Too Much Information

Graven ImageGraven Image Shipmate
edited July 16 in Ecclesiantics
New Pastor at church I sometimes attend. Requests for prayer. I asked prayer for my friend X first name only, not known to this congregation.
"Please pray for my friend X who is very ill." Shocked to discover the next day that every single prayer request was posted on the church Facebook page. I seriously doubt anyone would identify who X was but not so with others from the church who had their full names recorded for all to see. This along with prayers for the president, help in the Sunday School and such. When is to much public information to much information. I am sure these other people were not asked if they wanted their troubles made public.









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Comments

  • ECraigRECraigR Shipmate
    It’s strange that it’s on Facebook, but in my cathedral we all get emails asking for prayers for person X for reason Y, of course that’s email. Alternatively, the diocese has a pretty extensive prayer list that’s included in the diocesan updates.
    Technology certainly has altered how these things are approached, and privacy does have to be considered.
  • Unfortunately, there are idjits who think Facebook IS private--who imagine that the only people who will see what they post are well=intentioned people they know in real life, and that nobody will ever repost anything (actually, I don't think they consider that technology to even exist in their mental worlds).

    It doesn't excuse them, but it does explain them. You may want (if you're feeling charitable) to contact the church and say exactly what you've said here. I'm guessing there's a 70% chance of a blank look and "oh, we'd never thought about that."

    Snort.
  • Amanda B ReckondwythAmanda B Reckondwyth Mystery Worship Editor
    All the more reason to avoid Facebook like the Plague. I've been living a full and satisfying life without it, and plan on continuing to do so.

    God knows who the people are who need prayer. No need to mention them by name. "Please pray for a friend who is having a surgical procedure done" will get to God just as readily as "Please pray for Cynthia Figtree, who is having breast augmentation surgery." The former won't get to anyone but God (and perhaps Cynthia, God willing), Facebook or no Facebook.
  • ClimacusClimacus Shipmate
    edited July 16
    To be contrary, assuming no identifying illness information was posted, parishes do put up their bulletin for download on the parish website and often there is a list of the sick, dying and deceased.

    I will say my first reaction to your post was a visceral one of a gross invasion of privacy, but then I thought of those bulletins. I do realise Facebook posts may be stumbled upon more easily than a parish bulletin, though. I think the whole idea of names on publically accessible sites needs to be reconsidered -- it seems wrong to me.
  • It should be the same on Facebook, parish newsletter or anywhere. Only publish with the express permission of the people involved. I'm surprised people don't get this.
  • I've always taken the view that inclusion in public prayers should be by permission and that it should be by first name only with no details of the illness given.
  • DardaDarda Shipmate
    The on-line version of our weekly news sheet omits the names of the bereaved and the sick to be prayed for. The printed version handed out at services publishes names only if this has been specifically requested. The nature of illness is never printed. Some members will ask for a specific, longer, item to be inserted, often thanking others for their prayer and practical support, where the amount of detail is of their own choosing.
  • ChoristerChorister Shipmate
    People have the option of surname as well as first name. But the nature of the illness is quite rightly never put into print, or announced in services. The trickiest thing is that, when you see a name you know, and are concerned for the person, you are not given any more information. It would be good to know, for example, if it would be appropriate to pay the person a visit, or some such. Or if they are seriously ill, or just a short, temporary difficulty. Sometimes, the person who is ill wonders why nobody came round or seemingly showed any interest - does 'confidentiality' sometimes go too far?
  • Chorister wrote: »
    Sometimes, the person who is ill wonders why nobody came round or seemingly showed any interest - does 'confidentiality' sometimes go too far?
    I think it's very simple, although much misunderstood.

    As a minister, one should start with the assumption that anything discussed with a church member is absolutely confidential unless subject to some extremely limited, legally binding exceptions (for instance, where I am, confession of a crime involving a minor. If I think a conversation is likely to go there, and I've had several, I make the limits of confidentiality clear well before I'm likely to hear anything of that nature).

    Professional secrecy for ministers is under threat in the courts here and in an age of constant online exposure and scrutiny, safe spaces for confidential disclosure are something that needs to be fought for.

    If somebody discloses an illness to me, I will determine with them whether they want to ask for prayer from others, whether they want their diagnosis shared, and whether they would like visits, as applicable. This is all about empowering the vulnerable person to set their own boundaries (incidentally, it's also one of the things the much-maligned GDPR is designed to protect: appropriate consent of the "data subject").

    This is also something that one can nurture as a culture in a church: whether people are sensibly discreet in prayer meetings and announcements, or whether they are always tattling, as Adrian Plass memorably puts it, "just for prayer and strictly in confidence...".
  • TheOrganistTheOrganist Shipmate
    edited July 16
    Surely the rule for all churches in relation to what is on-line and what not is simple: anything that could possibly contravene the GDPR must not be posted on a website or (worse) on "social media".

    Our own parish decided nearly a decade ago that all information on-line about the parish should be limited to those things that a chance visitor, newcomer or someone wishing to enquire about an occasional office (baptism, wedding, funeral) might require. You can discover when the Choir meets, for example, but not my numbers; the same for Sunday School, Flower Guild, etc.

    The only people listed by name are the incumbent, the Director of Music, churchwardens and members of the PCC. The only contact details given are for one central telephone number and one central email address: requests that come in through these are swiftly passed on to the relevant person.

    We do not issue a pew sheet: the sick, bereaved and departed are prayed for at Sunday services but nothing is left about giving any details - and certainly nothing about what someone is afflicted by or whatever: in fact I'm gobsmacked to think such details might be considered appropriate in any church setting where there are bound to be people who are not personal friends of the people being prayed for.
  • On the other hand, a depressing number of church websites (certainly evangelical churches) now seem to mention the names of their staff at all. Doesn't exactly send out a message of accessibility.
  • ZacchaeusZacchaeus Shipmate
    Before praying for anybody publically, pernmission should be given by the person involved
  • I've always taken the view that inclusion in public prayers should be by permission and that it should be by first name only with no details of the illness given.

    This.

    Unfortunately, our Father NewPriest (though not to be faulted in his assiduous pastoral care etc.) does rather tend to publicise the ailment or need, if only on our weekly bulletin sheet. In all fairness, I'm sure that most of those peeps (first names only) have given permission for their inclusion - though I don't know if they've agreed to details of their complaint being mentioned!

    Something to check with Father NP, especially if GDPR might be invoked.

    The bulletin is not put up on our website, nor will it be, as long as the webmaster (Me) has breath...

    OTOH, staff/ministry team/PCC are all named, though phone numbers are listed only for Priest, Readers, and Churchwardens.

    [BTW - would some Kindly Host please add an extra 'o' to the first word of the thread title? My OCD is greatly offended...]



  • PigwidgeonPigwidgeon Shipmate
    edited July 16
    -
  • PigwidgeonPigwidgeon Shipmate
    [BTW - would some Kindly Host please add an extra 'o' to the first word of the thread title? My OCD is greatly offended...]

    Thank you! I had just requested the same thing (see my "-" post above) when I noticed you'd already posted.
    :smile:
  • Amanda B ReckondwythAmanda B Reckondwyth Mystery Worship Editor
    And just when I was about to raise a glass "to much information!" (See my avatar.)
  • W HyattW Hyatt Shipmate
    Climacus wrote: »
    To be contrary, assuming no identifying illness information was posted, parishes do put up their bulletin for download on the parish website and often there is a list of the sick, dying and deceased.

    I will say my first reaction to your post was a visceral one of a gross invasion of privacy, but then I thought of those bulletins. I do realise Facebook posts may be stumbled upon more easily than a parish bulletin, though. I think the whole idea of names on publically accessible sites needs to be reconsidered -- it seems wrong to me.
    The bulletin is not put up on our website, nor will it be, as long as the webmaster (Me) has breath...

    I applaud your determination, @Bishops Finger. There is a world of difference (literally) between posting on a physical, public bulletin board and posting on a website that can be searched from the computer of every hacker on the planet. Unfortunately, it's not hard to come up with a scenario wherein a Facebook post with a request for a prayer is the starting point for some evil hacker to defraud the victim of their life savings.
  • PigwidgeonPigwidgeon Shipmate
    Just asking for prayers for Mary Smith, who's having surgery next Tuesday, could be an announcement that her house will be empty and an invitation to burglars. I know that's why some people won't publish obituaries (or have a friend housesit during the funeral).
  • We don't publish prayer lists online, but they are available in the church for anyone that wishes to pray for the people listed (and, of course, they are prayed for in the man services on Sunday). Prayer requests are added by parishioners, and we have no mechanism for ensuring that Claire is happy for the fact that she has surgery coming up to be "publicized".

    Some people just list Christian names, some list surnames as well. We have a list for "sick" and most people use that, so we don't get a catalogue of illnesses.

  • edited July 16
    I took a day to control my feelings about this before responding. We stopped telling about our various problems in the context of prayers. Too risky. You can trust some clergy to keep things absolutely private and respectful, and others have an emotional do-goodery thing going on which means they are bursting with the love of Christ and cannot contain their wellmeaningness as inspired by their felt experience of what they consider the Holy Spirit telling them what to do I think. In addition, there are busy pray-ers in many parishes who want to pray for others, and they may organize themselves into "prayer teams", a member of which may phone and ask about whatever was prayed for on Sunday, or they were sicced on the unfortunate by the priest. They then derail an evening where I was not thinking awful things nor feeling particularly terrible, because thanks to their kindness in reminding me whilst distracted, I now want to crucify a few of them. And now I have to pray about wanting to do violence against "nice people". What a way to create community.
  • In addition, there are busy pray-ers in many parishes who want to pray for others, and they may organize themselves into "prayer teams", a member of which may phone and ask about whatever was prayed for on Sunday, or they were sicced on the unfortunate by the priest.

    Praying for people is a good thing. Having teams of people praying for people is a good thing. This, however, sounds horrific. I understand that some people like talking about things, and would consider such an evening phonecall helpful. I think you and I are firmly in agreement that we do not find it so.

    I tend to make a lot of my prayer requests anonymously, in part to avoid this kind of well-meaning do-goodery. God will know who is being prayed for.
  • +1 to that comment LC.

    I have a question as to whether some people praying for others id's actually a praying for themselves. That it increases piety or answers something within their own faith, and that it is this that causes bad experience such that I related. And whether true or not was helpful to have thought as it helped me put the metaphorical nails and hammer aside.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    And just when I was about to raise a glass "to much information!" (See my avatar.)

    I thought that both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) liked a little gin, not Scotch.
  • Amanda B ReckondwythAmanda B Reckondwyth Mystery Worship Editor
    Miss Amanda prefers cider, actually.
  • Golden KeyGolden Key Shipmate
    Various, based on long ago happenings:

    --Ongoing prayer groups sometimes turn into gossip fests that threaten to split a church.

    --Sometimes Concerned Souls insist on an (unscheduled) formal Visit Of Concern & Condolence. They expect to be invited in (with grateful appreciation), have a Talk...and, perhaps, refreshments. Never mind whether this would be a good thing at all for the person(s) visited.

    --Casseroles can be very helpful for some grieving or otherwise suffering people, as long as not coupled with a forced visit. Sometimes people will leave the casserole near the door, if no one answers the door. That can be great: the residents can toddle to the door later, when no one is around. But they might not know the casserole is there.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Miss Amanda prefers cider, actually.

    Sorry, that looked more like Scotch and soda to me, especially with the ice cube.
  • Gee D wrote: »
    Miss Amanda prefers cider, actually.

    Sorry, that looked more like Scotch and soda to me, especially with the ice cube.

    What kind of philistine would contaminate their whisky with soda?! Might as well just stick to paint thinner.
  • We do not issue a pew sheet: the sick, bereaved and departed are prayed for at Sunday services but nothing is left about giving any details - and certainly nothing about what someone is afflicted by or whatever: in fact I'm gobsmacked to think such details might be considered appropriate in any church setting where there are bound to be people who are not personal friends of the people being prayed for.
    Do you get people complaining/being upset that no one has spoken/contacted them?
    If you don't then you are rather fortunate …. unless the church I'm in is especially grouchy.

  • TheOrganistTheOrganist Shipmate
    We do not issue a pew sheet: the sick, bereaved and departed are prayed for at Sunday services but nothing is left about giving any details - and certainly nothing about what someone is afflicted by or whatever: in fact I'm gobsmacked to think such details might be considered appropriate in any church setting where there are bound to be people who are not personal friends of the people being prayed for.
    Do you get people complaining/being upset that no one has spoken/contacted them?
    If you don't then you are rather fortunate …. unless the church I'm in is especially grouchy.
    No. Regulars know that they can request prayers for themselves, and we are all reminded at least once a year that all and any prayer requests for the sick must be made with the knowledge and consent of the sick one or their nearest-and-dearest.

    It is also taken-as-read that if someone on the "sick list" happens to be in church they are not prayed for by name, but instead all such intercessions are rounded off with the catch-all "and in silence we pray for those known to us who may need or desire our prayers in sickness, need or distress".

    An example of "bad praying": 4 weeks before she died the wife of a colleague managed to get to church just before Christmas because she wanted to hear a particular anthem, only to hear her own name followed by "now sadly nearing the end of her earthly journey". She was mortified, her husband enraged and friends in the choir just cringed.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    One thing I do stress to my parishioners is that if they want to be prayed for or visited in hospital that they need to get a message to me. I am usually a little vague in the prayer for the church - i.e. We pray for Charley's work situation..... We for healing for Pat, Mick, Billy... and such information never goes ont'internet. It may go in the bulletin if I am asked to include it, but I am very cautious about what goes in the bulletin or on the web.

    There is also a local rule that all prayer requests have to be resubmitted every few weeks or I will drop them off just to keep the list reasonably clean. I swear there must be a church somewhere that is still praying for Aunt Sissy's recovery even though she is dead and buried these twenty years past.
  • edited July 17
    Our list gets updated when people drop off the end of it, I think, with the result that I seem to have accidentally memorised large chunks of it. I imagine if I get to heaven I'll meet a lady who will come up and say 'hi' and in response to my confusion will say 'I'm that Mrs. W- you prayed for, for 20 years'.
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    One of the training scenarios I use with licensed clergy and lay-leaders is about prayer-gossip and prayer-manipulation - and even prayer-bullying. "Would you please pray for Mary Jones whose son has HIV/AIDS" is not a good look. Nor is "please pray for Bob and Joan Wilkinson-Higginbottom as they head for a four month holiday in Afghanistan."

    FFS God can work out the foci and intentions of the human heart. Sometimes I wish She could but He can.
  • TubbsTubbs Admin
    We're still trying to train the congregation to understand that Rev T tells me nothing so if they want me to know things, they have to tell me themselves ... And, as he tells me nothing, there's no point asking me what's happening with X ... We've only been there 7 years.

    We don't have a pew sheet, share prayer requests on FB etc but it's a small church with a well developed grapevine.
  • some just Never Get It. Pastoral confidentiality, people! (I had to just have this same conversation with someone who's been in the church and under our care for lo these 30 years.)
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    Tubbs wrote: »
    We're still trying to train the congregation to understand that Rev T tells me nothing so if they want me to know things, they have to tell me themselves ... And, as he tells me nothing, there's no point asking me what's happening with X ... We've only been there 7 years.

    We don't have a pew sheet, share prayer requests on FB etc but it's a small church with a well developed grapevine.

    Mrs PDR has the same battle. Pastoral confidentiality is very important, and the laity don't always appreciate that. I suggested to one particularly nosey parishioner that she should try the little thought experiment of being the one who was being asked about and see whether or not she liked it. I got harrumph-ed at but she came round and saw my point.
  • TubbsTubbs Admin
    PDR wrote: »
    Tubbs wrote: »
    We're still trying to train the congregation to understand that Rev T tells me nothing so if they want me to know things, they have to tell me themselves ... And, as he tells me nothing, there's no point asking me what's happening with X ... We've only been there 7 years.

    We don't have a pew sheet, share prayer requests on FB etc but it's a small church with a well developed grapevine.

    Mrs PDR has the same battle. Pastoral confidentiality is very important, and the laity don't always appreciate that. I suggested to one particularly nosey parishioner that she should try the little thought experiment of being the one who was being asked about and see whether or not she liked it. I got harrumph-ed at but she came round and saw my point.

    Partly, and partly because some of the stuff is pretty grim and I'm not a Minister / Employed by the church. I don't answer the church phone, arrange the flower or bake cakes either ... :innocent:
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    We have a weekly news sheet but never publish prayer requests for individuals. There is a list of names used in services, hopefully with their permission AFAIK, but no further information is given.
    On the other hand, there is a small prayer group who can absolutely be trusted with personal information, which is good to know.
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