Image: Martin Fisch

Funny … this last blog until September is called ‘Online’ even though I will be going offline for a bit … irony 🙂

I have been musing about lots of things as I move toward a time of Sabbath and study, for which I am VERY enthusiastic about what lies ahead in August. Though there have been many threaded thoughts, some not necessarily yet wed to any tapestry, I keep returning to the fact that one of the larger projects upon which I have been working (for the last 18 months) will be launched nationally this coming August. In fact, it is being coordinated to go ‘live’ with the gathering of The United Church of Canada’s (UCC) 42nd General Council.

As Sisters and Brothers gather at our triannual gathering in Corner Brook, NFLD, a denominational WordPress project will become available nationally. For those for whom WordPress is new, think of WordPress as a mannequin and this project will provide templates – wardrobes – with which to dress the mannequin.

This is very exciting for me. Since I have been in the denomination (1997), there have been a multitude of things that have endeared and emboldened me about the UCC. It has been my experience that the UCC shines most brightly when it/we speak confidently when we are living justice, working cooperatively with ecumenical and interfaith friends, and making difficult choices that are not always popular. These are just a few of the institutional values, which I have found align most intimately with my faith.

What has been a challenge is seeing the digital milieu – such as social media, websites, or smartphone apps to name but a few – as a secondary way to share the Good News. And – when done well – often this has defaulted to a local ministry group or congregation in which the gift and skills are present to utilise these emergent and emerging media to share mission and vision.

What I hope this new initiative will allow – to borrow from the secular – is an opportunity to present our brand from Coast-Coast-Coast with an online website presence that is recognisable as UCC, yet flexible enough to add the flare (think boas and lots of bling), which reflects the particularity of any ministry that decides to use one of these wardrobes! In fact, if you are reading this blog, which I sure hope so since I am not sure about how the ‘tree-falling-in-forest-scenario’ works in the cyber-realm – you are seeing it on wardrobe (template) #3!

As I sign off, I thought – therefore – that I would offer three things for consideration. Why three? Well it’s a pretty solid Christian-go-to. I am not saying these three things are more important than one another or that those that are not listed are less so – they are offered as what feels important to name at this moment. Feel free, however, to continue the conversation here or through Facebook or twitter.

Bling Bling

Bling Bling
Image: stephen boisvert

  1. The Good News: It doesn’t matter whether or not social media or being online is important to us. It’s where a majority of the secular world gathers. And – in our Western democratic context – that means most people.
    Jesus sent the disciples out into the world to share (evangelise), not expecting people to come to him either on a mountain or in a synagogue. The Good News has lots to offer those who know nothing about church. In secular-lingo: our values align. If we’re not there, then, there’s not going to be a conversation;
    This digital milieu – which includes social media, apps and, websites – is a communication technology. Whether it’s papyrus, hieroglyphics about a character named sphinxie, a velum bound book, a newspaper or radio (to name only a few traditional modes), these examples have been how messages have been imparted.
  2. What is DIFFERENT now – however – is that these tools are also the ways from which relationships and community sprout. Whether you’re a restaurant, charitable NGO or NPO organisation or faith community, more often than naught you are checked out online before anyone ever decides to walk through a physical door. If your online house, wardrobe, or bulletin board (choose your metaphor) is outdated, poorly presented, and/or aesthetically under-whelming, no one’s coming over to debate, eat or prepare to march in a rally. How you look is perceived as who you are; and,
  3. If this media is where people find their life-partner, favourite salon, dentist, political party and possible faith community, it has to be interactive. Static and passive is not what happens online. You can build the brightest barn, shiniest-sparkling-disco-ball-club or most swanky fusion cuisine food truck, but if nothing is happening, then that reflects what’s going on in your brick-and-mortar location.
    Finally, I suggest it’s not just about posting content, it’s the nature of the content. And I also offer, it’s not just the nature of the content – it’s the interaction with it. If no one is sharing, liking, talking or commenting, you’re going to face an uphill battle.
    If your own people are not seeing this as a way to share the Good News – to discuss publicly why anyone should care – the other assumption that follows is that something may be happening, but no one really seems to care. To engage others, it’s good practice to make sure you are actually modelling engagement!

So … until September, be well and imagine ways to share your Call – both personally and/or congregationally – online. Whatever happens after August is any one’s guess … we know (regardless) that the Spirit keeps moving and Jesus’ ministry does and will find ways to inspire, challenge and change lives! After all, it’s the same Good News simply spoken with new tools …