The Blogger of the Year award is a recognition
of the efforts of those who are engaging with Christian faith
online. It's part of what it means to go into all the world and
THE award was given by Premier Media, a big
Christian media company in the UK. I felt so honoured and
encouraged to win.
My blog is a place to discuss theology and current
affairs. It's a personal blog, hence no snazzy title, just
DeanRoberts.net; so other things creep in to the blog from time to
time - personal anecdotes, news, etc. But it's mostly a theology
and current-affairs comment blog, where I'm open to dialoguing with
others, learning from them, and appreciating other viewpoints.
I'm passionate about blogging as a tool to encourage
discipleship, and I'm not afraid to tackle the hot
potatoes that the Church has to deal with. Same-sex marriage in
church and women in ministry are two. It's very hard when people
speak of these in the same breath as if they were the same sort of
issue. As far as the Church in Wales goes, there's exploring how to
grow the Church through the empowerment of lay people, which is a
problem for people with a high theology of sacramental worship.
People speak with conviction online. The
problem is when people don't like to agree to disagree. We can't
change each other's views.
I started my blog as a theology student at Cardiff
University. I wanted somewhere to jot down my thoughts and
opinions - like a digital version of thinking out loud, but
documented and shared, so that other people could join in, with a
chance to formulate their ideas, too. Since then, the blog has
evolved, adapted, and changed, and will continue as I progress in
my ordination training, ministry, and formation.
Initially, my blog readership were people I
knew; but, after a while, the readership diversified and
grew. These days, my main audience is from the UK and the States,
of varying church backgrounds or none, or from other religions, and
of different ages. It's a regular readership from 136 countries
around the world.
It's usually through Twitter where the discussion
continues. People have to think what they want to say
because they don't have many words to say it in, but that itself
can be a problem: you need a lot of interaction to get to
understand what they are saying. And I get a lot of emails from
people who want to dialogue with me but not in public.
I don't blog for as long as I used to: now
maybe four or five hours a week. We're blessed with lots of
countryside around here, and that's an incentive to get out. It's
important to have a life outside a computer screen, and I have my
studies, and it's important for us to have time for each other and
for friends. It's also important that we don't become an
individualistic society and indulge ourselves online.
And I'm training in context. I'm training on
the job to be a vicar; so I commute over from South Wales to
Trinity College, Bristol, three days a week. Monday's a study day,
and Saturday is a day off, and the rest of the time I'm working in
the parish. The job informs the learning, and the learning informs
the job, training like a nurse or teacher would.
Formation isn't meant to be easy. It's meant to
be exposing: it's supposed to take you apart and put you back
together. It's challenging but good. We're not left on our own,
though: I have the rector and the ministry team. I think it's a
good method of training, and will only increase in popularity in
the Anglican Church. You don't lose much if it's done properly. I
still have a college life, though it's not residential. It takes
more discipline to keep a regular pattern of prayer and worship,
but I think the net result is a positive thing.
If you're a blogger, it's important to read other
blogs. There is such thing as a blogging community, and
quite often we write blog posts in response to other people, and
vice versa. I look for simplicity and meaning. I want to get to
know someone when I'm reading a blog, and understand what they
believe; I want to take something away with me.
It's wonderful when people read what you have to
say, and engage with it. But people can easily forget that
behind every computer screen is a person who has feelings.
I had a career in sales within a telecommunications
company, and then worked for my church for a
three-and-a-half years, before being recommended for training.
Music has been pretty key to the growing of my
relationship with Jesus. I've learnt most of what I know
about the Bible through hymns and worship songs. I play the piano
and a bit of organ. I also feel that my prayer life has improved
through music. I think it will be important to my ministry. God can
use music to speak to us in profound ways.
I grew up in Wrexham, North Wales. I have one
sister who belongs to my mum and my dad, but I also have lots of
other brothers and sisters as a result of my dad's remarriage and
my mum and her partner.
Life was hard, growing up. I lived with my mum
and stepfather, and suffered terrible physical and emotional abuse
as a child at their hands. It was when I was 11, after an awful
experience, that I heard a voice inside my head telling me to jump
out of my bedroom window, and run. I thought I was suicidal, but I
jumped out and ran anyway, and my dad was waiting for me at the end
of the road.
After that experience, I came to the conclusion
that the voice was God providing me with the courage and
opportunity to escape. I started to discover who Jesus was and why
he came, and eventually I put my trust in him.
I love walking and socialising. Megs and I love
having people round. I think it's important for us, but especially
for me, as ministry can be quite lonely; so we make the effort and
time to see friends. We have a dog called Taliesin, and a cat
called Eira at home. I think I'm happiest when I'm with others in
My passport ran out when I was a student, and I
haven't bothered to renew it. But we've found that Britain has so
many lovely places to visit; so we try and go away as often as
possible for a few days to explore different parts of the country.
I'd highly recommend doing this. Going abroad is overrated.
What last made me angry - and still makes me
angry - is that we're living in a consumerist, individualistic
society that's only concerned with self; yet people are so unhappy
living in it. Worse still, the Church has got caught up in it.
My grandparents have had a massive influence in my
life. They helped me understand more about faith, and
encouraged me as a Christian. There have been loads of older people
in my churches who have been like spiritual mums and dads to me. So
I'm really passionate about church being a family, and that younger
people are encouraged to learn from the older ones.
The work of Soul Survivor and Momentum, a youth
and young- adults Christian festival run by Mike Pilavachi and Andy
Croft and their team, has influenced me in more ways than I can
imagine. God's used that ministry in amazing ways: it's one of the
main reasons why people my age are in church today.
I have to read a lot of books. The works of C.
S. Lewis have really inspired me, but also reading You Can Make
a Difference by Tony Campolo when I was 14. It really excited
me about serving God and not just having some shallow belief in
I pray most often "Your Kingdom come, Your will
be done on earth as it is in heaven" - or some variation of the
same. At Trinity College, Bristol, we try and live as if the
Kingdom were fully revealed in the present. Massively challenging,
as no one can really comprehend what that should look like, and we
won't find out the answer until heaven. I think it's mostly about
recognising Jesus's rightful place in our lives. It also means we
are called into community, but what does it truly mean to be the
body of Christ? Being at Trinity is helping me work that one out.
It's a simple yet huge prayer.
If I could be locked in a church with a
fictional character, I would choose the Dowager Countess of
Grantham from Downton Abbey. She's a great laugh, but has
some very wise advice to give. If it's a real person, it would be
someone like John Wesley or C. S. Lewis: Wesley for his desire to
bring renewal to the Anglican Church, and Lewis for his way with
words, and excellent apologetic skills.
Dean Roberts was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.