Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Skipping from 1950 to 2050: The Episcopal Communicators

KANUGA, North Carolina -- What would an "extreme makeover" look like for the Episcopal Church?

A lot of things, says The Rev. Cindy Voorhees, our keynote speaker here Tuesday at Kanuga for the Episcopal Communicators conference. She is a priest, architect, general contractor, church builder, and one of the most creative minds in our church today.

She is a skeptic of the "Emergent Church" -- "it's a Bandaid," she said.

She has a Top-10 list for what she would do "if I were God" with the Episcopal Church. The list includes closing churches with rusted and faded "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You signs." (Note to self: check the sign)

We need to get focused again on basics, she implored us. What are we here for? Who and how are we reaching them? What are we doing with our buildings? Why do we have such a hard time talking about money and tithing? How can we incorporate new technology, new ways of communicating, and new ways of interacting while providing authentic community and proclaiming the Good News of salvation?

"We have what 20-year-olds want," Voorhees noted. "Generation Y wants to know why?"

"We don't know how to talk about our faith in a personal manner. People come to our churches because they are invited. We don't invite them."

The conference is a gathering of communicators from around the church -- bloggers, writers, techies, media experts. They work for dioceses, parishes, and Episcopal foundations.

Although I write this blog, I consider myself a piker compared to the people here. Many walk around with iPads, and, yes, they do seem to be Tweeting and Facebooking a lot during the presentations. My head is spinning after hearing about "management tools" for the internet like HootSuite and TweetDeck. I not quite sure what those do, but I am willing to find out.

Most of all, I am glad to be here because, on general principle, I want to hear what else is going on in our church beyond my parish and diocese. What new ideas are out there? This is a group of dedicated professionals who have a lot of ideas, but it is a corner of our church many are unaware of or take for granted. This conference is truly a rich part of a larger conversation about how the Church can, and should, transform itself to meet a world that is reeling from constant change.

"We need to skip past 1950 and get to 2050," said Voorhees.


Anonymous said...

Guess I live in a world populated by the enormous mind-boggling world of Virginia's beauty, where "the birds warble sweet in the Springtime!". I hope the Lord will save ME from tweeting about this, regardless of my fine gifted iPad. When I heard that this tool was easy for the autistic to use, I knew it was for me, no offense intended, and it truly is. but short, vignettes of thought? les "coupons" du jour? no thanks for this 60 yr old. I am long past wanting to shock, or allow someone else to parlay MY "byte" into their apprehension of it.

Gillian Breckenridge said...

Jim, this sounds really interesting! I think it's easy to be put off by talk about new technologies- I'm certainly no good at keeping up with them - but I do think that being good communicators is the right way to approach this. Having a good website and up to date facebook pages etc. is really a way of being accessible and welcoming. It is not something that replaces community, but something that encourages and builds it. For better or for worse, when I move to a new city, the first place I look for information about churches is online and I think this is true in general for the younger generation. The technology is secondary, this is really about hospitality. I also love that this is being discussed alongside the question of the hospitality of being open to talking personally about our own faith. The churches that attract large numbers of young people do this very, very well (it is one of the reasons people like Brian McLaren, I think: he talks about what is important and in a personal way) and I think any ways in which we can encourage this kind openness and vulnerability among our congregation is a great way to give new people a way into into our community, as well as help everyone feel a part of what is going on. Thanks for sharing about your trip! Gillian B