Telling our Story
The Heart of the Church is Mission
The Communications Ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico is composed of a creative team that includes a graphic designer and an art designer. We have a press and in the last year have inaugurated an audio recording studio, a radio studio, a video recording studio and an AM broadcast, providing coverage in the southern part of the Island.
Rafael Morales, our diocesan bishop, views communications as an investment, not an expense, and has given a great deal of importance to the Communication Ministry in this diocese. He has emphasized digital output as a tool to support the ministry and pastoral work done by the church in Puerto Rico.
The more congregations feel in touch and in communication with each other, the more they feel they are part of the church. Effective communication in all areas of the church is reflected in evangelism, discipleship and stewardship. If parishioners receive effective digital and printed material, they are likely to respond positively to any campaign undertaken in these three areas.
The importance of communications in challenging times
A communications ministry is of the utmost importance for every diocese. As Christians, it is our duty to share our faith (evangelize). There is no excuse for a church to lag in developing communications – especially now. The need for visibility in the world is even more evident in this pandemic, and the fastest and easiest way to do that is through the use of social media.
Because we already had a great communications ministry in place, we were prepared to take on the challenge posed by the pandemic. The diocese’s Office of Communications had tools available to give the clergy and parishioners vital energy.
Some members of the clergy and congregational leaders were already familiar with videoconferencing tools like Zoom and Facebook Live. Those who were not, adapted speedily, so we managed to keep the church alive, despite closing our buildings.
Some church ministries, like youth and women’s, found a vehicle for continuing their ministerial work in social media. It was wonderful to see the bishop, surrounded by the church and providing a way through media to carry Christ’s message to all Puerto Rican people.
Since my arrival in Puerto Rico in February 2018, it has been easy to develop and advance the Office of Communications and Digital Evangelization. Bishop Morales sees communications as important and vital, especially in these times, and projects are not tied up in the bureaucracy seen in some dioceses. We can work with surprising speed, test and tweak our online projects before posting.
The diocese of Puerto Rico unites around mission
I am heartened by the Bishop’s leadership in all areas of the church and by his support for communications. He is always at the forefront of the diocese, encouraging us to do more. The motto for our diocese is “The heart of the church is Mission,” and he has called 2020 the Year of Missions. He broadcasts reflections three times per week and also offers Sunday reflections.
But what is most encouraging is to see our churches committed to mission and aligned with the bishop’s vision. This was most visible during Holy Week, when all services were held virtually, and it fills me with optimism. As the slogan many of us are using says, “The church buildings are closed, but the church remains alive.” We were able to do this because our communications office was prepared.
The church – that is the people – have been making use of our resources, especially those on social media. I have been gratified by their response during this quarantine, living their faith through the media, particularly social media. And not only in Puerto Rico, but in many places around the world.
Steps to an effective social media ministry
As Christians, we have the obligation to share our faith and I have learned that social media is an effective network for doing so. All you need is to want to do it.
My five tips for an effective communications ministry:
- Interest on the part of the bishop (if at the diocesan level) and the vicar/priest (if at the congregational level). If there is no one trained to do communications, YouTube has thousands of videos showing you how, the tools to use and how to use them.
- As heads of the church, bishops must understand that communications plays an important role in the church and that a substantial portion of the diocesan budget should be dedicated to developing it. A ministry cannot be sustainable without the support of the church leadership.
- Money is not a restriction in developing a communications ministry. If you have a smart phone with Internet connection, you are ready to start!
- Social media and the Internet have a great deal of content, so it is important to generate good material.
- Communications is not limited to social media. It also involves printed material, phone apps, virtual education, promotional materials, etc.
Let’s continue the communications ministry. Let’s continue to learn and search out better ways to be a living and committed church. In sharing our faith we are transmitting love, peace, hope and faith to a world tormented by doubts and fears, particularly at this time. God calls us to be light and to share the love of Jesus Christ with all the world. The heart of the church is mission!
The Rev. Edgar Giraldo is Director of Communications and Digital Evangelism for the Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico. An Episcopal priest and electronic engineer, he is married and has two children.
Some ways the Diocese of Puerto Rico communicates its to commitment to mission:
- Get Up! We are Salt and Light that renews!
- Appreciation for the Diocesan Clergy!
- Episcopal Radio of the Diocese of Puerto Rico
- Facebook page, Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico
- Official Site of the Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico
- Words of reflection and support from the Diocesan Bishop
- The ministry of communications by Richelle Thompson, ECF Vital Practices blog, February 27, 2012
- Using Video to Tell Your Story, ECF Vital Practices Tool
- Social Media Campaigns, by Charis Bhagianathan, Vestry Papers, November 2016
- We’re in Jesus’ Marketing Department, by Sandra Montes, Vestry Papers, July 2018