Episcopal ‘Social Media Sunday’ a digital invitation

June 25, 2014

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[Episcopal News Service] While in church this Sunday, get out your smart phone.

Facebook a selfie, live-tweet a prayer, blog an idea, video the hymn-singing, Instagram photos, Pinterest fun images, Foursquare a location — and use #Episcopal — so “Social Media Sunday” goes viral.

Social Media Sunday is an invitation to Episcopalians to share faith in the digital universe, according to Carolyn Clement and Laura Catalano, church social media administrators, who came up with the idea.

“It’s a way of saying this is what’s going on in my church. We’re just interested in making connections on Sunday,” according to Catalano, 35, who volunteers at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, in Creve Coeur, Missouri.

“It’s just to get people and families comfortable with social media and to talk about the ways you can use it,” Catalano told ENS during a telephone interview from her suburban St. Louis home. “If everyone uses #Episcopal, we’ll be able to find each other and see each other” on the various social media sites, she added.

“People can take a selfie, or a picture of stained glass in their church or something fun going on and post them on Facebook, or Twitter. It’s a neat way to get an idea of what’s happening across the church.”

Clement said the idea “has gotten a lot of buzz. People from Alaska to Florida and California to everyplace in between as well as Canadians are saying they’ll be posting on Facebook or Instagram that day.”

Even the date is significant, because June 29 is typically the day the church commemorates the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, “great apostles and evangelists so we thought it was an appropriate time to evangelize in this way.”

Barry Merer, Episcopal Church manager of web and social media, applauded the effort.

“It’s about people engaging with their church,” Merer told ENS on June 25. “I’m excited that members of churches are finding new ways to engage with their faith. It’s a great idea because church happens at the grass roots, so … let it happen.”

Clement said she first held a Social Media Sunday at Trinity Church in Tariffville, Connecticut, last year.

She offered instructions to the congregation at the start of the service.

“People were tweeting, taking pictures that day, posting them on Facebook and overall, it was a great experience,” she recalled. “Not only did they share images and comments and thoughts from our church that morning with the thousands of aggregate followers and friends and contacts they had on social media, they also found each other.”

Afterwards, “we invited people to bring their devices and we did a help desk, answering their questions about getting set up, how to use and understand social media a little better, helping families learn more about how to keep kids safe online.”

Catalano and Clement met on #Chsocm (pronounced ch-sock-em), a weekly ecumenical Twitter chat on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST about church social media. Catalano liked Clement’s idea of a Social Media Sunday and organized a similar event at St. Timothy’s.

Citing their own digital friendship, they hope to create similar connections and relationships throughout the church. “Laura and I are friends from social media but we’ve never met in real life,” Clement said. “But even though we haven’t met in person, I feel like digital life is real life.

“We bounce ideas off each other a lot,” she added. “We both volunteer; we both manage social media for our churches. We both rose organically in our parishes to do this work. It’s something we were independently called to, as a personal mission, to do social media, evangelism or social media mission, you might want to call it.

“And we just wanted to invite the whole Episcopal Church to have a Social Media Sunday to connect with each other, to share something about church, about faith, and so we said, why not?”

They began tweeting about it and inviting followers, created a Facebook event and “found every Episcopal national organization we could and posted on their Facebook walls and invited them.”

Besides being a fun day, Social Media Sunday “hopefully, will give us some kind of information about how many Episcopalians are out there, actively using social media to share their faith. It’ll be interesting to see,” Clement said.

Meanwhile, she added: “We just want to see #episcopal go viral on June 29.”

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

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