Israel; back in Scotland I was rebuked for not being critical enough. Same blog post. Both reactions.
My skin is thick when it comes to this blog here. I choose my written words carefully. That’s not to say I don’t make mistakes or say things I shouldn’t. Oh, I do. Often. But usually I will stand by what I write.
But spoken words? Totally different story. The first edit of the video blog came back. I cringed as I listened to myself. I said things several months ago that I didn’t want to have heard. So I recorded a new voiceover. I watched it again. And again. Each time, thinking about people here who I’ve come to care about. Relationships I don’t want to see damaged. I am getting past the point in my immediate context of categorising people: Palestinians. Israelis. Jews. Christians. Muslims. Druze. They are people I eat with. People I pray with. People I laugh with. People who have trusted me with their tears.
These are the people whose responses concern me most just now. I don’t want to betray their trust. In the same way that I am working hard to assure them that I have no desire to convert them to my religion, I also want to assure them that I am not here to impose my political views upon them. There’s time yet for politics. Now, it’s all about presence.
In the end, perhaps my first vlog makes for bland viewing because I am trying to be so cautious.
In future, I hope to be saying a lot less myself and making much more space for the words of others. Some will be stories of hope. Some will be stories of anger. Some stories may break your heart. And others may make you laugh. This is my life here. In all its madness. Welcome.