There’s [a story in the Times->http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2396390,00.html] about a vicar who has been caught posting glowing reviews of his own services on the Ship of Fools [Mystery Worshipper webpage->http://www.shipoffools.com/Mystery/index.html].
I feel for the guy, because it’s incredibly tempting to review your own work positively. I have often felt tempted to review my own books on Amazon, (using words such as ‘Genius’ and ‘Unrecognised’ and ‘Right up there with Shakespeare’.)
But the key point is that this is what happens when you apply commercial approaches to the church. Ship of Fools takes the restaurant review and applies it to church worship; it’s only natural that someone would do what so many people in marketing and PR do, and write their own ‘anonymous’ glowing review. If you turn church services into products then you’re going to get typical ‘consumer-society’ behaviour. Which includes manipulating your own marketing.
It also illustrates the problems with ‘virtual-churches’ or other online communities. How do you know a mamber of the community is really who they say they are? Of course all communities can be fooled, but it’s so much easier when you can’t even see the person.
The irony is, of course, that the priest was only discovered when a member of his congregation complained that the review was far too flattering and that many of the congregation ‘were angry at the highly flattering portrait it painted of their vicar’.
[Ruth Gledhill blogs at length->http://timescolumns.typepad.com/gledhill/2006/10/a_priest_in_the.html] (as usual – how does she find the time?)
[Ship of Fools account->http://shipoffools.com/Features/2006/mystery_bullshipper.html]