July 2017 Convocation Newsletter
Speaking to a new world: Communicators gather in Munich for Academy for Parish Leadership event
As a lay member of our parish communications committee, the Revd Christopher Easthill invited John Adam and myself to attend the 2015 Academy for Parish Leadership event, Speaking to a New World: Communications in the 21st Century. The APL, a project of the European Institute for Christian Studies, is a program dedicated to the formation of lay leaders in Episcopal congregations in Europe. APL seeks 'to deliver quality education in all manner of leadership issues.' The theme for this particular event explored communication as mission, and as a form of evangelism.
On Friday, 17 April, a group of 50 or so people from across the Convocation convened at Schloss Fürstenried on the outskirts of Munich. This lovely 18th century castle was converted into a modern retreat house (“Exerzitienhaus”) for seminars, many of a religious nature. The venue was perfect, providing modest but efficient living accommodations, seminar rooms, a chapel, a “Bierkeller” and an impressive park, complete with a stunning garden with a decorative fountain and cupids!
Our two guest speakers for the event -- Carol Barnwell of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, and Neva Rae Fox from the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society -- both had traveled from the United States for the occasion.
Carol's opening program was Communication as evangelism, that everything we do in church communications should reflect our mission to share the Gospel . . . which means identifying the audience, being strategic in our planning efforts, and using every tool at our disposal to help us do this work. Other topics included: How is the work vital for healthy and growing congregations? And, Strategic Communications: How do we make all our technologies work together? What role does the congregation play? Carol reminded us that 'the how and when of 'high-tech media options' meeting our 'low-tech personal invitation' is key to the church, and to the ministry of communication.'
Neva Rae’s topic, Episcopal Church-Anglican Communion: Telling our story, examined the various modern-day channels of communication, discussing how these can best be utilized to optimize our communication efforts. I found her excellent overview of The Episcopal Church within the Anglican Communion particularly interesting.
A series of Saturday afternoon workshops offered technical training on the use of new media tools. These breakout sessions were led by lay leader-participants. Each had been invited to share some aspect of the communications work they are successfully managing for their own parish or ministry. We considered the practical applications of Facebook, software for creating e-newsletters, iMovie options for short films, the importance of branding one's online sites, and how to create successful images for the web.
Of course, both Carol and Neva Rae admitted that challenges for parishes in the American communications environment are different from those in Europe. Still, both encouraged us to be creative in our approaches, and before embarking on any campaign, to be aware of the most effective methods of communication among the unlimited media tools now available to us.
After a long day of discussions, break-out sessions, workshops and lectures, Saturday evening was devoted to an evening of team-building games and lots of laughter. The entire weekend was rounded off with the Sunday Eucharist, celebrated by Bishop Whalon in the Fürstenried chapel.
I was particularly impressed by the mixture of the many languages and cultures of those who met in Munich. It seemed that no matter what our cultural backgrounds or languages were, we all agreed that there are endless exciting communication strategies that can be utilized to 'speak to our New World.' And as first step in doing that, I have become a member of various Facebook groups and email distribution lists.
All in all, I was happy and grateful to have been a part of it this most inspirational event, and look forward to sharing new insights in my work at St. Augustine’s.