Archive - Feb 2013

February 28th

Does Your Church Have a Social Media Calling?

For years, I've been trying to get church leaders to adopt social media with mixed success. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the responses and recently got into another discussion about churches and social media. One person asked, "What will help you make the case to leadership who doesn't think social media is necessary at all?"

As I thought about it, I had to ask myself, is social media really necessary for a church? Whenever I speak with people about their desire to use social media, I try to get people to focus on how it relates to their mission. Too often, in the business or nonprofit world, people want to use social media because other people are using it.

This attitude was reflected in some of the responses, "Everyone does it why not us!!", "Social Media is Everywhere!" One person went so far as to jokingly (I assume), suggest a coup to replace leaders that don't embrace social media, and others echoed the suggestion.

I responded, "Perhaps, if a case needs to be made for a church to use social media, it isn't the right time for the church to use it." This was not well received by these social media evangelists.

A response I got was, "Congregation has to want to grow, reach out, spread the gospel." I noted that congregations have grown for two millennia without the use of online social media. I'm not sure that the desire to grow requires a desire to use social media, and I recognize that there are ways besides reaching out and spreading the Gospel that churches may find as more important missions.

I followed up with the question, "Should a Church feel *called* to use social media?" When you think about a church's mission, its calling, some seem to be called more towards worship, towards fellowship, towards outreach, towards caring for the needy. The decision about if and how to use social media needs to be tied to the specific goals of a church. Using social media as outreach is very different from using it as a form of worship, education, or ministry to the needy.

One person responded, "Does a church feel called to use a telephone? Or does it just do it? " To the extent that social media is simply another method of one person casually contacting another person, then that response might make sense, but if it is part of a larger mission, part of a ministry, it might require a little more thought.

Following the casual approach to social media, another person responded, "Social media is just another tool for evangelization and other forms of ministry". If that is all that it is to these people, perhaps they should just stay with using it themselves and not try to pressure people less comfortable with the specific tools of social media to use them. Each person should use the tool they are most comfortable with. Are all members tweeters? Are all members phone bankers? There are many gifts, yet one body. Yet I think there is something more to social media than just that.

I tried to reflect this in my comment about how "Churches need to discern which tools will work best for them." It ties back to mission. Using social media may be very useful in reaching certain audiences, but if you're really focusing on prisoners or people in nursing homes, it might not prove all that useful.

I write all of this as I prepare to head off to choir. I need to determine how my time will best be used. Will it be on Twitter or will it be in the choir loft? What is the right mix?

It leads me back to a favorite psalm of mine, Psalm 127. Paraphrasing it for the discussion, "Unless the LORD builds the website, the builders labor in vain…. In vain you rise early and stay up late, tweeting, for HE grants sleep to those HE loves sleep"

Folks in the discussion acknowledged that social media is time consuming, and suggested not mentioning that to church leaders, but I do believe we need to be good stewards of the time that the LORD has given us.

So, I offer this up to others as they think about if and how their church should use social media, or if there church really does have a social media calling.

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February 27th

Like Humans Do

Here in Connecticut, February is winding down with rainy days. In Rome, it is Pope Benedict's reign that is winding down, and I won't venture to guess what is winding down in Washington as sequestration approaches.

Winters are hard for me. I would hibernate if I could. Rain just amplifies this, and this winter, the death of my mother is another compounding factor. Yet I try to take time to stay on top of the latest memes online. I've managed to miss most of the Harlem Shake, yet it is in my consciousness. Today, I shared the pig saving a goat with various friends.

Recently, I read John Cassidy's article, Is It Rational to Watch the Oscars?. He explores the idea of 'common knowledge', those things you need to know to fit in during discussions around the water cooler. He talks about how this has changed in the era of online social networks.

I always have mixed feelings about this. How do you share in the common knowledge, see the palimpsest that we live our lives against, without being defined or constrained by it? What role does common knowledge play in our social contracts?

Last night, on my way home from work, I stopped at a funeral home to pay final respects to the mother of a friend from church. I may have met his mother at church on some rare occasions but I didn't really know here. One person thanked me for coming, and that struck me as odd. Of course I would come. That is what friends do. The words of David Byrne came to me, "like humans do".

From the memorial, I stopped at the house briefly only to find that another friend had passed away unexpectedly. I rushed off to a commission meeting, yet the Oscars, Trudy, Ellen and David Byrne stuck with me.

The rain will soon pass, as will the memorial services. The award ceremonies will continue and all of this will merge together with personal experiences and common knowledge to provide the backdrop to our lives.

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February 26th

Lent, Zen, Decluttering

For the first month and a half of 2013, I was doing pretty well getting up a blog post every day. Then, last Friday I hit the wall, and have let a few days slip without writing any blog posts.

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. There is a lot happening at work to deal with. In my personal life, I'm dealing with settling my mother's estate, including the giant task of getting the childhood home ready for the market. The wintertime colds continue to ravish the family. There are Health Leadership Fellows Program tasks to complete. Politics is heating up again as the General Assembly meets in Hartford and we enter the local electoral season. I'm becoming more active in my church and attended my first vestry meeting at Grace and St. Peter's last week. Then, there are all those online courses I've been so interested in.

My mother lived in my childhood home for fifty years. She was a daughter of the depression and she saved many things. There are old tins that typewriter ribbon once came in that have been storing rubber bands or twist ties for decades. Our home was on a small farm and we have a root cellar with canning jars of food my mother put away in my childhood. The dust, combined with cat hair has encrusted everything that hasn't recently been used.

One of my brothers joined my sister and I as we started the task of cleaning. One morning, I was up early before my siblings and I tackled the dishes in the sink. I remembered the story from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones:

A monk told Joshu: "I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me."
Joshu asked: "Have you eaten your rice porridge?"
The monk replied: "I have eaten."
Joshu said: "Then you had better wash your bowl."
At that moment the monk was enlightened.

The kitchen looked much nicer after the dishes had been washed and put away. I felt a little guilty having taken this opportunity to gain enlightenment from my siblings, but I looked around the house and realized there would be many more such opportunities

What really does matter? What do we hold onto as important memories? What is the clutter that blocks us from seeing them? What do we throw away?

Sunday morning, I rose early and went to St. John's Church in Williamstown. During communion, the congregation sang, "On Eagle's Wings". It is a song that I have sang at too many funerals. This evening, I will head off to yet another funeral.

It now Tuesday morning, a week after my most recent trip to Williamstown. I'm sitting at a coffee shop in Middletown attending a meeting that didn't materialize. It has given me a chance to sit, and think, and write.

Various songs play over the loudspeaker, but my mind drifts to Elton John, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" and Paul Simon, "Kodachrome".

What do we hold onto as important memories? What fades away?

It is Lent, and the church newsletter spoke about Lenten detoxification. How is the clutter in our lives getting in the way of us seeing what really matters? Perhaps it relates back to washing our bowls.

So, I take a few moments to reflect before throwing myself back into the fray.

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February 21st

Opening the Supreme Court to the Highest Bidder

The latest news from the Supreme Court is that they are considering eliminating certain political campaign limits. The ‘logic’ is that money is speech and limiting the amount of money that can be spent on campaigns is limiting the free speech of wealthy individuals.

Following this argument to its ridiculous and irrational conclusion, extremely wealthy people should be able to say who the Supreme Court justices should be. Let’s open up Supreme Court seats to the highest bidder. Since the Supreme Court has used similar logic to determine that corporations are persons, we should include naming rights to the seats, similar how sports stadiums are now being named after corporations, or should I say ‘persons’. For example, Justice Scalia could serve on the AT&T Supreme Court Seat and Justice Thomas could serve on the Exxon-Mobile Supreme Court seat.

Each seat would be held until the justice dies, retires, or some other ‘person’ enters a higher bid for the seat. This could be a short term gain for the U.S. Treasury as the seats get initially auctioned off, but longer term, it would most likely have a negative effect as Supreme Court decisions would be bound to reduce wealthy ‘persons’ tax liabilities to the government, as well as other liabilities and responsibilities to the society they are part of.

At least, this would make the Supreme Court more transparent and help cement Justices Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, and Alito place in history as the Supreme Court justices that have sold the American Dream and all it stands for to the highest bidder.

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February 20th

Testimony Supporting Senate Bill 366


Sen. Gerratana, Rep. Johnson, members of the Public Health Committee. I am writing to you today concerning Senate Bill 366, AN ACT REQUIRING LICENSED SOCIAL WORKERS AND COUNSELORS TO COMPLETE CONTINUING EDUCATION COURSEWORK IN CULTURAL FOUNDATIONS. My name is Aldon Hynes. I live in Woodbridge, CT. I am the Social Media Manager for the Community Health Center, Inc., headquartered in Middletown, CT and am a member of the Connecticut Health Foundation's 2013 Health Leadership Fellows Program. My testimony is based on my experiences with these two organizations, but I am speaking on my own behalf.

Every year, the General Assembly considers many bills. Those that move forward requires fiscal notes from the Office of Financial Analysis. It is my belief that every bill that moves forward should also require an analysis of its health equity impact: how does the bill effect the health of the people of Connecticut, and how equitably does it meet that impact?

SB 366 is a bill that I believe can have a positive impact on the health of Connecticut's citizens and do so in an equitable manner. The better informed Licensed Social Workers and Counselors are in the cultural foundations which affect their care of patients, the better the outcomes we can expect. In addition these outcomes are most likely to assist those from different cultures that experience health disparities, making such training important in achieving health equity. Currently, all staff, especially those in behavioral health, at the Community Health Center are expected to complete yearly cultural foundation training. The cost is minimal and the benefit can be great.

Therefore, I strongly urge you to support SB 366 and to consider all bills in terms of the health impact they have and how equitably they active this impact.

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