Why Isn’t There A Church Communications Service Corps?

woo yeah episcopaliansOkay, so no offense, but we seriously need to get over this idea that only kids and hipsters tweet. Or know their way around a website. Or can be trusted to manage a Facebook page.

Because you guys, it just ain’t necessarily so.

First of all, social media and blogging has been an important part of professional marketing for years. Years. People have been blogging for their companies, Tweeting for their nonprofits, and Facebooking for their churches since as long as those platforms have existed. Please stop treating these practices as something new, or something to be viewed with alarm, amusement, or thinly veiled derision.

It’s how marketing and communications is done now. It just is.

And there are fully grown professionals (yes, I am one of them), who have been using these tools to get real work done for years now. We’ve built businesses on the backs of blogs and social media. We’ve rallied people and money to our causes. We’ve set and met revenue goals, gotten trained and certified, written — and trained others in the use of — social media policies that can help prevent bad things from happening in your name online.

This is not rocket science. And we are not necessarily kids. I’m in my early 40s, for crying out loud. So the days of hoping that you can find a teenager in your parish to help teach you the ways of Twitter, to ghost-blog for your rector, or to tweet occasionally into the void are long gone.

Using social media and blogs for church communications is a core practice now, and should be treated as such. Which means that it makes sense for parishes to seek out professional help and support when they decide they want to use these tools successfully.

Of course not every parish is going to have the resources to hire a professional. Or to be lucky enough to have a marketing professional on hand who feels moved and able to donate their time and expertise to the cause. Or if they do, they might not know how best to make use of that person’s time.

Here’s my question: If we can organize groups of seasoned business professionals to give Episcopal church leaders sound advice on matters financial and fiduciary, then why can’t we do the same with marketing and communications? A communications service corps for the church. Made up of all of the folks out there, lurking in pews and coffee hours across the nation, who already know a thing or two about making yourself heard on the web. Professionally. Effectively. And for a very good cause.

This could have beneficial effects across a number of areas, of course.

First, churches that lack the internal resources needed to build a robust and sustainable online communications plan would get access to the professional help they need. These professionals would be dedicated volunteers who have been trained for this specific ministry under the auspices of their own diocese. Parishes could request help from the diocese, who would refer it to the Communications Corp, who would then deploy the volunteer most suited to the job. Volunteers would go in for a limited engagement, and focus on training parish leaders (staff, clergy, lay, youth, etc.) how to be great online communicators themselves. Education, strategic planning, and training for long-term execution would be the focus. Follow-up consultations after a set period of time would also be grand.

Second, a dedicated communications service corps would provide a means of engaging a demographic that has traditionally been difficult to reach in the church. Social media and online communications is no longer the purview of the spotty teenager. Instead, your average church-going marketing and communications professional is likely to be a 25- to 40-year-old man or woman who is seeking a way of supporting the church’s mission in a way that’s uniquely suited to their skills and gifts. Writing, technical know-how, teaching adults how to act like adults on the social web — this is what we do every day. Use us.

We might be less likely to volunteer for some of your more well established ministries. We might not have kids, and so don’t feel drawn to helping out at church school. We might not be free on weeknights, and so can’t get involved in your study groups.

But we might jump at the chance to contribute meaningfully to the outreach and evangelism of the parish — because that’s what this is, really — by using the knowledge we’ve already got at our ready disposal.

And frankly, we’d love to meet other churchgoing people like us.

So: Small, poor, or otherwise underserved churches get the help they need; young professionals find a way to get involved and contribute time and treasure to the mission of the church, while finding fellowship with each other at the same time; and the church as a whole gets markedly better (“levels up,” as the gamer kids would say) at telling the world who we are and what we’re all about.

Win. Win. Win.

Why doesn’t every diocese have a communications service corps?

Why don’t we start now?

Another Tweeting Bishop

The Very Rev. W. Nicholas Knisely, Jr. was consecrated bishop of Rhode Island yesterday in what by all accounts was a splendid and deeply moving service.

And he tweets.

Knisely is a smart and media-savvy bishop who will be taking advantage of Facebook, Twitter and other social media to ‘‘communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ in a whole new exciting way.’’ He said the aim is to better reach young people through the communication methods they use.

‘‘If our church is to grow, it will have to realize this,’’ Smith said. ‘‘The hard fact is that we have become a graying denomination where the average age is 62 and the average number of youths in a parish is eight.’’

Via The Boston Globe


A Generation of Women Priests

The Telegraph speaks with a few of the women who are widely considered to be first in line if and when the Church of England begins consecrating women as bishops after the General Synod votes on Tuesday. Women have been priests in the Church of England for two decades now, which means that there’s been a whole generation of churchgoers, now adult, who have always know women as ordained leaders in the church.

Rebecca Swinson was only six years old when the C of E began ordaining women as priests twenty years ago.

“There is a real commitment to working with people on all sides. We want to be able to hold everyone together in the Church,” says Rebecca Swinson, who is not a lifelong campaigner on this issue, but a church member who has found herself having to make a choice. “If women are bishops, then they are fully bishops. You can’t have a system that says they are second class.”

Via The Telegraph

Swinson took part in the video campaign in support of women bishops earlier this year:

Life as a Biblical Woman

What is it really like to live as a woman in the world, while adhering to a literal reading of the Bible? A Christian blogger spends a year “living Biblically” and interviewing women who pursue the goal of “Biblical womanhood” all their lives.

In my faith community, popular women pastors such as Joyce Meyer were considered unbiblical for preaching from the pulpit in violation of the apostle Paul’s restriction in 1 Timothy 2:12 (“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent”), while Amish women were considered legalistic for covering their heads in compliance with his instructions in 1 Corinthians 11:5 (“Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head”).

Pastors told wives to submit to their husbands as the apostle Peter instructed in 1 Peter 3:1, but rarely told them to avoid wearing nice jewelry as the apostle instructs them just one sentence later in 1 Peter 3:3. Despite the fact that being single was praised by both Jesus and Paul, I learned early on that marriage and motherhood were my highest callings, and that Proverbs 31 required I keep a home as tidy as June Cleaver’s.

These were the questions that inspired me to take a page from A.J. Jacobs, author of “The Year of Living Biblically”, and try true biblical womanhood on for size—literally, no “picking and choosing.”

This meant, among other things, growing out my hair, making my own clothes, covering my head whenever I prayed, abstaining from gossip, remaining silent in church (unless I was “prophesying,” of course), calling my husband “master,” even camping out in my front yard during my period to observe the Levitical purity laws that rendered me unclean.

This weekend, the Church of England is anticipating a historic vote on whether or not to consecrate women bishops, while in the US a group of Episcopalians in South Carolina make a noisy and contentious break with the church because of disagreements over the blessing of same-sex marriage. Both sides of each struggle cite Bible passages to support their positions.

The fact of the matter is, we all pick and choose. We’re all selective in our interpretation and application of the biblical text. The better question to ask one another is why we pick and choose the way that we do, why we emphasis some passages and not others. This, I believe, will elevate the conversation so that we’re using the Bible, not as a blunt weapon, but as a starting point for dialogue.

Seems a timely read.

Via CNN’s Belief Blog


This Imperfect Legislation

The General Synod of the Church of England will vote November 20 on whether women will be allowed to be bishops. The compromise on the table now seems to have few ardent fans on either side of the debate, but is nevertheless widely viewed as the best available way forward after decades of dissent.

The Venerable Jan McFarlane, Archdeacon of Norwich, weighs in:

Pull quote:

The legislation we’re being asked to vote on is imperfect. Let’s be perfectly honest about that. But it’s the best that we’re ever going to do, because we’ll never find a perfect legislation. We’re trying to hold together two opposing views. Anything that we do is always going to involve compromise. But might we allow this imperfect legislation to be a means of allowing God’s grace to shine through, and to show to an imperfect and cracked and broken world that it is possible, with God’s grace, to live together in unity even when we disagree?

The issue is in itself important. But one wonders if it might also provide a model of how the Communion might address similarly divisive issues in the months and years to come.

Of course imperfect compromises only work when both sides act in good faith. Each must be willing to swallow some concessions and accept a solution that is far less than ideal, but that allows  the two parties to continue moving forward together. It remains to be seen if that will be the case with the issues facing the wider Anglican Communion.

Via the website of The Archbishop of Canterbury

The Bishop and The Badger

Somebody else has noticed that the next Archbishop of Canterbury has a small furry creature sculpted onto the tip of his crozier. I wondered when we’d find out what it was.

It’s a badger. Or, more specifically, a “rock hyrax.”

Now friends have disclosed that the carefully-crafted implement is in fact an elaborate and self-deprecating joke.

It was presented to the future Archbishop by his former congregation in Liverpool Cathedral last year as a leaving gift – to remind him of the day he lost his composure and collapsed into a fit of giggles after he stumbled over a little-read passage from the Old Testament involving the creature.

Could this indicate more than just a charming sense of humor and lack of pomposity in a man about to assume one of the toughest jobs going? Possibly.

A recent scientific study found that the Rock Hyrax, known for its unusual call, is one of the most sophisticated communicators in the animal kingdom.

It can’t hurt.

Via The Telegraph

Remembering The Vicar of Gramercy Park

The New York Times remembers The Rev. Stephen Garmey, who passed away in October.

Mr. Garmey, 79, had been called to Calvary Episcopal Church, near Gramercy Park, in 1972. He retired, as its vicar, in 2005. He and his wife then moved. But not to some cozy nook with antimacassars, mahogany wainscoting and yellowed prints of Pugin churches. No, they moved smack into Midtown, filling a luminous, modernist apartment on West 55th Street with avant-garde Russian art and books. Thousands of books. “The way other people frequented pubs, he would frequent bookstores,” said his wife, Jane Garmey, who married Mr. Garmey three years after coming to New York from Britain in 1963.

Mr. Garmey served at Calvary for more than thirty years. An avid collector and student of avant-garde Russian art, he also wrote, played the piano and organ, and, yes, sculpted:

The vicar’s dedication to art did not stop with collecting it, visiting it, photographing it and reading about it. He was a sculptor in his own right. At first he worked in metal, in a basement workshop at Calvary Church. But the smoke that filled the sanctuary caused nothing but anxiety. “When someone wanted to turn in a fire alarm, others would say, ‘No, Father is just welding,’” he recalled in 1984. “Now, I work in wood.”

Via The New York Times