Jordon Cooper, 1974 – 2018

The Saskatoon Star Phoenix
Warren Kinsella remembers Jordon
The CBC memorial

I don’t remember exactly when I first met Jordon online. I do remember that, at the time, he was pastoring a Free Methodist (I think) congregation in Saskatchewan, that he was attentive to the kinds of technology discussion that David Weinberger, Shelley Powers, Chris Locke, Dave Winer, Jeneane Sessum, and many others among us were conducting — describing, proposing, arguing (sometimes bitterly), exploring and discovering as we went. Now and then a witty, pointed observation from Canada would flash to my attention, and Jordon and I would trade comments (or, in the epoch before ‘comments,’ linked blog posts) about one topic or another.

At a time when Trevor and I were trying to jump-start conversations about theology and technology with my seminary colleagues and students, the residue of some grant money came available and I invited four guest speakers to speak about the role that blogs and blogging software might play for congregations and churches in the next decade: David Weinberger (as an embedded technologist and internationally-known commentator), Ben and Mena Trott (the developers of Moveable Type blogging software, who at the time were still more one-of-us indie developer geeks), Jim McGee (a business consultant, academic, executive, entrepreneur, and technologist), and Jordon Cooper (a church leader who could testify first-hand to the value and effects of user-oriented software in his pastoral work). When David, Jim, and Jordon spoke, only three to a half dozen people showed up (a veritable love mob of ace Chicagoland bloggers came to see Ben and Mena), and an opportunity was missed for the seminary to steal a march on the rest of the world — and more poignantly, many missed the chance to hear insightful, compassionate, up-to-the-moment spokespeople for the very near future explain what lay just beyond the horizon.

Jordon gave a comfortable, collegial, encouraging talk that night for the handful of folks who came to hear. Here’s what he talked about (thank you, Wayback Machine!)

I used Gloria Reimer’s blog as an example but I could have used Darren’s too in the context of Lakeview Church. Now most of you know that I took a lot of pride in the latest incarnation of Lakeview I created a lot of the content and helped design a lot of the stuff that is online. Jeb, Sharon, and I spent almost an entire summer trying to come up with the perfect design, creating new content, migrating over the old stuff, spell checking what I wrote, finding the hidden Edmonton Oiler stars that Jeb hid throughout the design (Grant Fuhr and Gretzky). As good as the site is, I think Darren’s and Gloria’s are more important. Why? Because people don’t connect to content, they connect to people. That is one of the reasons that the staff section of Lakeview is (at the time of me leaving) most popular cluster of pages on the web. They were just made up of a 10 or so off beat questions and a picture that Jeb made into a kind of photo ID graphic but that is what people wanted to read.

As more people at Lakeview get blogs, the less important of a tool Lakeview Church’s website will become. People will just choose to connect with the individuals website instead of the organization’s. People connect with people, not content. Smart organizations will realize this and facilitate the connection between their employee’s work and their own. They will promote Gloria, Jeb, and Darren’s blog on their site and create custom graphics for the employees to link back to the church’s. That could mean that the sites are hosted on the churches site or that in the employee’s bio that mention that they are apart of this organization. I mentioned that the churches website may be less vital but I think the churches effectiveness online grows, it is just isn’t centralized in a particular spot. Churches need to move beyond seeing the web as another place to provide consumable religious commodities and realize the people want community over goods.

Seabury is an example of that. With AKMA, Trevor and a couple of students all having weblogs, a face of the school that would never be known is shown to the world. Of course there is always risk in that because it is a less sanitized, more biased version of the school is shown to the world but the voice is far more human. Most of us online can detect individual bias and realize that we don’t live in Utopia. No one expects perfection which is why we don’t believe marketers anymore.

Jordon Cooper talking with Trevor Bechtel
(Not the best photo of Jordon or Trevor, but it’s what I’ve got)

That was fifteen years ago, friends. Jordon was looking ahead, and offering a glimpse of what he foresaw to beginning clergy, gently, with friendly and self-deprecating examples, and hitting a number of spots right on the button.

Between then and Monday, Jordon took up several different bylines. He managed an urban shelter, appeared on television and radio, wrote a column for the Star Phoenix, worked at Don’s Photo (I think it was Don’s) in Saskatoon. He test-drove and reviewed a series of new auto models. He and Wendy loved taking the family on excursions to the wilderness, and to their family cabin. Jordon recounted these road trips with his characteristic friendly-sharp comic style, delighted in pranks played on the kids and that the kids played on him, and illustrated all with his exceptionally powerful photography.

He also wrote about depression, abuse, mental health in general, the impact that childhood trauma leaves even on self-aware adults. He shared widely his experiences with chronic pain, with the health care system and its weaknesses, with the realisation that he had cancer and it was going to take his life, soon.

He wrote about his love for Wendy and Mark and Oliver, and for the family dogs Marley and Elway. He was intensely proud of them all (well, maybe not quite so proud of the dogs).

For all that he wrote and said online and in print and broadcast media, we missed much more that Jordon could have shown us over the coming decades. We missed a lot of what he said within our hearing.

He was a blogger, and much of his archive remains in the Wayback Machine, in the back columns of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, and elsewhere. It would be worthwhile to take some time to get to know him retrospectively, to recognise some of the simmering passion he felt on behalf of Saskatoon’s homeless, the abused women, the desperate lawless shadow world that people slide into, or fall into, or just find themselves overtaken by. If we remember Jordon by showing extra generosity, extra patience to people in hard times, that would be a fitting tribute.

Jordon was one of the good guys. I’m sad to miss him, sad for Wendy and his family, sad that he had to go through so much misery — and touched by his persistent grace and amiable temperament. When bad things happen to good people, very few manage their lot as Jordon did. That has been, and will be, a blessing for all who’ve known him.

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