It is, by now, not news to most faith communities that if they aren't communicating through the social networking tools of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others, they simply aren't being heard by a generation or two of folks.
But how is it possible to use (and even redeem) these tools in ways that are both effective and that make theological sense within the context of each particular congregation, denomination or faith group?
That's part of what The New Media project just launched by Union Theological Seminary of New York plans to explore on its new Web site and blog, http://blog.newmediaprojectatunion.org.
As last week's press release announcing this project says, clergy "need broader, theologically grounded reflection on the lasting effect these technologies will have on the church and its global ministries."
Clearly this is an effort aimed at Christian churches, but I'm guessing other faith communities will be able to learn a fair amount as the reports and studies roll out on the new site over the next months and years.
This is research that should have been started several years ago, but churches are notoriously slow to pick up on new trends. At least the social networking tools aren't being ignored now. But what about in your own congregation? How is it using these tools. If it isn't, better find a way before your congregation's voice becomes increasingly irrelevant.
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DESERVED PRAISE FOR PATEL
Eboo Patel, founder and head of the Interfaith Youth Core and former keynote speaker at the Kansas City Festival of Faiths, was the subject of a great profile this week in the New York Times. Eboo's hard work also helped lead to creation of the Kansas City Interfaith Youth Alliance, which has been doing excellent work in helping young people understand people of different faiths and work with them on common projects.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.