One of my favourite advertisements has to be this one, from O2:-
with the strapline “We’re better, connected.”
The original campaign included ads with sport, music and relationship themes.
The strapline seems to apply equally to our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ and maybe should be adopted by mainstream churches as part of their “marketing?”
I was reminded of this phrase and advertisement campaign this week as The Methodist Conference 2012 (representative session) opened in Plymouth on Saturday, 30 June 2012. As the Methodist societies grew at a fast rate, some way of keeping in touch and organising them was needed. John Wesley held what became an annual conference of Methodist preachers.
In 1784 he made provision for the continuance as a corporate body after his death of the ‘Yearly Conference of the People called Methodists’.
Being connected is at the heart of Methodism – to quote the Methodist Church in Britain website
Methodists belong to local churches or ecumenical partnerships, but also feel part of a larger connected community, the Connexion.
This sense of being connected makes a difference to how the Methodist Church as a whole is structured. At its heart is an understanding of the Christian community as the ‘body of Christ’. Just as a human body contains different limbs and organs that depend on each other, so we should be close and caring enough to feel each other’s pain and delight. We should put the good of the whole body before our own individual needs.
The relationships we have – firstly and most importantly, with God; secondly, with each other, are absolutely vital. We need to be totally connected to each other and totally connected to God – as Mark Wakelin, the latest President of the MCIB put it in his address to Conference on 30 June, we need to be “so close to God that we feel his breath on our cheek”
This need for connection, for a sense of belonging, a sense of being part of each other and part of God has been reflected in the fact that this year, as in the last few years, the main events and business of Conference has been livestreamed over the Internet.
There has also been opportunity for people to follow and contribute to the Conference Blog and on Twitter, using the #methconf hashtag, enabling people from all around the Connexion and the world not only to follow but to interact with the debates and the speeches. There are several hundred representatives who are physically present in Plymouth, but many thousands more digitally connected to the Conference and the Church.
Statistics available from Digital Mission @digimission prove that people are connecting – figures for the official opening day alone show 823 tweets tagged #methconf, making 809,413 impressions and an audience of 93,120 people.
Before the technology existed to keep us connected in this way, only a select few would have had any idea what had happened at the Conference and information would have percolated ever so slowly around the Connexion, giving the average member in the pew little chance to interact with the issues.
Financial constraints mean that those who set the annual budget of the Church are suggesting curtailing the live video streaming in future years. This would surely be a massive mistake!
Conference spent some time, in the Ministerial session, reflecting on the subject of doors. Participants were asked to reflect on where there were locked doors in the life of the church that were “blocking” them from going out and sharing the gospel and preventing them from fulfilling the call to ministry. I really hope the digital doorway that has opened up to allow the light of Christ to shine out into the world is not padlocked for the sake of saving money! I agree with O2, we’re better, connected – let’s stay that way!