Sunday, 17 April 2011

A sermon in ten tweets

Stephen Lingwood, Minister at Bank Street Unitarian Chapel, Bolton, describes his experience

Anyone who cares about getting a spiritual message out to the general public cannot afford to ignore the Internet. That’s why at Bank Street Unitarian Chapel Bolton we have been seeking new ways to increase our web presence.

We have a website, and since 2009 have uploaded videos of reflections onto YouTube and to date have had over 2,000 views.

Then, in early 2011, we created a page on Facebook and a profile on Twitter. But the question remained of how we could use these new media outlets to get our message across.

The answer was perhaps one that a preacher like me would easily come to: I could “preach.” So I set myself the challenge of preaching five “Ten-Tweet” reflections/ sermons every day for one week. The local press responded well to the idea and wrote an article that appeared the Saturday before I started.

From Monday to Friday I posted a reflection each day in fewer than ten tweets. The subjects were: the banking industry, wealth and materialism, grasping and letting go, busyness, and gay rights. It was a challenge to make reflections that short, but I’ve always believed that profound things can be said in simple ways, so it was a valuable discipline to say things as succinctly as possible.

What was the outcome? It’s always difficult to say with these things. However we can say that within a few weeks we had over 100 followers from all over the world.

One American Tweeter said they thought what we were doing was great, and that they wanted to get their own church to do it. More locally the press coverage led to me being invited to appear on the local community radio station where I was able to talk about Twitter and about our community.

Someone was led from Twitter to our website where they left a message on the guestbook saying they liked the sound of what we stood for and would come along to a service to find out more soon.

You never know the seeds you are planting when you do things like that, but it’s felt like a worthwhile activity to use Twitter to get our message out there. It’s always worth trying something new.

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