Giles Fraser: Tweet that good-news message
Posted: 06 Jul 2011 @ 00:00
THE Pope has started on Twitter. As of Tuesday, he had 69,000 followers — still a long way to go to catch Lady Gaga’s 11 million. For readers not fully conversant with Twitter, it might be worth explaining that this is a micro-blogging website that allows you to send short messages (called tweets) to people who sign up as your followers.
Part of the point of the messages’ being short is that it allows them to be fed continually to your followers’ mobile phones. Thus you can sit in the pub and follow other people around their daily goings-on in real time. I started doing it last month. But, for the life of me, I can’t work out what to say. Apparently, in order to retain the interest of your followers, you need to tweet at least once a day.
Many people offer a running commentary on their lives and thoughts. So you might tweet: “Off to the shops. Sunny Day;” or a bishop might tweet: “Ordained a dozen deacons today.”
You have to be really clever to make any of this interesting. The Revd Richard Coles tweets brilliantly about parish life in Northamptonshire. But most of us don’t have half his wit. And, unless you are careful, this sort of diary tweeting can come across as terribly me, me, me — and deadly dull, too, which is not a great combination.
Others use Twitter as a campaigning or advertising tool. In this, it can be useful to churches. There is a parish fête coming up; you need more helpers. So you generate an instant message and hope to get near-instant results. You can also tweet prayer requests. Likewise, you can tweet links to longer pieces on the web, such as sermons and articles.
There is much dross to sift. As with all things in life, you choose whom you follow with care. But make no mistake: this is a revolution. In a consultation between the media and the Church that was organised earlier this year, the Times journalist Ruth Gledhill — who has become something of a specialist in new media — argued that, far from lagging behind, the Church is actually surprisingly sophisticated in its use of modern communications technology. I guess we have form on this (the printing press, and so on).
For those churches that feel ignored or patronised by traditional forms of media, the current explosion in new ways of getting the message across offers direct access to followers. Communication is being re-democratised. And, as it was with Gutenberg’s press, some parts of the Church will feel threatened by this. Others will thrive.
The Revd Dr Giles Fraser is Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral and Director of the St Paul’s Institute.