In 2010, my family uprooted from Massachusetts and moved halfway across country to Durant, Oklahoma, where we had no family and knew no one except the few people we had met from the search committee of my husband’s new call. I left a congregation that I had sincerely loved and had felt called to serve, and now was in the Great Middle of Nowhere. I wasn’t a pastor anymore, but I was still clergy. I wasn’t serving a church, but I was still called. There was only one other woman pastor in town, and she was retired. I volunteered at the hospital, along with her and the Episcopal priest in town as chaplains, but outside of those two colleagues, I had few collegial friends.
A year later, I noticed some of my friends posting on Facebook using hashtags, and I realized they were posting from Twitter, so I finally created a Twitter account (I was late to Facebook, too, joining only after my kiddo was born in 2008).
While I have made friends through Facebook with people I did not know in real life, and I have made friends over other chat forums in the past, it was on Twitter that I began to connect with other pastors, especially pastors with progressive theology, pastors concerned about issues of poverty and justice, from #Occupy to #BlackLivesMatter. From Twitter, I made friends with other progressive pastors in Oklahoma and Texas, and found out about the church The Euchatastrophe in Fort Worth where my family was welcomed into the community. We would drive down two hours to get there once a month, just so we, as clergy, could also worship.
Through social media I made connections to The Young Clergywomen Project and other collegial groups that span across denominational boundaries. And through Twitter, I began seeing clergy ask the same questions I had begun to ask: how do we begin the conversations around vision in our congregations, especially churches that are stuck in old ways of being church? How do we talk about bi-vocational ministry? How do we become a church beyond, and without, walls? What does it mean to be church now?
I found many of those questions about congregational life, our future, creativity in ministry, and more were being asked on the hashtag #unco11 and the next year #unco12. I found out about UNCO, the UnConference I have written about on here before, and found a connection with other clergy and church leaders. I no longer felt that my husband and I were alone—we had a fantastic network, that eventually led to a meetup in Durant with friends coming up from Dallas and Fort Worth and others down from Oklahoma City.
At #unco13 I met more of my friends and colleagues in person, leaders I am glad to call my friends and know that I can chat with them about anything (and now I am in video calls with several of them more than once a month!) And at UNCO, we tweet about what we are doing, what we are learning together, so that others can follow along—and you are encouraged not to put your phone away, but to have it out and ready to share!
Whether you attend #unco16, or The Young Clergywomen’s Conference in Boston, or any other gathering that began on social media, you already know you have friends there before you see them face to face. You already know that what you learn, you will take with you. You already know that the conversation is just beginning, and will not end at the closing worship.
Social media has fostered real-life relationships that I carry with me. There are people that I have never met in real life, but I consider close friends. People that I miss when they take a break from social media. People that I love catching up with and hearing what is going on in their lives. People that, when they move from one part of the country to another, our friendship doesn’t change because distance is no longer a factor. Having started these relationships on Twitter, when I thought we were all alone in southern Oklahoma, helped me to grow and to receive the support I needed.
Make a new friend! Tweet @RevMindi, I’d be glad to make your acquaintance.
*for more information on The Young Clergywomen’s Project, visit www.youngclergywomen.org
*for more information on UNCO, the UnConference, visit www.unco.us