April 1, 2013

Using New Media to Tell a Story

This past week I helped some of my colleagues at Trinity Wall Street create videos for the Stations of the Cross using Vine (you can see them on Trinity’s twitter feed @trinitywallst). Vine is a fairly new video service that allows you to create six-second videos that repeat themselves. It was a bit of an experiment, though I think it was successful.

It’s easy to see Twitter and Facebook and your church’s webpage as simply methods for conveying information, but I was reminded while interviewing the Rev. Eric Law a few weeks ago that electronic media can also be a creative medium for the church, as stained glass and architecture and statuary have been in the past.

Trinity and other churches have made steps in this direction, through webcasts, resources for meditation, and telling stories on Twitter (I joined Twitter in 2009 so I could follow the Passion on Trinity’s Twitter feed).

Outside the church, writer Teju Cole has used Twitter to tell tiny fictional stories about those affected by drone strikes, and Roger Ebert uses his Facebook page to make Netflix movie recommendations. There are many ways that social media can be used beyond simply letting others know the time and date of services or posting Bible verses (though I think these are also a good use of social media).

Not every church can or should be worried about creating content like this, of course. If all you have the time and staff for is a simple Facebook page, that’s what you should do. Still, it’s worth asking ourselves, how can we use electronic media to share the good news in new ways, to make art that points toward God, as the church has been making art for millennia?

Jesus used parables and preaching in a way that challenged us and could be passed from person to person and generation to generation in the form of stories. In that oral storytelling culture, maybe these parables (or the beatitudes) were something like modern day Tweets or memes or YouTube videos, meaningful stories that can be shared, that will challenge us and ultimately lead to relationships.

Ultimately, it’s real relationship and community that we hope to create. We do not and cannot live solely through the internet, but electronic media can draw us in and help connect us. We’ve got lots of Good News to communicate. How can social media can be a way to do that creatively?