Did you hear it? It was faint, and you had to listen closely, but there was a “quiet chatter” during this year’s Annual Conference session.
A handful of clergy and laity communicated with each other – and potentially hundreds or thousands of other people not at the Annual Conference session – through the microblogging website Twitter.
A fairly new trend in social media, Twitter allows users to post 140 character updates called tweets. People use Twitter to share news, recommendations and photos, and to make new friends, track events, and communicate with each other.
Communicating via Twitter during a meeting or conference is a lot like passing notes in class – but much less disruptive. It’s also a lot more fun than simply sitting and listening.
“It is great to hear what others are thinking, even when you aren't sitting with them,” said Rev. Kevin Veitinger, pastor of Wildwood/The Foundery, a new United Methodist Church in Savannah.
Dr. John Stephens, pastor of Wesley at Frederica United Methodist Church on St. Simons Island, said that interesting dialogue, questions and feedback occurred during debates through Twitter and that the experience was “truly connectional.”
“My editorial comments were once limited to those seated next to me … now everyone can listen in,” he responded via Twitter.
Twitter is also a great way to attend a conference without actually being there. By following a meeting’s hashtag (the conference’s hashtag during the Annual Conference session was #sgaumc), followers can keep up on all of its news and happenings.
Rev. Victor Scott, director of youth ministries at Cordele First United Methodist Church, watched a lot of the Annual Conference session via live stream and followed along via Twitter.
From his office at the church, he could keep up with what was happening in Tifton.
Josh Burnham, LifeGroups coordinator for LifeSpring United Methodist Church in Statesboro, attended Monday evening’s ordination service but watched a few other sessions online and also “chatted” via Twitter.
And, as a denomination that stresses the importance of connectionalism, Twitter helped clergy stay connected with one another, even when sitting across the room.
“I enjoyed the real-time interaction with the Bible studies, sermons, and business items,” said Rev. Jack Varnell, pastor of Live Oak and Unity United Methodist Churches. “I felt more connected.”
Rev. Ben Gosden, associate pastor at Macon’s Mulberry Street United Methodist Church, tweeted on his smartphone and iPad during Annual Conference. He said via Twitter, “the real-time interactions connected us. By Thurs we were enjoying jokes 2gether. It forms community 140 characters at a time. And I loved the format! I hope we continue to do that at all conference events in the future.”
Here’s a sampling of what was being tweeted during the 2011 Annual Conference session:
jcvarnell Jack Varnell
jdsmit5 Jonathan Smith
NARandallJr Ashley Randall
#sgaumc John Wesley moment: "Money can be a wonderful servant, but a cruel master."
bgosden Ben Gosden
So meaningful to hear a retiring clergy person have special words for young clergy, "don't let anyone steal your joy." Thank you! #sgaumc
thejohnstephens John E. Stephens
The_Rev_Kev Kevin Veitinger
I'm encouraged by Bishop King's perspective of the CtA #sgaumc
bmaddocks Brett Maddocks
AC2011 in the books. Good to see friends - old and new. #sgaumc #peaceimoutofhere