A communications initiative, launched on Ash Wednesday, which provides a new way for Episcopalians to share their connection to and appreciation for the Episcopal Church, was heavily used during Lent.
A special welcoming page on the church's website, technically called a "microsite" and titled "I am Episcopalian," was visited more than 500,000 times in the six and a half weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter, according to Michael Collins, director of digital communication in the Episcopal Church's Office of Communication.
The microsite contains short video clips of Episcopalians representing the diverse membership of the Episcopal Church.
An invitation on the site invites guests "to see and hear the very personal reasons we choose to be Episcopalians. Our controversies and conversations have been public. Our governance is transparent. You are free to see our imperfections, as well as share our joy in that which unites us -- our openness, honesty and faith."
Launched initially with video clips produced and uploaded by Collins' staff, the site also lets users upload their own videos. The site now contains nearly 50 videos, which Collins said have come from Episcopalians in the dioceses of Massachusetts, Texas, Rhode Island and Florida.
"I am Episcopalian" was conceived by Anne Rudig, who began her work as the Episcopal Church's director of communication on January 5. She said the initiative is part of a new, overall communications strategy "to tell our story in an authentic and compelling way."
"What better way to tell people who we are and why we have found a new connection to this Church than through our members' own words," said Rudig.
Rudig said that the immediate impact of the site has been both empowering for Episcopalians and "enlightening for those outside our church."
"I have had non-Episcopalian friends say things like 'I had no idea what you guys were about, except what I've read in the news,'" she said.
Rudig said the success of this new communication tool "tells us that we must recognize the fact that messages cannot be pushed out to complacent recipients."
"For a message to be authentic and compelling, it must be embraced and co-created by those we are trying to reach," said Rudig.
Collins said the microsite will "stay in place" as the portal into the full Episcopal Church website for the timebeing and that video uploads are still being invited. He also said that invitations have been made to certain dioceses where communications staff members plan travel to assist in shooting videos.
The Episcopal Church Center booth at the 2009 General Convention, July 8-17, in Anaheim, California will include a service that will allow guests to record and upload a video on the spot.