We talked to Ruth Bancewicz, Project Leader of Test of Faith, about her project, and their win at the Christian New Media Awards. See also Ruth’s personal blog on the interface between science and religion.
Can you give us a bit of background into the project that has been nominated? When was it established, what was the commission/what’s its overall goal?
The Test of Faith project was an idea that emerged when Ruth was working with Christians in Science (a professional fellowship group). CiS were approached by people (including church leaders) who wanted material that they could use within church. When The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion launched, Ruth took the opportunity to start working on a ‘church pack’, and the time and the money became available, with further funding provided by the John Templeton Foundation. Test of Faith was established in February 2006 with the aim to try and make accessible resources on science and faith available. The material is designed for a wide audience, assuming no academic or theological knowledge. In the UK, 99% can read, but 20% don’t have great reading skills, and not everyone is confident in discussions. The main message is that science & faith not at war, and the opportunity has been taken to explore a number of other science based topics including ethics, evolution, the environment, the brain, and astronomy.
What’s the best good news story that has come out of your site – what made you punch the air in joy?
I love it when people from other organisations say “can we use it, can we work together?”. We shouldn’t be reinventing the wheel every time, but share our resources and work with each other. For Test of Faith we used different experts from different areas, for example in August we developed ‘Celebrating Creation’ with the Bible Society who do this kind of work all the time! I get particularly excited when I hear that people are running a ‘Test of Faith’ group at church, or even more exciting, at work. The material is subtitled in seven different languages, and we’ve heard very encouraging stories of, for example, groups being run with French speaking students.
We’d love to know a bit about the people behind the site, what is it about your journey of life and faith which puts you where you are now?
The guys who made the documentary are Christians (a designer who moved into filming, and someone from a theatre background who’s moved into documentary making). Their journey was exciting, as they looked at topics they’d not considered before, explored the issues and opened cans of worms! I got passionate when working for Christians in Science. I saw the hurt it can cause, how Christians can get involved in debates that just aren’t gracious. Many science topics are hot potatoes, it’s easy to be passionate about the controversial issues, and we need to have a care to those conversations well to avoid fallout. More positively, we see how excited and encouraged people get by discussing science and faith. I’ve just blogged about a story we’ve heard from Cambridge, where a Bible verse is engraved above the entrance to the science lab. It’s those kind of stories that keep me going, the stories I want to pass onto people. I’ve been given the chance to explore the issues in depth, and have come away with passion not just to address the ‘issues’ (although we’ve done that), but looking for ways to be more proactive and positive.
Do you think it’s important for Christians to be online, and why so? What can we do, either individually or corporately?
Yes, because so many people use it! It’s a chance to share quality resources. As we keep talking we aid unity, can feed back on each other’s material, be accountable to each other, and find opportunities to work together. We need to look out for opportunities to find ways to use power that we may have (e.g. see how U2 do this) to spread positive messages online, whilst ensuring that we don’t swamp people with information!
Which digital media tools do you use (either personally or for the project), and what does each do for you? Which tool would be the winner in the race for ‘most important’?
For the project video clips on YouTube have been really important. We have also used Facebook and a blog and we are exploring how to use these more effectively, although we are fans of low tech solutions in many ways.
How did you feel to be nominated for one of the Christian New Media Awards?
It was nice to be nominated, we were very excited!
How did it feel to win in your category? Did you make it to the Awards event, what was your highlight of the evening?
We were joint winners with story4all, it was incredibly exciting. I was trying to find a comfy space to sleep at Moscow airport, but a colleague went to ceremony, and texted to say that we’d won. There was then not much chance of sleep as this was very exciting, so I jumped onto Facebook as I wanted people to talk to, and I got a few replies even in the middle of the night!
We’re working on the @bigbible project. What do you think of such a project, and how can the Bible inform what we do online. Have you seen any particular tools that you’d recommend, that help to spread its message digitally?
The Bible informs everything, it’s huge! BibleGateway is such a great resource – I use it all the time. They keep putting up new translations, and it’s incredibly searcheable!
And finally, where do you see things going over the next few years?
I anticipate that we’ll see increasing web/social media usage. It’s really hard to predict – note that no one predicted how big text messaging would be. We could be using Facebook for the next 20 years, or something may replace it next year. I think it’s always best to focus on really good content and spread it across different platforms. YouTube was a surprise big hitter for us. We have tried different things, some have worked well, some haven’t, but it’s all about experimenting and being in the game.