New Experiment

After a bit of thought and a couple of false starts, I’m trying out a new experiment: YouTube videos.

One of the things that I’ve noticed is that, even though I’m a biblical scholar, I sometimes lose the thread of exactly what we’re doing and where we are in the various Scripture lessons of the Daily Office. I figure that if I have this problem and I’ve got a Ph.D. in the field, it may well be happening to other people too…

So, to address this gap, I’ve started a series of videos entitled a Liturgical Look Forward. The goal is to look at the three Office readings for the upcoming week and locate them within the books that we’re reading through.  In the event of a Holy Day (like the Feast of St. Mark that falls on Wednesday), I mention what we’re missing—but also what we’re getting in the feast itself.

It is, of course, An Experiment. It may not last. Also, as it’s experimental, I have no real idea what I’m doing… The video below is the first video I’ve ever shot and edited for public consumption. The intriguing aspect of this whole realm is that I’m constantly calling in my teen-aged daughter to help me navigate the YouTubes; I’ve never had to rely on younger help to navigate anything digital and it’s quite the humbling experience!

In any case, here it is—let me know what you think.

(And click “subscribe”!)

5 thoughts on “New Experiment

  1. Adelaide B Kent

    This is just great. It is true that we see the trees and not the forest!

  2. T.W.

    Thanks for this–it’s a good idea with lots of potential. I’ll give plenty of specific feedback, not because your video inspires an attitude of critique, but because at the beginning of a new experiment, you will want to lots of little alterations of method as you go forward and discover what you can ultimately bring the praying public via this medium.

    I am a 45 year old with bifocals watching this on a phone before I pray MP. I’m going to guess that’s not super unusual for your target demographic. But it’s not just because some of us have to squint to read the fine print that you should be thinking more about how you use the available rectangular space of a YouTube video–it’s because this is essential to exploiting the medium. You’ve realized that you need a balance between some graphic/textual content and your own personable speaking countenance. That’s a good start. But the full frame is mostly wasted when it’s just you talking. I’m sort of glad you gave us nothing but a white wall and your talking head and the top five buttons on your expanse of blue shirt, because it helps me make this point so well, and the point is–all this can be reduced to a little box that contains your talking bust. Sure, make the box twice as wide as the format of your driver’s license picture if you want to make arm gestures. You can take up the full frame when you begin the video with a sort of “fireside chat,” but at other times I believe you should reverse the visual place of the charts and the talking head. That is, fill the screen with the supporting infographics, and maintain eye contact with us through a box in the corner. Anyway, when you shrink the graphic to the corner, there is no way I am going to be able to read it. (There are fancier things you can do, splitting screen horizontally, etc., but, trust me, the box for the talking head that never needs more than 25% of the screen space is what you want. This is routinely used by all kinds of “explaining/presenting” YT videos, from streaming blitz chess games to lecturing on how to disassemble electronics, to history.)

    I think the general format is good. I think the problem you’re addressing is the right one (on a given day, in the middle of Paul’s dense language, or a prophetic passage, we might get a bit confused and “lose the thread”). It’s not perfectly obvious to me that helping us keep the thread always means speaking at the general-overview level (as you mostly do). It is helpful to keep the bigger structures in mind, but for your audience the reminders about what Exodus contains were probably a tiny tad repetitious (for example, the repeated point that the lengthy discussion of the tabernacle shows God cares about the beauty and reverence of his worshiping spaces was made more than once). I think a complementary approach would be to identify, in each reading, the verse or two that is most likely to leave someone praying the Office with glazed-over, uncomprehending eyes–the point at which, if we had a Biblical scholar at our elbow, he’d interrupt for just a second, explain what we’re likely not to be grasping in that verse and how it fits in to the big important point of the Biblical author, and we’d carry on getting more out of all that follows. So put a verse or two on the screen and say, “So when Paul says… he’s setting up the paradox / challenging the easy view / etc.” A wider version of my point would be to say that you can use your knowledge of, and access to, Biblical scholarship, by offering us more specifically (on average) one interesting idea from Biblical scholarship per reading that really “unlocks” the text. Of course this carries the risk of promoting questionable hypotheses sometimes–and it might often be better to say if something in our reading has been taken two different ways–but it would help us engage the text as something that does have consequences, something that people of faith might draw meanings from that affect our view of God, the world, and ourselves. In general, remember that if we’re watching the video, we probably know more about the Bible readings than many of the folks in the pews–but you’re right that we still get confused, despite our experience of committed daily reading. Therefore, more attention to “what keeps stumping someone who’s read this multiple times” is appropriate.

    Your best understanding of why the Lectionary readings correspond to the feast/season are essential. Please keep that up. Sometimes it’s not clear to me, but it’s always super rewarding when I reason it out. I do note that you missed some low-hanging fruit like why we read Exodus in this season in the first place.

    I’m sort of surprised that this is set up as being for this week of 2018, rather than simply for “Easter 4, Year B, with the Feast of St Mark (April 25).” How many years beyond two are you going to be doing this? Perhaps relatedly, I was surprised that nowhere did you mention the possibility (endorsed by the BCP) many of us will embrace–taking a few minutes on Tuesday or Thursday this week to lengthen our readings so that we don’t leave out part of what the Lectionary compilers wanted us to read in the Easter 4 readings.

    The plug for your book belongs at the end, but other bit you save for the end–what the Daily Office is (prayers and readings for every day of the Church year according to a pattern set out in the BCP) and where to find out more about it–should be at the beginning. Brief, obviously, but at the beginning. I’m afraid those who don’t already know enough to be praying the Daily Office will never make it past the first few minutes of the video. I bet in 60-80 seconds, you could do a great job of saying, what the Daily Office is, that many Christians inside and outside of the Anglican Communion find value in it in their prayer lives and actually complete a “Bible reading program” because it’s in a prayerful context and embedded in a calendar that makes sense in our lives as Christians. Of course you’re the expert–you wrote a book about it, so I bet you can give a wonderfully varied one-minute intro & “sell” of the Daily Office at the beginning of each video. Then on to this week…

    So, again, I’ve subscribed, and think you’re off to a great start on a great idea. I think it will be even better as you tinker more and consider issues like the ones I’ve tried to bring up here.

  3. Dennis

    Thanks so much for this. Your book, your classes all over the church, and your online presence are doing more to promote the discipline of the Daily Office than anything ever done before in the American Church I dare say. Good going! I used to write and mimeograph overviews of the Office readings decades ago when I was in parish ministry, and I find this your first segment of the new project to be just the ticket. Now tell me where that “subscribe” button is, please. I’m a master of the mimeograph, but I find these newer technologies a bit challenging.

  4. Derek Olsen Post author

    Thanks all, and thank you, T.W., for taking the time to leave the detailed thoughts. I’m incorporating most of them into the next video!

  5. Fred

    I love this.., so very interesting and insightful. Now I’m missing it for the coming week!

    Thanks… you make this so easy to grasp and understand.

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