Do you remember those great sheets of fluorescent paper that we used to stick, using wallpaper paste, on to the wooden notice board by the church door? It’s easy with hindsight to list everything that was wrong with the seventies, and bad taste certainly didn’t stop with flares – but at least we were making an effort to be noticed.
It all went sadly wrong of course when the damp snowflakes of late November slowly peeled off the “Come and join us: all are welcome” umpteen-point-bold advertisement for, yes, September’s Harvest Festival.
How different from today’s Church in the digital age! Or is it? Whatever the latest technology (and some of us can remember when felt-tips were cutting edge), the results are never going to be better than whatever the users can bring to it. We’ve been fortunate in Northern Synod to have advice and support from the Windermere Centre in setting up our new website – and they’ve also been encouraging our efforts to develop a sharper on-line presence through Facebook and Twitter.
But some of us have still got a lot to learn – and of course you only learn through doing. So it would be great if the inter-active possibilities of this site, and of our Facebook and Twitter presence, were followed up. People in our churches are full of ideas and opinions – and here’s the opportunity for us to bring them out into the open. I just hope it might happen, so that the sense of fellowship and community that we affirm as Christ’s people can touch individuals for whom community is generally only found on-line.
There’s a challenge for all of us in our local churches to get ourselves noticed – and that’s going to mean getting our on-line presence right. People moving into the neighbourhood don’t need to drive up and down the street to see where the nearest church is; and there’s no longer the need to try every one out in turn. Just look at the website, just check out the Facebook page, and you’ve a pretty good idea of which one might be right for you.
But are we thinking in that way? I’m afraid that some of our churches may have tiptoed over the digital threshold, but still seem to have that fluorescent seventies mentality: make it bright and big, but don’t worry too much about the content. I’ve even visited one or two church sites in recent weeks that tell me more about the programme for 2012 than 2015! If we reckon the gospel we’ve been given is worth sharing, then there’s work for all of us to do – and I hope we can find ways of supporting and encouraging one another as we set about it.
Perhaps the synod blog could just be a beginning!