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To reap, thou shall tweet

Churches tap into social media to create community

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Organizer Gareth Neufeld (left), wtih Rev. Bob Gilbert, says the goal is to develop a 'justice-seeking faith voice.'

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Organizer Gareth Neufeld (left), wtih Rev. Bob Gilbert, says the goal is to develop a 'justice-seeking faith voice.' Photo Store

When it comes to social change and political engagement, Allison Chubb believes the millennial generation has a thing or two to teach their elders about communicating ideas.

 

"In this particular case, we need to listen to those who come after us and allow them to take the reins," explains the University of Manitoba chaplain and youth outreach worker.

Although she's only 27, the Anglican chaplain at St. John's College found she had to adapt to the ways teenagers communicate and stay connected. Because millennials communicate mostly by text or social media, Chubb says their elders need to acknowledge -- and even embrace -- how these new media are vital in creating community for that demographic.

"There's this whole wing of Christianity that has this idea that social media is purely bad and should be resisted," says Chubb, an ordained Anglican deacon headed for the priesthood.

"As Christians, we believe God is the creator of both culture and community."

Chubb speaks about social media and how it can be a tool of the church -- and yes, even of God -- to provoke social change at the upcoming Faith in the City I conference, which runs Friday, Nov. 1 to Sunday, Nov. 3 at Augustine United Church, 444 River Ave.

The three-day ecumenical conference grew out of a 20-member justice study group at the Osborne Village church (http://justlivingaugustineuc.blogspot.ca/), which explores issues such as fair trade, environmentalism and political engagement, explains conference organizer Gareth Neufeld.

"We want to bring a justice-seeking faith voice into the life of a congregation in the heart of the city," he explains.

"Most of the voices (at the conference) are exploring this question: To what extent ought Christians to rely on politics to bring about the just and peaceful world God is intending?"

Neufeld has lined up some of the city's social-justice heavy hitters, including David Northcott of Winnipeg Harvest, former NDP MLA Marianne Cerilli, now of the Social Planning Council, city councillor Jenny Gerbasi and Geez magazine editor Aiden Enns.

For Bill Blaikie, a former NDP provincial cabinet minister and MP and an ordained United Church minister, the question is not whether people of faith are engaged in the political process, but how they do it.

"The prophetic tradition of the Bible is the prophets and Jesus speaking truth to power," says Blaikie, who delivers the keynote address 7 p.m. Friday.

"But in a democracy, should churches be speaking to the government or should churches be speaking to the people?"

Sometimes, the conversation doesn't even go that far, he laments.

"I think churches speak to their own people, but do they try to speak to anyone else?" asks Blaikie.

"There's a lot of preaching to the converted."

And there's also a lot of preaching about how things once were, adds Chubb, which isn't the way to engage the generation of Idle No More and the Occupy movements. She says the organizers of those recent social movements understood how to connect, but older generations experienced in social justice can help them focus and articulate their positions.

"There's enough of a cultural shift (that) 'Do it the way we do it' just isn't going to work," says Chubb.

brenda@suderman.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 26, 2013 D12

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Updated on Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 10:34 AM CDT: Fixed cutline

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