Once upon a time I was a very new curate feeling my way into public ministry in the Church of England. Every day was different. I missed the regular contact and ready-made community of my friends from vicar-school, who had been my sounding-boards as I thought aloud about all that was going on and what God was up to...so I started blogging.
Just for myself.
I had no IDEA that there were blogging communities out there, that I might find like-minded souls, that anyone would actually read my blog at all.
Thinking aloud is what ENFPs do all the time - so typing into an apparent void was no problem whatsoever.
Blogging wasn't big in my circle...though one or two Greenbelt friends had blogs and I enjoyed reading them and was happy when they sometimes posted a comment on my early posts.
I began to explore - but I was such a novice I didn't really know how to search, or what I might hope to find.
I could so easily have missed the whole thing!
I'm not sure how I first discovered Martha's blog...I'm not even sure which title she was using at that stage - but suddenly I seemed to be reading the words of a kindred spirit.
I'm that strange creature, a shy extrovert - so even on-line it took me a little while but one day I posted a comment - she responded....and we were off!
Her blog roll led me to other women in ministry and their friends...who gradually became my friends too.
I was part of the conversation that summer when someone suggested a "blog ring"....I rather think I asked what one of those might be....
Then came Katrina - and in the wake of that our friendships became ever closer, as we responded in love to a disaster that seemed very close to home, even in Cheltenham, England, because someone I cared about was so deeply affected.
We wrote books together - 2 collections of reflections that I'm still delighted to have on my shelves
We talked about maybe, just maybe, meeting face to face one day - but most of my friends were the far side of the Pond and trans Atlantic trips are not part of the stuff of life for 40 something clergywomen with 3 children and a mortgage...
But, amazingly,it happened!
Martha and her family were coming to England - and would be able to spend a night in Cheltenham if I liked. IF I LIKED?!? I've seldom been so excited...and the minute they got off the train I knew that we really WERE friends....that the internet was not a snare and a delusion but a place where real, lasting and life-giving connections could be forged.
We talked and talked and laughed and talked and talked some more and it was very good.
Later I crossed the Atlantic myself to share with these special people in the very first Big Event.
Scared of flying, never having stayed in an hotel on my own, I somehow found the courage - because of the strength of our friendship and because I wanted to somehow testify by my presence to this wonderful network that we had made out of nothing as we sat at our computers.
Again it was good. I will never, til the day I die, forget an evening spent at the Midnight Buffet
I'm a vicar now. I blog much less - for the freedom of curacy is only a memory, many of the stories I hold are not mine to tell and in any case the online world has moved on.
But it was RevGals who showed me the way in which internet friendships can transform lives...My soul-sisters for whom I thank God whenever I think of you.