It's the story, not the scoop, that counts

By Jonathan Bartley
December 17, 2009

It seems we have had a run of scoops on the Ekklesia web site in the last couple of weeks. Nothing to do with any journalistic prowess I hasten to add, but just a result of being connected to some fun, radical and interesting people.

Nestle campaignIt started with our coverage of St Nick at Yarl's Wood Detention Centre on 4th Dec, which I mentioned on the Moral Maze a few days later and was then picked up by the Observer. We then broke the story about Nestle going fairtrade on their KitKat (given to us by different campaigners) a fortnight ago, on the Friday before the announcement the following Monday. Then there was the Christmas Card from the UK Border Agency which has become a bit of a Twitterverse phenomenon (from friends working with migrants and asylum seekers). The latest is the story about the Christmas billboard featuring Mary and Joseph from our friend Glynn Cardy in New Zealand which we ran on Tuesday, and has since gone global in no uncertain terms.

Mary and JosephI don't think that Glynn was expecting the story to get quite so much international interest and coverage. I met Glynn in 2006, when he was working with a church in Oxford on a placement from his church in New Zealand. We discovered that he was doing a church service to bless teddy bears, ran a story about it which got him quite a bit of media interest, and so he came to meet me. He is inspirational, and feels strongly that the Christian faith has a radical and challenging message, which needs to get out there.

Since then he has been busy. In 2006 in conjunction with the annual Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals service, he put up a billboard: "Beware of the God". At Easter in 2007 he hung a picture of a chocolate Jesus on the cross on the country's busiest street with the caption: “Dying for some chocolate?".

The messages are often powerful, challenging and thought provoking, and a real breath of fresh air compared to the rather weak and apologetic sounds that too often eminate from churches. I think he would probably say that he doesn't always get it right, but that is part of his point. Of course such messages will provoke controversy too. As Glynn has said: "Religious protest will always be offensive to many, and especially to those with the biggest investment in the political and religious status quo" (he has written for Ekklesia about "Why Christians are Troublemakers"). And in that sense he is following a good Christian tradition which began with Christianity's founder.

But that is not why he does it. He does it because he has a passion for the liberating message of the Gospel. And in that respect he has a lot in common with many other friends of Ekklesia, such as the ones who work with migrants and asylum seekers, or the ones campaigning for an end to Nestle's exploitation.

And it demonsrates that neither the scoop or who gets it is that important. It's the story that they are telling that counts.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.