The charge to the Tools Team was to explore the most effective methods and tools to best advance programming and communications throughout the diocese, thereby ensuring that all parishes and congregations, independent of size and/or resources, will be able to have access to programming, information, and Christian formation. The goal is to give people the feeling that we are one “parish of the whole” by expanding our interests, experiences, information, and Christian formation to lead us to increased interaction within the diocese.
We began by listing pertinent existing instruments and programs within the diocese of which we were aware and then moved to listing possible additions or enhancements to those items that we believe could contribute to the desired feeling of oneness within the diocese.
We recognized that we are in the midst of a transition in the means of communication, which can seem chaotic at times. We also recognized that no single tool, in itself, will be adequate. Nevertheless, we believe that useful communication, in whatever format, has a consistent message, is timely, and is received at predictable intervals.
Current means of communications from the diocese to the churches is primarily electronic, with some churches producing print versions for members without electronic access. The other key communication route is what we came to call “organic” — serendipitous conversation, networking, and personal relationships.
Our recommendations began with the suggestion to rethink the ways we “do” Gathering/Convention, exploring alternatives to provide more opportunities for interpersonal interactions. Specifically, we recommend reinstating the hospitality room or some equivalent, as that is a means through which many friendships began. Having benefitted as a team from becoming better acquainted within a smaller group, we suggest that there be activities designed for small group interaction, possibly based on an overall theme. Finally, we urge scheduling that will encourage broad attendance, recognizing that job obligations often make weekday meetings impossible.
To enhance two-way communication, we believe it is important to review and encourage the people from each church who are registered to receive and disseminate the electronically distributed information. We also need a stronger emphasis on having the communications contact person (or another person) provide information back from the church to the diocese as a whole.
In terms of communication from the diocese to the local churches, we believe it would be beneficial to review the frequency at which the current communications are sent out, and the recipients are polled to determine, what actions they take to distribute and share this information. Questions need to be asked, as to what may be done to assist them further in sharing this information with their members. We also recommend that the recipients be polled on the content of the current communications so that the diocese ensures that the information sent out closely serves their, and their members’ needs.
The team’s opinion in advance of obtaining the feedback mentioned above is that it would be beneficial to provide a weekly diocesan bulletin, sent to at least the priest, the senior warden/bishop’s warden, the secretary/office manager, and the designated communications contact. That bulletin could include information about upcoming events and brief reports of past events.
The transition to Digital Faith has reached the limits of its expected adoption. We recommend further information be published on its capabilities in order to encourage further participation and so that all the churches may have an awareness of its potential.
As we move more thoroughly into electronic means of communication, we believe that all such instruments should be as readily navigable and user-friendly as possible. We also know that they need to recognize generational differences via format, style, and content while being streamlined, consolidated, and condensed. In all cases, they need to provide effective, user-friendly ways to contribute.
We strongly encourage consideration of our recommendations in planning wherever appropriate, be it at the diocesan level or locally.