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TEC launches an app

TEC launches an app

The Church Center has released an app for the iPad called Wayfarer. The first program on the app is a beautiful program on Alaska focussing on Kivalina, Alaska, “which chronicles the story of Indigenous Alaskans faced with having to move their entire village to higher ground because of rising sea temperatures.” Some wonder why there is little identification with The Episcopal Church as the source of Wayfarer?:

The Episcopal Church Office of Communication has launched its first iPad app, Wayfarer. Available as a free, quarterly iPad app downloadable at iTunes, all the content can also be viewed in an Internet browser here.

“Wayfarer features compelling stories told through video, photographs and words,” said Lynette Wilson, Wayfarer producer. Wilson, who is also an editor/reporter for Episcopal News Service, addressed the appropriateness of the name. “We chose to name the app Wayfarer because we intend to tell a wide spectrum of stories about people, possibilities and action across a broad landscape,” she said.

“This is an exciting moment – it represents our entry into mobile content, appealing both to Episcopal and broader audiences,” noted Anne Rudig, Director of Episcopal Church Office of Communication. “As the title suggests, each issue of Wayfarer has been shot in a different far-flung location.”

Those who have downloaded the app have affirmed the idea but wonder about the lack of readily noticed link to The Episcopal Church.

From The Rev. Mike Russell, Deputy to General Convention 2012 from the Diocese of San Diego:

Given our conversations about our entrance into the digital universe I was delighted to see an ENS announcement of a new App from the Episcopal Digital Network that told stories in high def video, presumably about TEC’s ministries. I went to the app in iTunes only to discover there was NO identification of it with TEC.

I tweeted them asking how this could be so and they tweeted this back: “There is a church logo on the lower right when the videos play RT @FrMike The App has no explicit mention of The Episcopal Church …”

They have added it now to the app page above the app’s “Wayfarer” name, but the descriptive text still says nothing about the Episcopal Church.

Just a few minutes ago I asked them why they were not highlighting TEC and this is their answer:

“@FrMike @episcopal_news We hope to reach a wide audience and don’t want potential readers to be confused by a word they may not know.”

A second tweet just arrived: “@FrMike @episcopal_news Or feel it’s not for them because it’s just by and for Episcopalians.”

I just tweeted back “@EDigiNet @episcopal_news Perhaps this ought to be a vehicle for introducing the church to them. To hide affiliation is a dubious practice.

Russell adds: “I remain baffled why we are funding independent film crews to make films that do not highlight TEC. They could have discussed TEC’s involvement with environmental issues, or even our rejection of the Doctrine of Discovery consonant with highlighting the situation of first Americans. It does none of these.”

Hmmm. Fail? or Not Fail?


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Michael Russell

Sadly, I suspect they are not even looking in on this conversation. There is simply no point to having our communications people making movies that are not presenting TEC.

I called Jake Dell of the Communications office after he sent me a direct message on twitter with his number. He was out and has not yet returned my call. The one tidbit I did add was that I expect there will be more adverse reaction from the public when they discover a church made this an hide that from them, than to just be open and transparent about it.

I did write a review of Wayfarer in the App store naming TEC and inviting people to learn about us, mentioning that we have way too good a sense of propriety and taste to do anything so vulgar as promote ourselves through an app.

Susan Kleinwechter

It’s interesting to think about unbranding. Why would we unbrand? To buck perception – reaching the unchurched because we don’t look like the church, or to reach people who think TEC is snobby and irrelevant.

If we want to be a church that is relevant, then we will connect people to the church, every way we can. Wayfarer has possibilities, but IMO fails, partly (1) because it does not reveal the church well, but primarily (2) because it ignores accessibility of the masses.

#2 there is wrapped in the detailed and somewhat technical issues of how content is developed and delivered to the consumer. It doesn’t matter if TEC makes high-quality, long, compelling HD video stories if people struggle and fail to watch them! What consumers understand when they get the message, “This video won’t work on this device” (and it’s an up-to-date device) is “the Episcopal Church doesn’t care if I watch this video” and “the Episcopal Church is technically irrelevant.” and its videos hosted on Vimeo will not display on my Android 2.3 phone or my Android 3.1 tablet, and I can’t get the app on an iPhone 3GS.

So, the age-old Christian tradition of using pictures and great stories to reach the people is a fail here, because this story is only told to trendy iPad users and people with desktop computers and bandwith for massive downloads. It’s misguided. It illustrates the snobby Episcopal face my church been trying to replace throughout my lifetime. I know that’s not the face of the church we really want to be!

If we want to be a church to the people, then from the top, in the management details of commissioning and creating compelling messages, down to the technical issues of viewability and readability by average people around the world, TEC must chart a course very different than the one they are on.


Susan Snook

Clearly a fail. The statement that “we don’t want potential readers to be confused by a word they may not know” is absurd on its face. If people don’t know the word “Episcopal,” then we should establish an Office of Communications to help people learn it. Right? Huh – why didn’t we think of that?

There seems to be some confusion about the mission of the Office of Communication of the Episcopal Church Center. Most of us who are members and leaders of the Episcopal Church assume that the mission of such an office would be to communicate about the church. The office appears to assume that its mission is to tell good stories about interesting things, using up-to-date communication methods. Those who supervise this office (PB, General Convention, Communications Commission, Executive Council, etc.) should work with the office to help them understand the mission that the office should be working to accomplish on behalf of the church – which pays them to do this work, after all. And then leadership should work with the office to make sure all its efforts are directed toward this identified mission.

Branding? Or UnBranding?

Jan W Nunley

Richard E. Helmer

Okay, last comment. I think the “fail” is confined to the app/iTunes store launch. The web page and vimeo content is much more effective in linking the Church with the content:

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