e-Formation Conference: A testimonial

e-Formation 2015 photo (with Keith Anderson)

Note: This testimonial was written by Kathleen Wooten for her blog QuakerKathleen and is published here with permission.

Last June I was blessed in being able to attend the e-Formation Conference at Virginia Theological Seminary. It served as professional development for my work as Events Coordinator at NEYM, the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers).

I had no idea how helpful it would be. A year later, I’m looking back on that time and how I have integrated that information into my current practices.

I was already involved “lightly” in social media, supporting both my own travel in Quaker ministry, and involved in the growing social media channels for the NEYM. I’d experimented with using Twitter during Occupy Boston.

I knew connections could be made in community in ways other than in person. But I had no idea how extensive my learning would become. I found the learning across a few areas:

Practical “how to” information: Directly, in the workshops, I was given accessible information and allowed to try it out right there in real time on my laptop/device.  We tweeted, we “friended,” we created films and heard about easy ways tech that can be confusing for many.

I now am the webmaster for a WordPress site for my own Quaker Meeting.  I wrote a grant to purchase equipment to live stream our events, after hearing Christopher Harris talk about live streaming.

I learned how to look at Twitter analytics from Scott Gunn, to determine our NEYM audience. I now use Canva to create great graphics for NEYM’s social media accounts.

I still visit the conference’s Pinterest boards for refreshers and reminders on some of the things I learned. Our NEYM is now engaged on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I use IFTTT to link those accounts.

Philosophy: So how do we “do Church” in this digital age? Keith Anderson’s contributions to us were incredibly helpful. I highly recommend his book The Digital Cathedral.

Conversations between us—questions, comments, real-world sharing of our challenges and joys—were deeply helpful. They took place at lunch, in between workshops, in the hallways. And always on Twitter and Facebook.

Our Yearly Meeting is now developing Advices and Queries for faithful use of social media platforms. We will benefit from the practical experience and advice of others from e-Formation. I learned what a “tech chaplain” is—and how we share the good news and engage digitally in social justice from Shamika Goddard.

Connections in community:  My relationships with these participants have continued. I have formed digital friendships, and sounding boards for advice. We have shared church humor and sorrows. We have shared advice on new methods for exploration, and been willing to translate those needs and responses into our own languages of faith.

As I travel now among Quakers in New England, I am often in conversations about outreach and how we welcome others to our faith and into our communities.  I find myself with a wealth of practical information, versed in current statistics and concerns about how the Church functions in our society today.

We are exploring exciting new edges of faith formation and engagement in our New England Quaker community.  I look forward to returning to e-Formation to continue my learning and strengthening those connections!