Workshop Perspective: Getting Social at Assembly 2012

BY: Betty Shanks

As administrator for the Anglican Diocese of the South, communication is a big part of my job. Therefore, I was intrigued by a breakout session on captivating disciples at Assembly called “Shout It from the Housetops: Social Media and the Church” presented by Mary Ailes. Since I already had the pleasure working some with Mary, I was looking forward to learning more from her. 

Like me, others in attendance at this session were intrigued by the term “social media.”  We all seemed to be well-versed in communicating from the housetops, the pulpit, church bulletins, church newsletters and on occasion, housetops, or at Ridgecrest, the mountain top. Most in attendance had established websites for their churches. However, many were unaware of the benefits of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube or were struggling to learn how best to use them.

Mary also recommended everyone should take advantage of all the applications (apps) that the smart phones and tablets now offer.  She evoked a laugh when she said, “If you still have an older ‘non-smart phone,’ you should box it up and send it to the Smithsonian.”

We learned that social media is the “in” way to communicate and reach out to the younger generation. Facebook is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who share similar interests. Twitter instantly allows you to communicate what’s most important to you and to follow your friends, experts, other churches, and breaking news. YouTube is a way to share your videos with friends, the church family, and the world.

Facebook and YouTube are monitored by millions and forwarded on to millions more. Many times, Twitter provides instant communication from where an important event is taking place. Tweets become pieces of news that alert the world as well as the traditional news media to what is happening. In addition, Twitter can be very useful in communicating last minute schedule changes or road and weather conditions.

Today, more than ever before, it has become essential that every possible form of communication be used to spread His word to the world. Traditional forms of communication that we have used for centuries are still important. However, they often do not reach the younger generation.

Mary stressed that it is not enough to just post to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the church also needs to respond to those who post responses to the church’s original posting on the sites. This can be a daunting task for one person. Therefore, Mary suggested forming a committee to monitor Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube sites and provide a proper and timely response. This can become both enlightening as well as an educational ministry.

Mary invited everyone to visit her online here to get a better idea of how she uses social media.

Her session, as expected, was not only very educational, but was lighthearted and interesting—enough to keep us all yearning for more. Most, if not all of us, were forming ideas as we left as to how we could best use social media to spread His word from our churches or dioceses.

Betty Shanks serves as diocesan administrator for the Anglican Diocese of the South. She is a member of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Loganville, Ga.

Perspective: Youth Connected at Provincial Youth Gathering

BY: Sarah Laribee

The big reveal came slowly and tentatively. 

I was sitting on the hard bench of a picnic table in the recreation room of a summer camp.  I was the new youth leader at the church in Pittsburgh where I currently serve, and had been on the job for about seventeen minutes. 

Having moved from Colorado the week before, I was tired, lonely and certain that I had made a huge mistake.  Definitely shouldn’t have had that second piece of pizza right before discerning God’s call to move across country for a job for which I knew I wasn’t qualified.  I knew I was where I should be.  I just wasn’t glad to be there.

Sitting next to me on the bench was a woman in her mid-twenties, with long curly brown hair and wearing a skirt and sandals to combat the June heat.  She was a counselor at the camp that summer and I had met her two days before when she showed up at church on my first day on the job.  At camp, we had talked easily a few times since that initial hello at the church, and now the chat on the picnic bench was getting a bit into our faith history.

I had long grown accustomed to not being fully honest about who I was because it was just hard to explain sometimes.  I had, ironically, never been ashamed of talking about my faith with other people, but found it hard to explain why I was an Anglican, especially with other faithful followers of Jesus.  Sometimes, the practices of my worship just seemed odd to my other Christian friends.  And so I developed a habit of shutting that side out of the conversation.

The girl on the picnic bench dropped the word “liturgy” first.  I remember her saying it, like someone had opened a door I hadn’t seen before when trying to escape a really stuffy room full of ninth grade guys post a dodge ball game.  She said “liturgy” as if it was important, as if it was something of which she wasn’t terrified.  And we began talking.  And we talked and talked and talked.  And it was great.

Those incredible moments of recognition are, I think, the real benefit of our gatherings as Anglicans at things like General Assembly.  And those moments can be incredibly important for students as they are trying to figure out exactly where they fit in the Kingdom of God.

As delegates gathered from around the Province to vote and encourage each other at General Assembly in June, a simultaneous gathering was also happening concurrently, as youth from around North America joined together for mutual support, encouragement, prayer and games of Uno. 

Juliet Millard, a sixteen-year-old youth delegate at the Assembly was able to join a large portion of the Provincial Youth Gathering when her delegate duties would permit.  She even connected with an old friend who had moved to a different part of the country and found immediate connection with the other youth gathered. 

“It was just cool to know that it’s ok to be an Anglican,” Millard recounts.  “It’s great being a Christian, but except for your youth group friends, you don’t really talk to a lot of other teenagers in your life about being, you know, an Anglican.  And getting to worship and just talk with people like you is really a lot of fun.”

About thirty-five teenagers were gathered at the Provincial Youth Gathering (PYG) event, with half of those being official Youth Delegates to the 2012 General Assembly.  This gathering allowed for a team of clergy and lay-leaders from around the US and Canada to design an experiential event.  What resulted was a carefully-crafted three-day experience combining corporate worship through music, specific liturgies from the United States and Canada to mark the various times of day, speakers on relevant topics and break-out workshops designed to help students engage with the culture in which they lived. 

“I like attending the workshops with everyone,” recalls Joel Oliver, a youth delegate from Pittsburgh.  “It was really cool getting to vote on things, and see how that side of the church worked.  But then getting to go to something that was designed for teens specifically was fun.  It was exhausting.  But worth it.”

Connections between teens who met at the Gathering have continued since, launching a Facebook group of attendees who talk about how much they love Jesus and how much they miss each other.  One post on the Facebook page Anglican Youth Fellowship of Jesus Freaks reads:  “Worshipping with you guys was so beautiful and so powerful and yes, I was crying. I don’t feel isolated anymore, I feel loved and blessed. God is so good.”

That girl I sat next to on that picnic bench my first week in town became a fast friend.  And then she became my roommate.  And she’s been one of my best friends for a few years now, and has helped encourage my faith like no other.  And like their adult counterparts, returning to Assembly year after year with old friends, the attendees of the Provincial Youth Gathering have the opportunities to meet others like them, share who they are, and begin to point each other to the grace of our loving God. 

imageSarah Laribee is the Director of Student Ministries at Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh, PA.  Born in Texas and having grown up in Kansas and Colorado, Sarah still finds herself fiercely proud to call the “steel city” her own.  With a professional background in public teaching and college ministry, Sarah has yet to find a conversation with people that she does not enjoy.  As Director of Student Ministries she is blessed to spend her time hanging out with kids, talking to parents and grappling along with everyone else for what it is to live out our individual stories in the context of God’s great story.  It is her favorite thing to have deep talks about the Gospel and the Jesus who has come to live with and among us.

Photo: Sarah Laribee, Director of Student Ministries, Church of the Ascension, Pittsburgh

Perspective: Transforming Communities through Disaster Response and Relief

By Bruce Colville

I left the Anglican Church in North America Assembly personally challenged and spiritually directed by the teaching, worship and speakers. I was strengthened by the fellowship and the different opportunities to meet and talk with so many friends, old and new. I believe they support a mission focus on disaster relief and the work I have been called to do. I was helped by their interaction and support.

On Friday afternoon, I had the opportunity to lead one of the workshops in the “transforming communities” track. It was called “Your Local Church: The Transforming Community in Disaster Response and Relief.”

I believe my mission is to prepare and preserve the local church to be an intact ministering community (regardless of the weather). If there was any doubt that the local church and its individual members are called to be the ministering, missional agents of the Gospel in our world - beginning with our neighbors just beyond our front doorsteps - that question was long gone by Friday afternoon. Half of my presentation and discussion had already been thoroughly covered in the succession of powerful messages from Bishops Ponniah, Hunter and Dr. Stetzer. Instead, I skipped forward to the heart of the matter: disaster response and relief.

In order for the local church to be prepared and preserved to minister we need to be in contact, in communication and committed to serve. To be a local church we must be in contact with our neighbors, our towns and cities. This also means that we need to be contactable and we discussed many practical approaches to both sides of this word “contact.”

Communication also works in two complementary ways. Two things happen immediately in any disaster or tragedy: chaos and a loss of communication. Our ability to be a ministering community hinges on our ability to be in communication.

It is a given that the head (leadership) is responsible to communicate with the members of the body. It is equally important that the members of the body understand their responsibility to communicate with the head. The church that is practiced at communicating and working together will instinctually come together to minister and serve when chaos and confusion set in. Finally, the local church is committed to preserving its resources and property to serve the needs of our neighbors for the sake of Christ and the Kingdom.

This final step involves prudent steps in planning, from protecting valuable information and resources to emergency evacuation if necessary. Within every congregation are groups of skilled and talented people who may want to serve in specific ways: emergency medicine, building construction, social care and outreach. We have a great opportunity to mobilize these local groups, build partnerships and share resources with other churches. We can and should be ministering to communities wherever there is need, in times of crisis or simply in our local neighborhood.

The schedule and organization of Provincial Assembly worked very well for introductions, networking, impromptu meetings and discussions. It was clear from the feedback at my workshop and talking with bishops, priests, men and women from all over the country that we Anglicans are excited about our call as a missional church planting movement and to reach North America with a Gospel that both proclaims and demonstrates the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

About Bruce Colville
After a 20 year career in New York theatre, Colville became involved in overseas missionary work within the Anglican Communion. In 2004 and 2005, he made two trips to work in Central Africa. Since then, Colville has assisted with numerous disaster response and relief efforts including the Haiti earthquake, North Alabama tornadoes, Nashville flooding and hurricanes Katrina, Gustav, Ike and Irene. Colville lives in Nashville, Tenn., with his wife, Cindy. Click to contact him. 

Photo caption: Colville leads a “transforming communities” workshop at Provincial Assembly 2012.