Sharing Our Stories: E-pistle 02.03.11

Sharing Our Stories: E-pistle 02.03.11

[Note: Michael’s on vacation this week, so he asked me to fill in for the E-pistle.]

Our new outreach campaign—Reasons People Go to Our Church—uses the voices of actual Old Firsters to take Christ’s message of love, welcome and forgiveness further out into the world.

If you haven’t yet, take a look at the stories that are on the Old First Web site. They’re not all there yet (we’re getting there!), but the first seven are a montage of the community of believers who gather at 4th & Race. The aspects of faith that speak to these Old Firsters are not the same: for George it is the struggle with doubt and faith; for Ruth Anne it is the feeling of being accepted; for Kristen it is the openness to questions; for Bob it is the unity found amidst diversity. (You can view the others we’ve collected so far on the wall outside the Sanctuary.)

Our Web site is an opportunity to tell these stories. We’ve learned in recent years that nearly everyone who visits on a Sunday morning checks us out online first. When building the site, we thought about those people as our primary audience.

Some of their questions are simple logistics: What time is the service? Where should I park? Will there be child care?

But typically they also want to get a sense of us before they commit to walking through our doors. What’s the theology like? What sort of people worship there? Is this a community that I’d feel comfortable being part of?

Our site tries to answer those questions, too. It paints a portrait of Old First the way we’d like folks to know us—that we’re diverse, open minded, caring, spiritually grounded and welcoming.

Of course the site enriches and assists our life as a community, too. Take the calendar, for example. A central repository of events helps everyone in the community feel more connected and informed. But look again at the calendar with the eyes of an outsider. It depicts an active community with events nearly every day. And not just committee meetings (those are there, of course!). But also youth group. And shelter dinners. And work camps. Our calendar—a handy innovation for the community—is also part of how we convey who we are to those we hope to invite in.

One primary goal of our new site, then, is to provide a window into Old First. A kind of “coming attractions” advertisement that tells people looking for a church a little bit about what goes on inside our walls.

In fact, that was the genesis of the idea to upgrade our Web site. It started with Facebook.

When we launched Old First’s Facebook page in September 2009 it soon became a more accurate picture of Old First than our Web site. Our Web site conveyed information, but our Facebook page conveyed the community. More of our voices are heard there. Sometimes those voices are silly (as when we tease Michael for mistaking Greta for Beth!). And often they are serious (as when we lift up a prayer for the people of Egypt or for those in our community who have lost a loved one).

And that brings me back to the stories—the Reasons People Go to Our Church. The voices that appear on our home page. Together they convey the story of Old First, like blocks of a patchwork quilt. Focus on one block, and you see the detail, the colors, the stitching, the fabric. Step back to view the whole quilt, and you appreciate the variety, the unity, the whole.

The more voices represented, the more complete our quilt will be. What are the Reasons YOU Go to Our Church? Will you add your voice to the quilt?

– Suzanne