If reports are correct, today Pope Francis is expected to meet Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google and Jared Cohen, current head of Google Ideas. For the global leader of a church to make time for such a meeting is a reminder yet again that technology has become a significant factor in theological messaging.
Susan Tellem, in her blog on the Commpro site recalls that when she worked on the 1987 visit of Pope John Paul II to Los Angeles there was no social media and little internet. “The reporter coverage room was humming with electric typewriters and telephones, and notebooks were in every briefcase and handbag.”
How times have changed! The current Pope has described the internet as a “gift from God”. He is an avid Twitter user with 8.4 million followers, following only eight accounts which are all versions of his own account in other languages.
In a speech delivered last June for World Communications Day, the Pope stated that the drawbacks of social media do not justify rejecting it. He emphasised that “communication is ultimately a human rather than technological achievement” and “in a world like this, media can help us to feel closer to one another, creating a sense of the unity of the human family which can in turn inspire solidarity and serious efforts to ensure a more dignified life for all”. He reinforced that it is how humans use the tools that matters.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, admits that he grapples with the human side of social media. “The subtleties we lose when we communicate electronically have to do with expression, with touch, with the face-to-face aspect of relationship. Social media does not show tears in the eye, a hand on the arm when saying something painful, body language that speaks of inner turmoil, deep distress – even gentle respect.”
In the Uniting Church more and more congregations are messaging through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and sophisticated websites, responding to communication changes in a positive and pro-active way. Assembly President Stuart McMillan provides commentary via his Twitter handle @SJMcMillan and the various state synods use social media and online news reporting actively.
“What I love best is when people comment on our posts,” observes Timothy Lam, who manages the Victorian and Tasmanian synod social media pages. “It is a way of staying engaged in the day to day activities of the church, and enhances and expands the work we do in Crosslight each month.
Craig Mitchell, national director for formation, education and discipleship for the UCA assembly has been a workshop presenter on how to use multimedia in worship. On his Growing Disciples 21C blog he states that he believes we should use multimedia to foster engagement, conversation and response, and to think how media can be part of the whole worship event. “Let technology enable the people of God to share their gifts, rather than being the exclusive domain of those who get it.”
If you’re not sure how to take the first step in joining a Uniting Church Facebook page or where to access a website, give us a call! We’ll soon have you Liking, Sharing, Posting, Commenting…where does it end?
If you’re ready to take the first steps into cyber space, call Tim Lam on (03) 9251 5203 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image by Catholic Church England and Wales via Flickr.