Tweeting….the clerical way

twitterI’ve been at the Salisbury Diocese Clergy Conference all week. And I’ve had the same conversation face to face a couple of dozen times. ….

 

The conference. Me, newbie Rector, and some 300 odd of my new colleagues. No pressure. I’ve been following @DioSalisbury for a while, as well as a number of other Sarum tweeps, so I knew I would find friends. Added to which, I knew the hashtag for the conference, #grh14, so I merrily tweeted my way through it. Because of the way the Comms worked, my ugly mug appeared on the screens fairly frequently each morning, as a selection of conference tweets was displayed for the edification of all. Some of them made it to the daily news sheet too.

I was taken aback at my first breakfast. A colleague picked up the sheet and said something along the lines of “who are these stupid twits who tweet?” Being of a bolshie disposition, I politely said “I’m one of them’. I wasn’t expecting the rant about how pointless it all was, and didn’t really get a word in edgeways, although I think his friend was so embarrassed that he actually asked me some questions….

By the end of the conference I was “woman who tweets” (along with several other lovely tweeps….)

“why tweet?”  “Who are you trying to talk to?” “how does it work?” and most common of all  “why is there so much pointless stuff on twitter, who cares what you had for breakfast?” All the basic questions that I forget are normal.

The last is actually the easiest to answer. It’s twitter small talk. I don’t always reply to a tweep who regularly starts the day with #execellentcoffee”, but I am always pleased to see the tweet. Swapping mugs of tea, toast, and bacon butties virtually is a little squeeze of community glue. It’s the stuff that we do face to face, by the coffee machine, at the bus stop….

So as the conversation progresses, people understand twitter is a channel, not an end in itself. But they still asked “why tweet the conference? We’re all here”. Well, actually “we” weren’t all there, there were around 50 Sarum clergy who couldn’t attend. but more than that, by tweeting the conference, more people could hear about it, comment, ask questions. I’ve just counted interactions with 30 different people about #grh14 who were nothing to do with it at all. And that excludes the tennis tweets that I exchanged while Murray was playing.

Twitter is a means of making friends, a way of explaining what Christianity and church are all about, all with a dose of cake, tea, coffee and gin.

“Do I have to tweet too?” No, not if you don’t want to. It works for some!

“But what about face to face, real interaction?” was a common protest. Two things, minor thing first …twitter is one form of real interaction. I’ve had some profound exchanges on twitter, and I value them all. But secondly and importantly Twitter doesn’t replace face to face interaction. Lunch with one top tweep on the way to conference, with laughter and hugs and tears, meeting another top tweep for the first time face to face in the bar…it all matters. Because Social Media is, above all, social. Society matters, presence matters. People matter.

 

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5 responses to “Tweeting….the clerical way

  1. I actually believe that you have the balance right. Social Media doesn’t replace the face to face meetings, when they are possible. But, in many cases is isn’t, or not at least in the foreseeable future.

    That shouldn’t be the reason to abandon meeting via social media. People of good faith can make a huge difference to the world around them, not just locally, but in some cases globally.

    I’ve been a member of i-church since 2008. There we just keep a listening presence, provide opportunities for people to come visit, read and if they wish to contribute. We make it clear who we are and what we do, and not surprisingly, enjoy some great conversations.

    Many come for the worship and social time in a chat room. Both are interactive and individuals are able to use or to take advantage of other digital media such as music and images which run within the software of i-church.

    I have met some members of i-church who attended a retreat we had a year or so ago, others I meet socially via facebook or twitter, both mediums are valid expressions of relationship building. Lately, I’ve also established a presence on Linkedln, and it’s surprising how many members were already there or have connected me with me there.

    My membership of these places is about relationships, but it’s also an opportunity, where appropriate to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, something that we’re called upon to do, but in a gentle, non-threatening way. We’re known by what we do, not by what we say resonates strongly within me, and I don’t wish too be known as an Evangelist without any sense of proportion, rather than someone who is a friend, who is confidential when needed and who may be relied upon in a crisis. Pretty much the essence of what I believe Social media gives the chance to be.

  2. Here here (or Hear Hear). There were probably people in the Middle Ages who wondered why churches needed a notice board outside to say “we’re here” too. It isn’t just for the haptic stuff (virtual hugs) but also – if they’ve not noticed, because there is a whole generation or more out there whose reality is now more virtual or online than concrete, and none the less real for that. Actually, I can sympathise and would, were I starting all over, have thought the Creator might have missed a trick by not making the whole thing virtual…. Then He could have tried the old advice (Have you tried turning it off and on again) instead of the Noah business. But if the Church is to spread the word as its Founder told us, we have to use the communications systems of those we wish to reach. Or do the antis not wish to reach certain demographics (was expecting spellchecker to change that to Demon ravers). Maybe……

  3. I live tweeted some sessions from the Oxford Diocesan clergy conference in March, along with other tweeting colleagues. An astonishing number of my at wither followers who aren’t Oxford clergy – and in some cases not Christians – engaged with the content of what we were tweeting.

    I’m not sure where the “It’s just people tweeting about. Real fast” thing came from, it’s almost a meme in it’s own right!

  4. Eek – the IOS spell checker strikes again – my TWITTER followers not my ‘at wither’ followers! :O

  5. I really appreciated the #grh14 tweets, newly ordained in a neighbouring diocese but in bed ill, when I felt able to dip in and out. Raised a few questions to think about, if only briefly as my brain is/was mush.

    I’ve previously tweeted through our own Winchester conference last year. It enabled communication of thoughts that couldn’t be spoken aloud whilst a speaker was, shared immediate responses, built community within/without conference, and surely must also enable people from different diocese/denominations to understand where particular ideas are coming from, or how another group of Christians are developing them. All useful stuff #buildingthebodyofChrist

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