Members of the General Synod are signing up to the social-networking website Facebook, after a new informal group was set up for them last week. Anthony Archer, a lay member for St Albans diocese, set up his own account in May, before embarking on the General Synod project.
“This caused some anxiety among my student children and their friends that the parents’ set were now going to eavesdrop on their kids’ lifestyles,” he said. To test the water, Mr Archer’s posting on his own page of the site was headed: “Can old farts do Facebook?”
Speaking this week, he said the response on the site to his initiative was “a resounding yes”. He believes that it is important for the Church to use this type of media tool. “Networking is a natural desire, and ought to be at the heart of what the Church is doing in a ministry and mission sense.” For the first years of its existence, Facebook was restricted to students and their friends, but last year it was opened to anyone with an email address.
Since the General Synod group went live on 1 August, 13 members have joined Mr Archer. The age-span ranges from Rachel Beck, a lay member for Leicester diocese, who is 27, to Dr Terry Slater, a member for Birmingham, who is 60. The Revd Paul Collier, chaplain to Goldsmiths College, London University, is the only clergy member of Synod to have joined the group so far.
Elsewhere on the site, fans of the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, have created a profile entitled “N T Wright Bishop Extraordinaire”. This contains regularly updated postings and discussions on theological questions.
The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, is a member in his own right. Unlike Dr Wright, who is pictured in purple stock and clerical collar, Bishop Broadbent is shown in casual dress holding a pint glass.
Mr Archer said that he believed it was up to individuals whether they wanted to make use of this new tool. “It would be good if the Archbishops decided to join, although I guess it would be more Dr Sentamu’s cup of tea.”
Oxford University chaplains created a profile earlier this year on Facebook, “Bishop Sentamu come to Oxford”, after the Archbishop of York visited the city for the University Mission.
Students at the University have set up “The Revd Emma Percy Appreciation Society” on the site, under the category “common interest — beauty”. Mrs Percy is Chaplain of Trinity College.