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2020 in Review

Well, 2020 is almost over. What does one even say at this point? It’s been a year unlike any other, a year that few saw coming and that many of us will be happy to see in the rearview mirror. 2021 doesn’t exactly beckon with unbridled optimism but the general sense seems to be that the next spin around the sun has to be better than the one that’s drawing to a close. So we desperately hope, at any rate.

The last week of a calendar year tends to be a time for reflection. Here on this little blog, it is the time when I take a glance back on the year that was. Incredibly, next month will mark my fourteenth blog-aversary (is that a word?). I imagine this makes me something of a relic. Not many are blogging any more—it’s too wordy and people don’t have much patience for wordy these days. We prefer our digital content in more bite-sized morsels. We are drawn more to the hot take than the nuanced reflection, the “gotcha” tweet over the laboured exposition, the punchy slogan as opposed to death by a thousand qualifications. The communication ecosystem that we have created and are creating worries me on many levels but, well, I’ve (wordily) written about that quite a lot over the years, so…

Moving on. As has become my custom, here are the five most viewed posts of 2020 along with a brief description of each.

I Don’t Think I Want to Get Better at This

I wrote this post in the early days of the pandemic. It was a reflection on the experience of recording our church’s first worship service. Not surprisingly, I felt—and continue to feel—conflicted about the idea of “corporate worship as online product to be accessed on demand.” I know it addresses a very real need, but it feels like so much less than what worship should be. Based on response to this post, it’s clear that I’m not alone in feeling ambivalent about how the pandemic has driven church online.

On Calling the Cops

The summer of 2020 was a volatile time. There was protesting and rioting in the streets of America in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Racial issues were dominating the headlines and our collective consciousness. The practice of law-enforcement was a live issue with many calls to defund the police. In the midst of all this, I woke up one June morning and went out on the front porch to read my book and have a cup of coffee, only to discover a bloodied and beaten, barely conscious, shirtless young man shivering under a thin blanket sprawled out on one of our porch chairs. After a bit of agonized internal dialogue, I called the cops. This post was me wondering if it was the right thing to do.

We Are Too Liberal With Our Contempt

A rather diverse collection of pretty smart people penned an open letter to Harper’s Magazine in July. The basic gist of it was that we are rapidly becoming a very illiberal society, puritanically policing public dialogue, cancelling anyone and everyone who doesn’t sing along to the song sheet of whatever the socially approved views of the moment are. In this post, I lamented our lack of mercy and our perverse hunger to boost our moral credentials by performing our contempt for others online.

On Selling My Attention Too Cheaply 

2020 was the year that I gave up on Facebook. This post explained why.

A Fool’s Errand

I went to a conference in February…

(Wait, you did what? You traveled somewhere and interacted with other human beings in the same physical space?! You mingled over casual conversation and ate snacks and touched the same tables, etc?! It seems so. I barely believe it myself, but the archives don’t lie.)

… and the topic was the challenges of faith formation in a secular age. Everyone there was, on some level, wrestling with complex and difficult realities of pastoring in post-Christendom: shrinking, aging churches, disengagement of the young, widespread assumptions that faith is supposed to be mostly private, mostly practical, often individualistic, consumeristic, and therapeutic. Near the end of the conference, the keynote speaker asked a haunting question: “Will it be up to the theologians and the poets to “re-enchant” the world in a secular age? Or is this a fool’s errand?” This post pondered that question. I am pondering it still.

——

There you have it, 2020’s top five. As I say each year in some form or another, the main rationale for compiling these year-end posts is to say thank you for dropping by and reading. I remain grateful for the engagement and connections that take place in this space. Whether you’ve been reading for fourteen years or this is your first time dropping by, I truly appreciate anyone who graciously spends a bit of time on my words here.

I wish you the grace and peace of Christ for whatever 2021 has in store for us.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kevin K #

    Thanks Ryan! Always appreciate your work in the space! Glad you’ve been able to keep at it for as long as you have. You continue to be a source of insightful, original, and timely observation.

    In a world awash with hot takes and banal opinions, your perspective still resonates and stands apart on account of it’s quality at least 65% of the time.

    Looking forward to your continuing reflections on a changing world in 2021, and maybe… just maybe… thoughts after attending a real live conference!

    Take care,
    Kevin K

    December 30, 2020
    • Thanks, Kevin. I’ll take 65% 🙂

      December 31, 2020
  2. Eric C. Anspaugh #

    Brother Ryan,
    I have been reading you now for the past few years. You never disappoint. You words are timely and relevant. I look forward to hearing more from you in 2021. Thank you and God bless you and yours!
    Eric

    December 30, 2020
    • I appreciate these kind, words, Eric. Wishing you God’s blessings in 2021 as well.

      December 31, 2020
  3. Pauline Kinney #

    Always a delight when I see “Rumblings” appear in my inbox and I usually wait until I can find a quiet moment to savour what insights you have so thoughtfully put together to share. I appreciate “wordy” – it is real soul food in these days when the pickings are either slim or distasteful. Thank you for your faithfulness, Pauline

    December 30, 2020
    • Thank you, Pauline. I appreciate this affirmation very much.

      December 31, 2020
  4. Aaron Neufeld #

    I don’t generally post comments, but I’ve been following your blog for a while now and wanted to say thanks for the effort you put into it. I appreciate your balanced “wordiness”. All the best in 2021.

    January 25, 2021
    • Thanks very kindly, Aaron. Appreciate this.

      January 25, 2021

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