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Tools of the trade...

October 12, 2013
Tools of the trade
What is our mission as Church? This has been very much in my mind, especially since World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. The theme of that event was from Matthew 28:16-20: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” That ‘s what we refer to as the “great commission” – indeed it is the mission of the Church. But it’s not just “make disciples.” It’s also, baptizing them, teaching them and remembering that Christ is with us always. If we are to be this Church that is dogmatic (all authority has been given to me), missionary (go), apostolic (make disciples), sacramental (baptizing), catechetical (teaching) and pastoral (I am with you always), we must take this mission seriously. Pope Francis made it very simple: “Go, without fear, to serve” (homily during Final Mass on Copacabana Beach).
The Gospel of Mark puts the whole mission in much simpler terms: “Proclaim the Good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) Note that it does not say, “teach.” It doesn’t say, “preach”. It doesn’t say, “tell the Good news” (although some translations may use those words); the best translations use the word, “proclaim”. We are to proclaim the Good news. If we are to take the mission of the Church seriously, I think we need to reflect on the meaning of that word, “proclaim.” I will not go into this right now, except to say that “proclamation” implies a certain majesty, a certain authority and a certain joy.
But for us in media, the key word in both these scripture passages is the word “all”. We are to make disciples of ALL nations; we are to proclaim the Good news to ALL creation. That is what the tools of new media, or mass media allow us to do in a way that was not possible centuries ago. In fact, today we are able to reach, literally, ALL creation with one click of the mouse. 30 years ago, this was just not possible.
In a nutshell, this is the content of my talk on effective communication that is part of our Media and the New Evangelization seminar that we recently offered to the Priests and Deacons of the diocese of Calgary. We offered the same seminar to the Priests of the Diocese of Hamilton last year.
Our team is comprised of myself, along with our Director of Marketing and Communications, Noel Ocol, producer Cheridan Sanders, our social networking expert, Stefan Slovak and Chris Adamczyk who is now the Digital Communications Manager for the Hamilton Diocese. The seminar focuses on everything, from simple communication from the pulpit, to videos, audio, social networking, Facebook and Twitter and the dreaded Parish website. In particular we focus on the new tools that are now available to us because of the Internet.There are so many great video resources, audio podcasts, blogs and online journals available that can help us stay informed and help us learn more about and stay nourished in our Faith. Perhaps the most useful tools however, are the tools for social networking. We can connect with “all creation” in ways that were not possible even five years ago. There are disadvantages to using social media, but the advantages far outweigh the risks.
At the end of our two-day seminar in Calgary with the Permanent Deacons and their wives, Deacon Norm Dumais presented us with a very unique gift: A tool box.
Here are the contents of the tool box:
A saw: We are at the cutting edge of many of these technologies. Sometimes we are even at the bleeding edge, not knowing exactly how the technology can best serve our needs. The saw is there to remind us that (since St. Paul) the Church has always been at the cutting edge of communication and needs to always remain there if she is going to take seriously the command to communicate the Good news to all the nations.
A Screwdriver: Sometimes we get all wound up and need to unwind. Sometimes we need to tighten up our thoughts and ideas so as to best communicate them. The screwdriver is there to remind us that even if we think that something is already tight enough, it may still need tightening; sometimes it needs loosening.
Screws, nuts and bolts: To what do we attach ourselves? To the wood of the Cross. If we use social media we are making ourselves more vulnerable; more open to criticism (when has the Church not been criticised?) Our deacon mentor used to always tell us in formation that he hoped that we looked “good on wood.” He would say, “I hope you look good on wood, because you’re going to be crucified." We think of all the brave men and women missionaries who literally went to the ends of the earth to proclaim the good news. They were persecuted, they fell sick, they were exposed to many dangers and many were martyred – why are we afraid to use Facebook and Twitter? Don’t be afraid of this new digital continent. The Church needs to be there but in order to do so, we need to remain steadfast. The nuts and bolts are to attach us to the wood of the Cross. (Which is why there is also a little piece of wood in the tool box!)
Tape Measure: When using these tools it is good to measure our success. Not that we need to be success-oriented or that it would be our success; but it’s always good to assess. This is why all these online tools come with opportunities for analytics. We shouldn’t depend too much on these, and definitely make sure that it’s not all about that, but these analytics tools are there to help us measure the effectiveness of our reach; to see what works and what doesn’t work. The tape measure is there to remind us that we need to always measure ourselves, but not according to our standards; according to the standard of God.
Pliers: Sometimes we need to get a grip on things. It's easy to get discouraged or to lose perspective of the big picture. Sometimes it's easy to lose perspective of God's view. The pliers are in the toolbox to remind us that we need help in order to hold on and to get a grip when we feel like we're losing ground.
Hammer: Deacon Norm finished by telling us that he grew up in the 60s with a popular song by Peter, Paul and Mary about a hammer, If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning, I'd hammer in the evening, All over this land... It’s a song about justice and freedom. While justice is just one part of our mission as Church, the hammer analogy applies to the whole mission: We must hammer in the morning, hammer in the evening, hammer everywhere, all the time “all over this land.”
The tool box is a toy. The tools are made of plastic; it was purchased at a toy store, but it now sits in a prominent place in our office to remind us of our mission as Church, to go and proclaim the Good news to all creation and that we have wonderful tools at our disposal.What an opportunity for evangelization!
 Thank you Deacon Norm for helping us summarize so well what we do. It was a great privilege (and great fun) to be in Calgary, as it was being in Hamilton last year, sharing our knowledge and what we do with all of you who are committed to proclaim the Good News. It was an honour to be invited to share our expertise and we are hoping to be able to take this message to all dioceses across Canada and the U.S. Maybe even to all the world!
Pope John Paul II said that The Gospel lives always in conversation with culture, for the Eternal Word never ceases to be present to the Church and to humanity. If the Church holds back from culture, the Gospel itself falls silent. Therefore, we must be fearless in crossing the cultural threshold of the communications and information revolution now taking place. (Address to the participants in the Plenary Meeting of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, March 1, 2002.) Those are strong words. So, what are we waiting for? Let's be fearless; let’s go, without fear, to serve!

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