By Rev. Greg Klimovitz
In the truest sense, the recent Money, Mission, and Media event was an exercise in ecumenical networking and collaboration. A conversation imagined and developed by leadership of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod (ELCA), and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, over 200 gathered from varied denominations to engage pertinent questions of stewardship and mission in an increasingly digital world. As Rev. Ruth Faith Santana-Grace, Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, remarked, “This morning matters mostly because we are here together, across denominations…This conversation matters because we are indeed in a new Pentecost moment, speaking to people outside our perceived reality and comfort zones; speaking the languages of media and technology, hash-tagging, and more alongside those around us.”
The image of Pentecost ran as a common thread throughout Money, Mission, and Media. The various keynote presentations and panel discussions exposed how social networks and new technologies are likely opening broader possibilities to bear witness to the good news of Jesus Christ than dreamed possible by even the earliest Christians. “I want to suggest calling the time and place in which we as Christians occupy today as diaspora,” remarked Rev. Mihee Kim-Kort, one of the guest keynoters. “Diaspora becomes a radical site for integration.”
This integration occurs as churches engage social networks, websites, blogs, and various digital platforms for community formation and leverage God’s concern for our most vulnerable neighbors. In other words, the use of new media for the purpose of mission is deeply sacramental. Presbyterian Minister, Rev. Mihee Kim-Kort, added, “Participating in new media gives us occasions to enact and embody signs of grace.” This sacramental praxis is evident as leaders in the church faithfully utilize digital platforms to connect with mission partners, engage movements like #blacklivesmatter, solicit prayers through Facebook, host theological conversations on blogs, post photos of events via Instagram, and leverage stories of new initiatives through YouTube and other on-line video services.
The digital world also provides the church with holy opportunities to reimagine stewardship and our call to generosity. As a gathered and scattered people, we are invited to dream new ways to host conversations about giving wrapped in ministry narratives of hospitality, justice, and the church’s varied embodiments of the good news. “Given the consumer culture embracing all of us, the church avoids talking about money at its peril,” proposed Rev. Adam Copeland, Presbyterian Minister and Director of the Stewardship Center at Luther Seminary in Minneapolis. “New paradigms of generosity draw us closer to God and lead us to be in right relationship with money and possessions.” In a way, much like the church in the wake of Pentecost, new media helps us to hold all things in common and steward our money and message so the gospel can truly go viral- to the ends of the earth.
This reality was celebrated through the event’s fishbowl conversation with local ministry practitioners. As Lutheran and Presbyterian ministers engaged the presenters, the conversation took on a real local favor and fostered solidarity and renewed possibility alongside those present. The same was true as Rev. Keith Anderson, Lutheran Pastor in Upper Dublin and author of Digital Cathedral, shared case study after case of how churches are putting into practice what was discussed throughout the day. “I appreciate the messiness of this time. Everything is in flux and up for grabs. It’s terrifying,” Rev. Anderson noted. “Yet it is completely beautiful and amazing because there is so much opportunity. Sometimes we let the fear and the anxiety and the worry get the best of us. We have to find ways to keep that at bay by surrounding ourselves with people like who are gathered here today, living into and trusting what God has in store will be done moving forward.”
This was the goal of Money, Mission, and Media from the very beginning. As scattered saints throughout the Philadelphia area gathered for this ecumenical conversation, the Spirit hovered and the echoes of Pentecost were ever-present. May we dare to trust this Spirit as we move forward, committed to be faithful stewards of God’s generosity, grace, and mission in an increasingly digital world.