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Transformation Through Twitter

Transformation Through Twitter

by Maria L. Evans

Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who take counsel for the renewal and mission of your Church. Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

–Prayer for a church convention or meeting, Book of Common Prayer, page 818

Through the magic of Twitter, there’s been something wonderful and new I’ve seen evolve this past General Convention, and as we head into Diocesan Convention season in many dioceses, it will be interesting if all the tweeting going on this summer at GC 2012 has changed the face of all church conventions forever. If it’s been happening to me, it must be happening to others, too. In fact, I think it has been happening to others. I’ve heard this summer referred to as “the summer of Twitter,” and “the summer of tweeting.”

I did not get to attend GC 2012. (As I’ve jokingly said, “Well, ONE of us has to stay home and work, you know.”) My participation in GC appeared doomed to be rather passive–watching live feeds on the GC Media Hub and following it on Twitter. However, our Diocesan Director of Communications had a use for that. She asked me to assist her in being part of a little team of news-gatherers via an internet pipeline she created, and I also kept watch on the Twitter feed, which was an easy enough task I could do while sitting at my desk between signing out my surgical pathology cases.

But what became interesting to me was it was clear that, at times, it was hard to tell who was actually AT General Convention and who was back home, like me. In fact, people who were physically present at GC 2012, whom I’d conversed with through social networking venues, would mistakenly think I was there, too! I’d get messages like “Sorry I missed you,” and “Where are you? Let’s get together at break.”

In short, something that made this GC 2012 unique was this wonderful blurring of presence. The veil between being actually physically present and being present in a larger sense had a few holes punched in it. This might be the first time at a church convention where the deputies and the folks back home were this palpably close to each other in understanding the work of the church at GC 2012. In fact, one of our diocesan deputies remarked that those of us back home on the news-gathering team actually knew MORE about what was going on hour by hour at GC 2012, and that the ones physically present were actually more out of the loop in some things.

What I saw was this lovely communal relationship, where everyone was free to focus on their own tasks at hand, with a certain level of trust that the others had their backs.

I suspect this will carry forth into whatever it will evolve to be, at the various upcoming Diocesan conventions, but on a smaller scale. As a member of one of the more far-flung parishes in my own diocese, I think what it means for me is that I never again will have an excuse to be insular again in the work of the church. What will that mean for those of us in the more rural parts of the Episcopal Church? I don’t know, but I look forward to seeing how social media has the potential for us to understand being “one holy catholic and apostolic church” in new ways.

How did this past summer change how you saw the larger church? As the various diocesan conventions start to take place, how do you think social networking will change them?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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Maria L. Evans

Agreed. The balance seems to be "letting more people in on the conversation" coupled with "not letting anyone feel like a 2nd class citizen if they are not as technologically savvy."

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David O'Rourke

I also followed the stream during GC this Summer, keeping it up on my computer while at work, in particular when resolutions that I was interested in were up for debate and voting. I also clicked over to the streaming video when I wanted to hear what was being said about those resolutions that interested me. It really felt like I was sitting in the visitors gallery rather than half way across the country. I also balanced the live reports with the news reports and blog postings that oftentimes came after the fact.

My first real introduction to Twitter was following the events of the Arab Spring. I also oftentimes followed the Virtual Abbey stream when they were more active since they usuallly Tweeted compline at a time when I needed some quiet time in my evening.

I was at our diocesan convention (Colorado) this past weekend. The hashtag #edoc2012 for it was displayed up on the screens throughout the convention time, and from time to time interesting tweets were put up on the screen. I checked the stream, but there was not a whole lot of tweeting going on, with about a dozen tweeters total posting. About half of them were from the diocese, so I definitely applaud their effort! One factor may be that there was no wifi available in the main meeting room. Also, at my own table of 10 people, probably only 2 of us really understood what Twitter is.

The Colorado diocese is pretty large geographically with an urban core and then many congregations that are far apart in the rest of the state. I also have experience in the Rocky Mountain Synod of the ELCA, which covers 4 large western states, so the challenges of communication and connectedness is even greater there. I think tools like Twitter and blogging can definitely enhance the conversations and communications and awareness of what is going on. The challenge will be finding ways of making sure as many people as possible are is in on the conversation.

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