Ship of Fools sets sail for USA
A Ship of Fools lecture/entertainment tour will begin next month visiting such places as a major convention in North Carolina in the company of President George W Bush and a Shrove Tuesday pancake party in Washington DC.
Simon Jenkins and Steve Goddard, editors of the UKís Christian webzine, will feature the best of the Mystery Worshipper, Gadgets for God, 12 Days of Kitschmas, Signs and Blunders and the Fruitcake Zone in a unique, interactive presentation.
The tour begins in Charlotte, NC with a half-hour presentation on shipoffools.com at the National Religious Broadcastersí Convention where President Bush will speak. Simon and Steve will then tour colleges, universities and churches throughout the mid-West, including Kalamazoo, Worthington, Akron, South Jersey and Washington DC - before several engagements in and around New York City.
Simon is an established performance poet in the UK and will read his own work. Steve, a former recording artist for Kingsway Music, is threatening to pay tribute to one of his favourite artists - and do a turn or two as Beltiní John.
With more than 1.75 million pages viewed every month, shipoffools.com has evolved into a global community. Thousands of readers value the ship's cocktail of iconoclasm and devotion, where the ridiculous is vigorously exposed and genuine spirituality actively pursued.
But this is the first time the two editors have toured the US together.
"We think organised religion must learn to laugh at itself before it will be taken seriously," says Simon Jenkins. "But shipoffools.com is not a campaign. There are enough of those around already. We are a 24/7 rolling conversation, with the Christian faith at the heart of it all, where all traditions are respected and people with little or no faith are welcome, too."
Fully and fiercely independent, shipoffools.com has 12 bulletin boards and an online membership of more than 5000 people. Four administrators and 30 board hosts - many living in the US and all unpaid volunteers - encourage discussion, keep things on track and help settle disputes. It is now one of the largest Christian discussion spaces on the internet.
In April 2003, shipoffools.com launched the world's first Internet reality game show. Dubbed 'Big Brother meets the Bible', The Ark set sail on Easter Sunday for 40 days and 40 nights. On board Noahís famous floating zoo were 12 Bible cartoon characters, controlled on computer by contestants in their own homes, linked via the internet. Six of them were from the US and Canada. Plans are underway for a second voyage.
"We want to bring characters like Samson and Simon Peter to life as fallible, witty, compassionate and selfish human beings - making them accessible to a non-Christian audience," explains Steve Goddard. "Most church-related initiatives play things too safe - and fail to reach computer-minded Generation X."
When not wearing his ëCaptainí hat, Simon is a freelance writer, editor and designer with several books to his name including When Clergymen Ruled the Earth - a collection of his own religious cartoons, The Bible from Scratch and Windows into Heaven: the icons and spirituality of Russia.
Steve Goddard is a freelance journalist and public relations consultant. Christian publisher Zondervan and sociologist Rev Dr Anthony Campolo - former spiritual adviser to President Clinton - are among his UK clients.