Online Feature – The Church & Social Media

Social MediaBased upon the cover story in Church of Ireland Gazette – 8th March 2013 …

It would be great to begin using our social media platforms to get some ideas based upon this story …in order to take this discussion into the wider church

So the question is … In what ways are your parish / Diocese / organization … using their websites / Facebook / twitter etc?

What ideas could the church use for reaching out using Social media to those in our churches/ society ?


… feel free to leave comments at the bottom of the page …they will be moderated before being published for obvious reasons

twitter tag for this discussion is #coig

our facebook page is



The Cover Story

The Church of Ireland Central Communications Board (CCB), chaired by the Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, the Rt Revd Trevor Williams, recently hosted a Communications Day in Church House, Rathmines, Dublin, for a range of people involved in Church communications throughout Ireland.

Facilitated by the Church of Ireland Press Officer, Dr Paul Harron, the usually biennial event provides an important opportunity for Diocesan Communications Officers (DCOs), diocesan magazine and website editors, Press Office staff and members of the CC B to reconnect with each other, share ideas and discuss matters of mutual interest and concern.

The day was designed to be an opportunity to address core issues and challenges surrounding effective communication of the Church’s news and mission in today’s complex and fast-moving multimedia society.


The keynote speaker was Karen Burke, Media Officer with the Methodist Church in Britain, who is a qualified journalist and was a senior reporter on a local London newspaper before taking up her present post with the Methodist Church in 2008.

In the morning session, Ms Burke focused on developing strategies for communicating the mission of the Church to new audiences via social media, ranging from Facebook and Twitter to blogs and e-zines. She saw social media as being “a new era into which we’ve all entered” and believed that all forms of media, including those which were Church-related, needed to become social in order to survive.

The characteristics of such media forms, she said, included being “online, interactive, responsive, fast and cumulative”, though she advised participants to be mindful of the legalities involved: “Once it is published, it is published and permanent.”

Using her expertise and experience with the Methodist Church – which enjoys a reputation as being exemplary in communicating in relevant and contemporary ways – Ms Burke shared objectively and sympathetically with participants perspectives on social media strategies.

Ms Burke stressed part of the Methodist Church’s social media guidelines: “All new forms of communication provide opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in the world [but] whereas the printed word has a certain finality of declaration about it, social media is interactive, conversational and openended … in a public, not private, space.”

The morning session ended with informal group discussions among participants on current communications challenges in their respective posts.


In the afternoon session, the Revd Clifford Skillen, assistant editor of The Church of Ireland Gazette, outlined developments in two areas of the paper’s production.

First, he updated participants on how the Gazette was responding to and embracing the challenges and opportunities presented by social media strategies and Internet technology.

He referred in particular to the audio interviews which the Gazette editor, Canon Ian Ellis, conducts periodically with various Church figures, a feature which has “added a new dimension to the paper and has been well received”; the Gazette’s recent epaper – an “exciting development”; and the paper’s recent move to a new website based on the WordPress Content management platform which allows it to integrate automatically with Facebook and Twitter.

The assistant editor said that the Gazette hoped to develop more interaction with these particular channels of communication in the future.

‘NUTS AND BOLTS’ OF WEEKLY ISSUE Second , whilst acknowledging that the whole field of social media technologies and tools was already having a profound effect on the way the Church communicated its news and message, Mr Skillen believed that the “actual handling and reading of a newspaper in itself still held an appeal for many people which arguably reading it on a screen did not”.

He affirmed that the acquisition and preparation of news copy for publication still represented the “nuts and bolts” of each issue.

To this end, he shared with participants the nature of his work in collecting, ordering, editing and formatting material in preparation for typesetting and weekly publication and also for forward planning which stretched at least to one month in advance.

In this, he said, he applied the criteria of:

  •  Accuracy – which he called “the first essential of news copy”.
  •  Immediacy – ensuring that the paper’s contents and information were as current and up to date as possible.
  •  Universality – the importance of covering a wide range of news topics, views and activities of the Church of Ireland, north and south, and the wider Church.
  •  Readability – producing content which was clear, consistent, interesting and informative.

Mr Skillen reminded those present that the Gazette comprised an editorial staff of three – an editor, assistant editor and online editor – and an office staff of two and did not enjoy “the luxury of roving reporters or photographers”.

As such, the DCO s played a crucial role in supplying to the Gazette news of events within their dioceses and he thanked them for being the “first port of call” for obtaining material and for their “never-failing willingness to help and cooperate”.

He also paid tribute to the work of the Press Officer and his colleague in the Press Office, Jenny Compston, saying that they could “always be relied upon to provide, when contacted, news, information, answers to queries or advice with total reliability and graciousness”.

Mr Skillen concluded by saying that the work involved in planning, preparing and editing news – not to mention all the other features of the Gazette – for 50 out of 52 weeks in the year was enjoyable and satisfying, especially in seeing the completed paper each week, but it was also “relentless”.

Reflecting on the event, Dr Harron told the Gazette he sensed that participants had spent “a really enjoyable and informative day together”.

He continued: “Clifford gave us good insights into both how the Gazette’s news-gathering is kept fresh and the new developments in its online presence.

“As Karen showed us very well, the use of social media is not about forfeiting traditional methods of communications or communicating ‘just for the sake of it’ in an increasingly noisy world, but about augmenting our communication methods and reaching out to where so many people are ‘at’ today.

“I think we’ve come away challenged but less fearful and increasingly enthusiastic about trying to be more smartly engaged with new media.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *