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Lessons and Carols for Small Churches

Lessons and Carols for Small Churches

Someone asked for a hymn based lessons and carols format for churches with small or no choir. Here is a template of one that I have used in the past.

Welcome
Entrance Hymn “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful”
Opening Prayer
“O Little Town of Bethlehem”
First Lesson Genesis 3:8-5, 17-19
“Once In Royal David’s City”
Second Lesson Isaiah 11:1-3a, 4a-9
“Away In A Manger”
Third Lesson Luke 1:26-38
“The Snow Lay On The Ground”
Fourth Lesson Luke 2:1-7
“Angels From the Realms of Glory”
Fifth Lesson Luke 2:8-16
“What Child Is This”
Sixth Lesson Matthew 2:1-12
“We Three Kings”
Seventh Lesson John 1:1-14
“Silent Night”
Blessing
Recessional “Angels We Have Heard On High”

Other carols to consider: “Joy To The World,” “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day,” “Lo, How A Rose E’re Blooming,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” any Advent hymn or, you can substitute any solo or a choral anthem the choir is working on.

My Quora answer to What are hindrances and obstacles to church growth?

First and foremost is that society doesn’t beleive in the church institution anymore. Churches are not called to grow but to serve. When they serve, they begin to grow. People are not dumb, they can recognize an insincere church right off the bat. They can discern which ones are ice cold, lukewarm or red hot. Most are lukewarm and that is their problem. They won’t grow if they are lukewarm.

Every church has it own challenges and obstacles. Most of the time the hindrances are the people themselves. Growth comes from many avenues: good preaching, good music, a welcoming community, location, parking, energy level, comfortable space, social opportunities, service opportunity and consistency.

A church once asked me to give them ideas to help promote growth and I gave them a list of 18 activities that they could easily organize over the course of a year. They said “I don’t like that one.” “This one isn’t something that fits our community.” “We don’t want to attract those kind of people.” and “Who is going to do all this?” I told them that energy begets energy, that they must incorporate people of all generational, cultural, economic and educational levels into a comprehensive program and, even if they start small they will grow. They whittled the list down to three and then they didn’t even do those three. Survival of the fittest. Not to act is to act.

I think the church needs to be offering the community at least one activity or event each week. Even if the unchurched community is not interested in every topic, at least they will see that this church is active and vibrant and may decide to give it a chance.

I took a church with three services a weekend and after fifteen years we grew to five services and two of them were SRO. There was no one thing that promoted the growth rather a sinuous network of everything. Everything was comprehensive. We got rid of youth, teen and adult choirs and evolved to a family choir. The youth groups didn’t do their own youthy things but rather plugged into all the ministries of the community and church with the adults. Our music too became comprehensive and we did away with the folk group, the traditional choir and the praise band. We did all styles of music at every service and no group owned a particular service.

My suggestions for a church looking to grow are three things; Pastors, get out of your office. Jesus didn’t keep office hours. Get out and be with the people. Establish a beat like the old timey police officer. Regularly visit diners, bars, clubs, senior centers, nursing homes, jails, courts, be seen and heard. Approach people and be approachable and wear your collar. Don’t do it to drum up business, do it to comfort, heal, serve and welcome. Go to the mall, sit on one of the sofas in the hallway and put out a sign, “I will talk to anyone about anything.” Pass out your card for further ministering and don’t worry about your homily. If these things you do, the homily will take care of itself.

Hire a music director who does not worship music, one where music is not his ministry but someone who loves people and music is the vehicle to ministering to them. This person needs to spend time with the staff to come up with creative and diverse ideas and programs and know how to delegate lovingly and compassionately. The children of Israel were taken as slaves of the Babylonians and the musicians were forced to entertain their captors but they refused and hid their instruments in the trees by the river. The Babylonians said play or we will smash your babies against the rocks and they still refused. Likewise, a true music minister needs to know when to put down their instrument and minister. Their job isn’t an hour on Sunday morning. It begins when the service is over and ends the following Sunday when they pick up their instruments to worship – not entertain.

Finally, as I said before, lots and lots and lots and lots of events and activities. One activity can grow into something big. I once played weekly organ recitals at noon on a weekday. We started with about 20 people and after a year there were about 200 in attendance. They didn’t come for the music, they came because it was the place to be. My choir started bringing in refreshments. The parolees in the shelter next door came for the refreshments. A home for disabled adults started busing in residents to get them out of the facility. Homeless people came in out of the cold. The parolees began ushering at the door and cleaning up afterward. The homeless began passing out flyers in the community. Pastors, choir members and organists came to network. Brides came to scope out the building. A police officer came in regularly to chat with the parolees to see what he could do for them. Eventually the parolees started to use the building during the day for their AA and NA meetings. The place was a beehive of activity and people started visiting the church because – something was going on there. As the psalmist foretells in Psalm 66: Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.

There is another thing, the church needs to give back to the community. It needs to do something that makes a difference. It needs to do several things that make a difference. People want to be part of something that makes a difference, not just sit in a pew and be entertained. When people visit or join the church, have ministries they can immediately plug into and I don’t mean things like altar guild, choir, usher or woman’s club. Things like working the food pantry, prison ministry, mission trips, gun buyback programs, homeless shelter, or do something revolutionary like Canada’s safe injection center (drug users can go there to shoot up without fear of arrest but medical care and counseling is provided in case something goes wrong. These centers have never had anyone die of an overdose while blocks away, people die from overdoses alone and unaided, hmmmph – do something revolutionary and save lives or not?), and, the church needs to tithe to some big program like California’s Housing Works program where they give houses to the homeless. Yup, GIVE. It gets them off the street and gives them stable shelter. A homeless person can cost your county about $20,000 a year in medical care alone because they lack shelter. With shelter and a place to secure a job from, they will be healthier. Dollar for dollar, homeless shelters are not cost effective on the whole and are only a band-aid. Check them out: housingworksca.org. Start one in your community.

Too bad the church can’t focus on some of these problems rather than worrying about growth and paying the bills. Pew people are not “customer acquisitions,” they are saints in the making. Too bad we don’t have institutions that fostered that growth and marshaled those forces. Oh, we do. It is called the DSS. They take care of the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the hopeless, the dying, the lonely, the abandoned, the imprisoned, the evicted, the illegal, the incurable, the different, the despised, the abused, the addicted, the forgotten, the neglected, the invisible, the battered and the frightened. Right there in that sentence is an awful lot a church can set its sights on and grow – instead or arguing over whether to keep the kneelers or not, to put in pew cushions or not, or the new wall color, or renting space to the gay men’s community choir. Not in my church! Think of the children.

Halloween Organ Recital

Join the Foothills Methodist Church, 17 Fremont St. in Gloversville on Sunday, October 30, at 3:00 p.m. in the church sanctuary for an exciting Halloween organ recital featuring a smorgasbord of classics, favorites and surprises. Malcolm Kogut will perform pieces such as the vivid and bristling with energy Dubois Toccata and the ubiquitous Toccata in D Minor by J. S. Bach. Other music will include Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Boellmann’s famous suite Toccata, and “In the Garden.” The organ recital is free and open to the public.

I have been sober for 45 minutes

Q: What?
A: Two organ recitals.

Q: Boring!
A: I mean, no, not like that stuff you hear in church on Sunday. Sunday organ can be very boring but this recital, it’s big, like, like really big, like OJ did it big. You gotta come.

Q: We have guitars and a band in my church.
A: The organ has a noble estate in church music. It is a sustaining and strengthening instrument designed for congregational singing. Consider other instruments such as guitars, piano or percussion. Once you play a sound on any of these instruments the sound immediately begins to decay, necessitating more fills and chords. But singing doesn’t work this way. The organ’s sound lifts and sustains the voice of the congregation through each phrase, guiding each breath, and setting the character of the song through its wide range of voices. The organ fills a room naturally making it possible to fill any space. An amplified band gives you a directional, electronic copy of the instruments while the pipe organ needs no amplification; Give it a chance. You may go back to your guitars on Sunday.

Q: Tell me about the two organs.

A: Trinity’s organ is a relatively new three manual tracker which means it is very challenging to play for many organists who are trained but still don’t know what they are doing ergonomically. After the recital, feel free to go up and touch the keys. Malcolm will be giving a talk about the ten ergonomic movements required to properly and effortlessly play a tracker and, how to avoid and cure tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome through natural movement. The talk will begin around 2:30 but make a reservation so he can prepare materials. The Foothill organ is an electronic four manual Rodgers with speakers placed around the room for the ultimate in surround sound.

Q: Is there a Malcolm Kogut action figure?
A: We would think so.

Q: Is Malcolm Kogut still alive?
A: Yes, as far as we know. We don’t have any current information about his health. However, being older than 40, we hope that everything is okay.

Q: Where was Malcolm Kogut born?
A: On a hill, far away in Troy, NY

Q: What is Malcolm Kogut doing now?
A: Supposedly, 2016 has been a busy year for him. However, we do not have any detailed information on what he is doing these days. Maybe you know more. Feel free to share the latest news, gossip and official contact information with the person next to you.

Q: Are there any photos of Malcolm’s current hairstyle or shirtless?
A: There might be. But unfortunately we currently cannot print them here. We are working hard to fill that gap though. Check back tomorrow or Google it.

Q: Where are these recital things?
A: THERE ARE TWO; The first is on April 10, at Trinity Lutheran Church at 42 Guy Park Ave, Amsterdam, NY 12010. The theme here will be “Old Friends.” It will be somewhat selfish on Malcolm’s part in that all the pieces will be pieces that he likes to play, has played many times and they fit like a glove. Not like the OJ glove but, bigger.

The second is on May 22 at Foothills Methodist Church at 17 Fremont St, Gloversville, NY 12078. This recital will consist of patriotic music. The final number is guaranteed elicit a standing ovation from the audience. Both recitals are at three o’clock in the afternoon.

Q: Cost?
A: They’re freeeeeeee! (my Harvy Levin impersonation).

Bio:
A letter from Malcolm Paul to the internet; I am very pleased and excited to be performing these recitals on April 10 and May 22, at three, and I Tertius, who wrote this letter, am pleased to be going, also. Malcolm has been playing the organ since he was 15 and by simple calculations, that makes him OLD which is often fatal and highly contagious; To be more precise (and nerdy), his current age as of right now is 19742 days or (even more geeky) 473804 hours. Malcolm was born on the 16th of January which was a Tuesday meaning he was conceived between April 21 – April 29. His next birthday is only 245 days from today. BTW, at both recitals, I hear there will be cake.

Sample links of each organ (Stars and Stripes):
Foothills Organ: http://youtu.be/MGbI3gHmnKs
Trinity Organ: https://youtu.be/yJQRQaEeNLc

Re-Purposing Church – for Entropy

It is no secret that attendance at most churches has been significantly declining over the past three decades. There are many and varied reasons for this exodus but those issues are not my focus for this blog. In my travels visiting churches, I have witnessed that many church facilities which were built for larger congregations now have meeting, classroom and gathering spaces which are no longer being used because the congregational population is not there nor active anymore.

I have recently visited four churches who have embraced a gambit which they called the “re-purposing” of their space. One church turned their entire facility into a daycare program. It is run by a staff hired by the church and they have over 30 children, none of which are parishioners of the church. The pastor said it was their bread and butter and panacea for the church’s fiscal woes. Since the church facilities are somewhat small, the daycare takes over the entire church complex including the sanctuary. The downside of this wonderful program which serves the community is that it cripples the church of any day time use. As a director of prayer and worship and organist, that would mean I wouldn’t have access to the facility for practicing, rehearsals, meetings or recitals midweek. For me that would be a tremendous handicap since I dedicate my full time to serving and growing the parish which would include and demand weekdays. Many of the programs I would design would require use of the facilities at this time because most of the regular ministry programs with the laity would naturally take place in the evening. Still, it is a wonderful service the church provides the community but doesn’t do much to build the worshiping community since as I mentioned, the families of the children do not belong to the church.

Another church has a four story Sunday School complex, huge kitchen and gymnasium as part of their sprawling facility. Now that the congregation size is down to about 50 members, they have no use for all that space. In the spirit of re-purposing, they now rent out three floors to the Department of Social Services who operates a daycare center for underprivileged families. This wonderful program provides free daycare to over 200 children each day but likewise, none of the families belong to the church. Meanwhile, on the ground floor they rent out office space to whomever wants it. They have an freelance writer, a volunteer organization that repairs books then sends them out to libraries, a supplemental food pantry for the city, an out of town attorney who comes in once a week to meet with clients, and the local police department even has a room for when the officers on foot need a place they can retire to to get warm or, whatever. The gym is rented out to a Judo instructor who offers classes each evening. The problem with that is that the choir room is adjacent to the gym and there is only a portable divider wall between the two rooms. The judo students complain about the choir and the choir complains about the judo classes. But, such is the level of respect many music programs have in churches. Money trumps all. The pastor told me that their small congregation has no further use for the large kitchen facility with two ten burner stoves, two ovens, a large walk in freezer and dinning service for up to 800 settings. I suggested that they find someone looking to start up a bakery to rent the space or at least offer the space to one of the many organizations who provide meals to the poor.

The other two churches have likewise re-purposed their spaces in an effort to make money and at least gives the appearance that the church is alive and vibrant. I asked one pastor what ministries his church provides for the community and the only answer he had was re-purposing. What do they pay him for?

While it is a great value to businesses and individuals who are small, poor, or are community service organizations, to have access to a space they can call their own without exorbitant overhead costs, it doesn’t appear that any of these business partnerships bring new people into the churches. Many churches offer space to AA and NA groups but I suspect that the people who attend these valuable and life saving services ever even consider joining the host church.

I did serve a parish where the AA and NA people using our building began to participate because they regularly interacted with our church staff and were invited to take part in activities. They started attending my weekly organ recitals, then volunteering to serve as ushers, then they began coming to our pot lucks, then in exchange for rent they volunteered to do work around the building complex, then some of them began attending Sunday services, a few became members and got married in the church and had children. Growth does work but only if there is the initial and maintained energy to make it work. Energy begets energy but it has to be sustained and re-worked for any program to sinuously network and bear fruit. If pastors dedicated their time to doing this, the homily would take care of itself.

The downside of re-purposing dormant church space is that if the church ever hires the right person and the church begins to see growth again, they will no longer have the facility and resources that is required to accommodate that growth – unless they evict their tenants. I know that many church people reading this will say that their church doesn’t have anything going on during the weekday hours so renting out that space doesn’t hurt the church in any way. That may be true so, hire people who will develop programs to begin attracting people willing to serve and minister, thereby filling and requiring those spaces once again. Start with the clergy. Many pastors need to get real jobs instead of pretending to serve the community and hiding in their offices five days a week avoiding the people who really need them. I know one pastor who did that for five years then blamed the congregation for the lack of growth in the parish. If a pastor is bored, frustrated and depressed from his job, chances are they are not helping the parish or people either. Churches are becoming irrelevant and they seem to be doing whatever they need to to survive, except actively live out the Gospel. I hate the direction these churches and pastors are going. They are doing everything to survive except their jobs. A disgruntled and fed up (now ex) Roman Catholic priest once told me that the place God calls a church to is the place where their deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. Wow, that is really simple and powerful. Maybe the church should try that. Don’t say it is easier said than done. Just do it. As the great spiritual leader Yoda once said, “There is no try, only do.”

Why Atheists should Go To Church

A friend of mine suddenly stopped going to church because his teenage son was arrested for selling pot. Yes, he is a scary drug dealer and probably has connections to Mexican drug cartels and has been involved in murder, abduction and child slave labor. Actually, he just sold pot to a friend who entrapped him in an effort to have his own charges dropped. Back to my friend, he was embarrassed and ashamed that this happened to his family and nobody from his church reached out to him. He admitted to me that he was an atheist and church had no value to him, he was only going out of a Catholic obligation to a nascent guilt. I disagreed with him that he shouldn’t attend because they needed him and he needed them, but he needs to work through this on his own. However, here are some generic reasons and granted, I am grasping here but indulge me.

1) Church gives you a place where you can breath. Many people will say that they don’t sing but in your everyday life, you sing. If you yell, you are using the same body parts and emotion that goes into singing. If you scream, the same. Do you speak with inflection such as you would when you speak with surprise, tenderness, comfort, imitation, sarcasm or chiding? All that is part of the singing apparatus too so, yes, you sing. The difference between saying those things and singing them though, that is where the difference lies. When you sing, you are sustaining tones which forces you to awaken muscles between your ribs, your diaphragm, your chest and head. An added benefit to actual singing is that you are taking in oxygen more deeply and richly than you would only by speaking. That increased oxygen gets in your blood where it goes straight to your brain and muscles which are nourished and repaired by the newly oxygenated blood. Singing is healthy. If you are a health nut, singing should be part of your weekly routine and church is a perfect place to exercise those muscles without the worry of someone hearing you. If your church has a pipe organ, there is even more acoustical space to hide in. Pianos and guitars have a natural decay and less secure to hide your voice therein. Once you play a sound on any of these instruments the sound immediately begins to decay, necessitating more fills and chords. But singing doesn’t work this way, and the continuity of the sung line is often disrupted. The organ’s sound lifts and sustains the voice of the congregation through each phrase and guiding each breath. The organ thrives in an open room and it fills the room almost like sunlight through open windows, the organ warmly invites even hesitant and untrained singers to join in. An amplified band gives you a directional, electronic copy of the instruments. The pipe organ needs no amplification; the natural sound of the instrument itself fills the space evenly and fully with its massive range. The organ can breathe musical life into any part of the Gospel story and your body.

1a) When you hear music, there are fireworks going off in your brain. FMRI scans have shown that when people listen to music, multiple areas of the brain light up and when participating, music engages practically every area of the brain at once, especially the motor, visual and auditory cortex. Strengthening those areas of the brain allow us to apply those strengths to other activities. This also bridges the activity in the corpus callosum which regulates the left and right hemisphere of the brain. This allows you to solve problems more effectively and creatively in both academic and social settings. Because crafting music also involves understanding emotional content and message, musicians often have higher levels of executive function; a category of interlinked tasks which include planning, strategizing and attention to detail and requires simultaneous analysis of both cognitive and emotional aspects. This ability also has an impact on how our memory systems work. Transubstantiation may become more physical for after singing an hour in church you will leave a different person, more energized, alert and cerebrally attentive.

2) Along the lines of music, attending the right church is a great place to hear masterworks of choral, instrumental and organ literature from the 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st century, all in one place. Sure, you can buy a CD or find classical stations on the radio but hearing it live in the space the music was designed and composed for is much better. Even if you don’t sing, sitting there gives you the opportunity to set aside some time to reflect on your life in a holy space with holy sounds among holy people.

3) You will be supporting local musicians. Many musicians in churches are volunteers but a few of them such as the director or accompanist are probably paid. Many of these people also play in clubs, bands, bars, are involved in community theater, compose and teach. By supporting them in the church, you are supporting the circle of music in the community.

4) Going to church also helps you to find community. My friend, whose son was arrested could have found support, comfort and community but unfortunately his church was also embarrassed about the situation and didn’t realize that not to act is to act. It takes a lot of courageous effort to cultivate that sense of courage to seek and heal. However, after that courage is marshaled, it will be discovered that it takes no effort or courage at all to heal. I know of another church whose pastor lives in his own house so the rectory was empty. When one of the elderly members fell into financial instability, there was no question that she could stay at the rectory free of charge. That is what church communities do for one another. So, you don’t have to go to church to find out what they can do for you, you can go to find out what you can do for them. It is in serving others that we are served.

5) Many people, even atheists, have a nascent sense of spirituality within them. That means it is present but not active. A friend of mine was arrested (hmmmph, I know a lot of people who were arrested) and he stayed at my house for a week because he wanted to get away and hide from everyone and take time to figure out his future life while it was falling apart around him. A staunch atheist, he decided to attend church with me on a Saturday evening because I had to play and he didn’t want to sit home alone. Something touched him in the service and he went up for Communion. He said he felt close to the God he didn’t beleive in and it was comforting for him to be there. He made an appointment to meet with the priest during the week but unfortunately the Roman Catholic priest alluded that he was not welcome there but, God bless anyway. What a missed opportunity for both. Most often the biggest problem with the church are its clergy because they lack the courage to do the right thing for fear of being accused of doing the wrong thing. Not to act is to act and everyone loses. It is easy to do the wrong thing then blame the one you are ostracizing. They protest too much.

6) As I mentioned earlier, going to church may help you find purpose. An active church can provide you with the opportunity to volunteer to help where it’s needed, a way of intentionally focusing on something transcendent and on becoming a more loving person while helping others. Church’s can be a great place for social gathering, too. People are usually warm, friendly and accepting, at least in a good church! They may have groups that interest you and even have some missions which for you, even as a non-believer, you can participate in toward helping others in need. That is what is most fulfilling in life; having purpose and helping others. When two hurricanes hit my area I was volunteering to answer a suicide hotline and was moved up to handling a disaster relief hotline for FEMA. I did that for about three weeks, seven days a week, about ten hours a day. Albeit exhausting, it was a very rewarding time for me.

7) The point of the sermon on Sunday of any church is to learn how to apply scripture to your life. This is a simple concept but many clergy think they have to be creative, gimmicky and entertaining and often miss the mark of breaking open the Word. Even if you don’t beleive that scripture is true spiritually or historically, there is great philosophy in the teachings of both the old and new testaments. Even if you don’t believe in God, you can agree to a lot of the values found in scripture as great truths. Many of the stories have great lessons and you can find answers to many of your concerns and problems therein. Our lives become the stories that we listen to and re-tell. If you don’t want to take the time to read the bible, start with the Jefferson Bible which is comprised of only the words of Jesus (the red words). That can be very inspiring for those without a lot of time to weed through the historical and cultural detritus of scripture.

As long as you are not attending church to cause a disturbance, I would encourage going. The social, psychological, and spiritual benefits of participating in the liturgy and a community can be inspiring. If nothing else, you will get free food and coffee after the service. That brings up a couple of other more over the top reasons to go.

8) The bible is loaded with good horror stories. In the Bible, you can find stories of unsurpassed cruelty: murder, rape, incest, torture, slavery, cruelty to women and children, witchcraft, angry gods, natural disasters, plagues, wars, duels, mutilations, crucifixions, more blood than you can shake a stick at, and of course, eternal torment! Much of Hollywood’s success comes straight out of the Bible. If you like horror, lust and greed, the bible is a great read.

9) Church is a great place for stand-up comedy. Practically every page of the bible has something funny, ironic, dry or revealing in it if you look for it. Preachers are willing to say anything from their pulpits! Many of them start off their homily with a joke and the comedy doesn’t end there either. Seeing some fundamental clerics affirm with a straight face their literal belief in a Noah’s ark, that dinosaurs didn’t exist (a distraction planted there by old Scratch himself) or that the sun was “stopped” until some Jews won a battle, is hilarious! Yes, churches can provide hours and hours of knee-slapping entertainment if you know what to look for!

In some churches, you absolutely cannot be a member or be welcome to participate in the liturgy if you are not baptized, a member, affirming or have jumped through some other corporate hoops. The Roman Catholics have many restrictions, the Episcopalians are more welcoming and lax, some churches require background checks (they don’t want sinners), women are second class citizens in some, some are just cold, some don’t like gays, while the Unitarians will take anyone. Do some research, that might be half of the fun. Visit a different church each week, take pictures and review them on Google or Yelp and talk about the music, homily, people, art, food, windows, flowers, whatever.

In the end, you may discover that some of your hookah-smoking and beer-drinking buddies are church mice. You can share many a night around a fire-pit with those people discussing the spirituality of STAR WARS, HARRY POTTER and THE LION or THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE or STARGATE. It can become something you’ll never want to give up because even if you still don’t beleive, you’re a family. Whatever brings people together is worth exploring.

So, come, all are welcome. Well, not everyone, everywhere but, try. If they don’t want you, shake the dust from your feet as you leave (That’s from scripture. It was Jesus’ polite way of saying, well, I can’t say it).

Social Media Won’t Last Forever

A local priest was recently arrested for using his cell phone to take pictures of a woman changing in a Salvation Army thrift shop. I guess he didn’t know that porn was rampant on the internet and free for the taking. His court appearance was adjourned until January 20th so we won’t know what sex offender crime he will be charged with until then. Immediately after posting bail though, he closed all his online accounts such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. He didn’t have to do that since there was nothing immoral about what he had on those sites (and, they can still be seen in the Google Cache). What is sad though is that he had pictures of his church, parishioners, his family, cars and everything good about himself and others posted therein. All that is good about him is gone forever and what remains are the dark sided news articles detailing his deviant behavior. One “oops” erased a lifetime of “attaboys” but, such is our holier than thou, unforgiving and vengeful society. The Facebook comments about him from “good” people only wish for him to be shot, rot or burn.

It got me thinking though about our zeal to digitize photographs, posting them online and expecting that they are going to last forever; That might turn out to be wrong. If there are photos we wish to keep “forever,” we should consider creating a physical instance of them and print them out, then store them in “ye old fashioned” photo album. I still have my grandmother’s album, my mother’s and my own childhood albums stashed away in the attic for future generations to view. A friend of mine has a 20 year old son and they don’t have a single hard copy photo of him. They have thousands of digital photos stored here and there, though. Today’s online, high tech and cloud data storage system will most likely become tomorrow’s floppy disc. We are currently living in the digital dark ages and printing our photos is probably more secure over time than merely posting them.

Think about it. If websites such as Megaupload can be taken down, or if a social media website can go out of business such as Zurker, iMee, Posterous, or they can just fade away into obscurity such as Myspace, what could the future hold for other online storage and social sites where we post everything about our lives to? If terrorists wanted to hurt everyone in the world in one fell swoop, they’d take down Facebook. That actually wouldn’t be a bad thing . . .

What we know about generations before us we have gleamed from written records and old photographs. If a disaster were to strike our civilization or time simply wanes on and what is popular now becomes banal and trite in the future, how will historians and archaeologist learn about us if our digital footprint dissolves, is deleted, becomes demagnetized or is simply taken offline by our own doing, our failure to log in anymore, care-less relatives or, our favorite social media site where we store our pics simply ceases to exist?

We can still read 5000 year old hieroglyphs carved in stone. We can still decipher three thousand year old ink on papyrus. We still have books written in 1,000 year old ink and paper. Digital copies of our 100 year old celluloid recordings are quickly being duplicated because they are decaying at a rapid rate. The earlier magnetic tape recordings less than fifty years old are almost unintelligible because they too are decaying at a rapid rate. It seems our new technology does not have a relatively long shelf life.

Even if the medium still exists, the technology to read them will soon be obsolete and impossible to find. Consider the following medium for data storage: vinyl audio records, cassette tapes, 8 track tapes, card readers, punch cards, 5 and 1/4 inch floppy disks, 3 and 1/2 inch disks, zip drives, CD’s, DVD’s and now, the cloud. Heck, I have data which I stored on thumb drives and they are unreadable today after the old age of ten years.

See the pattern? Not only does the digital data decay rapidly but the hardware to read those formats is rapidly disappearing, too. Don’t expect the thousands of family photos you have stored on your phone, the cloud, your computer, on Facebook or on a disk will be there in 100, 50, 20 or even 5 years. As the priest in my opening paragraph taught us, your digital footprint can be wiped out overnight, or your cloud company can go out of business or taken down such as Megaupload. Social media websites or your working personal computer can be gone tomorrow taking your whole digital life with them.

There is a solution. Get yourself to one of those struggling scrap booking stores dotted across the country and find out how you can get your precious memories stored in a slightly more secure photo album. And don’t use home laser or inkjet printers as they too fade over time. Have your pictures printed from high quality printers using quality paper and ink.

Then, instead of just posting your picture to Facebook for your 800 closest friends to see, invite family and friends over for a meal, sit on the floor around the fireplace with a glass of wine and look through the photos together, sharing stories, making new memories and maybe taking more pictures.

Time weaves ribbons of memories to sweeten life when youth is through. Like memories, our technology and online presence can fade and disappear. How cool will it be for your great grandchildren to be rummaging through the attic and find a photo album of their ancestors – hopefully it won’t be a book filled with selfies. As I look through the old black and white photo album of my grandmother, I don’t see many pictures of her but, I do see the pictures of the many people whom she loved.

-Malcolm Kogut.