In 1977, the year of the formation of the Uniting Church, one of the world’s first personal all-in-one computers, the Commodore PET, was demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago. A clunky beast by today’s standards, this early computer weighed over 10kg and contained a keyboard that many found difficult to operate.
Today, as the Church celebrates 40 years, societal and technological changes have invited all organisations to alter their approach in many areas. How the church communicates through the use of computers is one area where there is considerable change.
Rev Paul Stephens, convenor of the Presbytery Transition Team, was reminded of these changes during a recent series of information sessions presented in Victoria and Tasmania. The sessions were presented by Mr Stephens and the Strategic Review Implementation director Dr Jason Talbot, and were designed to provide information that they will present at the Synod 2017 meeting.
“I was in Ararat with Jason listening to his presentation,” Mr Stephens said.
“He was talking to the people in the room with us but, because of technology, he was also talking to people gathered in Warrnambool, Portland and Hamilton. I thought ‘Wow’, haven’t times changed?”
Dr Talbot and Mr Stephens used Zoom video conferencing for the workshop. Dr Talbot believes one of the technology’s greatest benefits for the synod is that people are not necessarily required to travel long distances to meetings.
“Synod operations and many presbyteries and churches are using this technology more and more,” Dr Talbot said.
“We understand that people’s lives are busy and dialling in to a meeting from your own home or office is an effective way of participating without losing hours in travel time. This is particularly helpful in regional areas, where towns can be hundreds of kilometres apart.”
In regional Australia, some areas still experience difficulty with connections. One of the advantages of the video conferencing is that the presentations can be recorded. This means that if you had trouble hearing or seeing the presentation, the recording can be sent to the participants afterwards.
“It’s the sense of connectedness that I like,” Mr Stephens said. “You can ask questions, participate in the conversation and feel like you are really in the room with everyone. It’s great that we are able to experience a connectedness that a relatively short time ago would have been the stuff of fiction.”