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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