Telling the Love of Jesus - How Your Church can use Bishop Curry's Royal Wedding Sermon to Inspire
On Saturday, the world turned out for a royal wedding and then got taken to church! In Bishop Curry’s sermon, for a brief shining moment, the world heard the Good News of God in Christ delivered as the incredibly GOOD NEWS that it is. With power and passion and joy. And it resonated, because this message of redemptive, transformative love is a message the world is hungry to hear.
How do we know it resonated?
At 7:28am EST that morning, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael B. Curry, was the most searched thing on Google. In the world. In. the. world.
So what’s next? We can all obsessively scrutinize the news coverage, the SNL skit, and the live interviews to debate what they got wrong or what they got right.
Or we can actually do what Bishop Curry suggests. Rather than just imagine a world transformed by love, we can get out there and make it so! And – here’s the critical part – we need to tell the story, to share the Good News! The world just might be all ears!
You Can Tell the Love of Jesus
What story should we tell?
Yes, we have an amazing Presiding Bishop who has an expanded opportunity to personally engage and inspire people. But the important stories for us to tell, as the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement, are the stories that illustrate how we embody the redemptive love that Bishop spoke of. How our lives, our families, our neighbors, our communities, towns, cities, and the world are all transformed by this redemptive love. Stories of how we bring peace and justice to a world that is plagued by violence and inequity. Those are the stories we need to tell.
Here are a few questions to consider:
- What are you excited about in your church?
- What ministries have a lot of energy right now?
- What are you doing to transform your community?
- What would people be surprised to learn about your parish?
- Most importantly, how are you and your parish embodying the redemptive power of love?
We are All Story Tellers
As communications professionals, it’s easy to take over the task of telling our stories – and indeed we have a critical role. But more powerful and far-reaching is when we can equip and empower the members of our community to tell their own stories.
Think about the times when your parishioners are already taking pictures and sharing their stories on social media – is it in worship when their children are being baptized or when they are singing in the choir? When they are doing work in the community? Marching in social justice campaigns? Decorating the altar? Cooking meals and gathering for fellowship? Whenever they are taking pictures, make sure to encourage people to share those stories! As communicators, we want to capitalize on the content people are already creating and to direct them to do likewise.
Post tips and instructions in your bulletins, email newsletters, and other publications targeting your existing parishioners as to how to share their stories.
Designate three hashtags to use:
- #LoveIS to connect actions to the theme of redemptive love that Bishop Curry preached. This is a great hashtag because it isn’t specifically Episcopalian – it’s very open-ended. As is the transformative power of love!
- #Episcopal to connect to the Episcopal Church.
- #(yourchurch) – a unique hashtag to connect to your unique church. For example, my church might use #stpaulspgh. This requires a name AND location – because there are a lot of St. Paul’s Episcopal Churches out there. Use this on ALL of your church social media. Do a search of this hashtag first to make sure no one else is using it. Keep it as short as possible. If you can, make this hashtag consistent with your church website URL, and your social media account @names.
In encouraging people to use these hashtags on their own social media accounts, you can then easily search to locate their content to re-post. Also, in seeing their own posts along with others sharing the same #LoveIS and #Episcopal hashtags allows your parishioners to see themselves as part of something greater, the ongoing story of the people of God, the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement – which can be encouraging and transformational in and of itself!
Right now, lots of Episcopalians are excited about the buzz over the Presiding Bishop’s role in the royal wedding. They are already talking about it. This is merely a chance to encourage them to use these conversations to introduce others to the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement.
The characteristics of our church are often quite different from the way Christianity is portrayed in the media. When we talk about redemptive love, we can talk about how it is manifest in being an inclusive church, the governance of which is lay-driven, and that we are actively engaged in social justice causes ranging from stewardship of the earth to racial reconciliation to economic inequity. Encourage your parishioners to tell these stories!
Show verses Tell
Yes, the Presiding Bishop’s favorite and oft-quoted hymn encourages us to “tell” the love of Jesus. Today, the most effective way to tell is often to SHOW. The old adage of a picture being worth a thousand words has never been more true – because it’s hard to get anyone to read a thousand words anymore!
What should you show?
Show the redemptive power of love. Show a story in which it occurs. As Jim Naughton and Rebecca Wilson explain in “Speaking Faithfully,” in a story, something happens. They continue, “Our role as communicators is to make our neighbors say ‘Something is happening… that I want to know more about.’”
So please don’t show pictures of smiling folks sitting around a table or standing in rows on the church steps – nothing much is happening there!
- Show authentic pictures of people doing ministry, spreading love throughout the world.
- Show pictures that accurately reflect your congregation demographically, whatever that might be.
- Show images that might surprise people, that push back against the negative stereotypes of Christianity that exist in the media.
- Show the Good News of God in Christ.
Check Out Your Church's Website
So let’s say you’ve equipped and empowered your congregation and they are ready to go viral on their favorite social media platforms. They are engaging people in conversations about redemptive love and the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement. And some of those people might just check out your website. What will they find?
Pick up your mobile phone and give your website a glance.
- Is there accurate information about worship services on your website?
- Is the information in a prominent, easy-to-spot location?
- Is the information appealing and invitational?
- Does the information reflect the nature of worship at your church? Does it give someone a good idea of what they can expect?
- Is there information that would help first time visitors?
- Is there a welcoming statement that summarizes what we believe?
- Is there information about ongoing ministry, social events, and community engagement that is easy to find?
Make the updates you need so your website welcomes the curious and the inspired.
So let this be a season of Pentecost like no other!
May you feel the fire and passion of redemptive love, may you and your parishioners be inspired by the Presiding Bishop’s words, and may you in turn inspire others.
Let’s go transform the world! #LoveIS what it’s all about.
- Lisa Brown, Director of Digital Ministry
What can we create together? Contact Membership Vision to learn more!
Our goal at Membership Vision is to help churches and other faith communities to tell their stories in the digital space. Each church, irrespective of size, has a living and active story to tell, and technology provides an opportunity to share that story in a way that is welcoming and engaging. We ease the burden of keeping communications current, by leveraging content, and harnessing the many ways that members of our communities connect with each other, both inside and outside of the church walls. We aim to remove technological hurdles and allow churches to communicate online in an effective and sustainable way. Contact us at email@example.com or call (805) 626-0143 to talk about the ways we can help your church build a digital presence.
Photo credit: Leslie Ryann McKellar - Forma Conference, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina