Posted on: 2016-05-27

Of Digital Communication

Digital communication is unarguably a prolific, contemporary transformer of human existence and relationship. Digitalization has become such a pervasive reality that concepts of being modern or old, past and present, pleasant or bland are now often coloured by it. Not even the Church and religion are spared the invasion of this conceptualization. It is in fact not unusual today to hear people draw a sharp contrast between what they call "analogue church" and "digital church". It is often not too difficult to decipher where their preference lies between the analogue and the digital. Of course, making a church of orthodoxy and tradition digitally compliant requires clear strategies for the "digitalization of attitudes, skills and practice". It stands to reason then that the pastoral agents of the Church themselves should be brought to step in the skills of digital communications and operations. If indeed the Church is first and foremost a concern of evangelization then one can safely say the area of communications must be the first to be raised to that level of compliance in the subject matter.

CMD/ Religious Collaboration

This is why the media seminar for Catholic nuns with the title: "The Catholic Nun in a Digital World", holding this week in Lagos under the aegis of Fr. Michael Umoh and his Centre for Media Development is of great importance. Fr. Umoh in this manner, provides this platform for energizing  a section of the Church which I have always referred to as the "reservist army", the  Consecrated people. I conclude that he has understood, like only  few people do,  that if we could only mobilize the nuns in Nigeria to engage the digital media (note my choice of words "engage" not just "use") we could actually transform the digital media world environment in many ways. The digital media platform is about statistics. Who can you reach? Who can reach you? How many likes, how many followers and how many natives of the digital world do you have etc... The sheer overwhelming number of nuns interfacing with young lives through the Church's education, pastoral formation and healthcare programmes all over Africa and Nigeria should convince anyone that this is a formidable for the benefit of the gospel in the digital world. The digital world is democratic and largely amoral, It needs but lacks people who can infuse it with moral values and content. These must be digitally skilled and interested people who better still, understand and are committed to the values of the gospel. Nuns are well positioned for this mode of leadership and the recent history of the Church dictates that they can actually lead the way in this regard. It is enough to think here of Mother Angelica of EWTN and Mother Trinitas in Rome and all such courageous religious women who have blazed the trail of evangelization through the new media.

We all are in the fray

All Christians however are called to the task of communicating the good news, the message of Jesus Christ, which is a mandate of communications. Today, that mandate is essentially a call to STORYTELLING. Evangelization is about recounting what we know and have heard about Jesus of Nazareth, of God his Father and the work of his Holy Spirit on our lives and the world we live in. Anyone in doubt need only look at the Bible and the Acts of the Apostles, our earliest account of the life and times of Jesus Christ himself. Peter and the apostles simply told stories. (Acts 2;...) In order to be effective however the gospel storytellers had to be adept at co-opting the imageries, symbols and storytelling tools of their time. As contemporary storytellers of the gospel, living in a mediated, digital world We simply cannot succeed in our storytelling task if we stubbornly stick to the tools of yesteryears only. We must adopt, learn adapt and appropriate the instruments and skills of today's successful storytellers and engage them for the work of the Gospel. This conclusion is not original. It is enough to recall the famous words of  Pope Paul VI in his encyclical "Evangeli Nuntiandi, NO 45: "The Church would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not utilize these powerful means that human skill is daily rendering more perfect... in them she finds a modern and effective version of the pulpit". Other Papal and Church Documents have since reiterated this same teaching.

The Art of Storytelling

To stress the importance of storytelling I quote two passages from the recent edition of SIGNIS MEDIA, the quarterly publication of the World Catholic Association for Communicators:

"Stories tell us who we are, what to believe in, what to value and how to act; they comfort, challenge, shock, educate and terrify us; they nurture our dreams and dispel our illusions; they are the tools with which we make sense of the world and the people around us...

Storytellers have always been important. From ancient Shamans to modern film directors they weave the tapestries of our imaginative environment. Now in the age of social media and the Internet we are immersed in a global storytelling environment in which storytellers can emerge from almost anywhere and where 'professional storytellers' can find themselves eclipsed by a teenager with a smart phone  and thousands of YouTube or Instagram followers". It is my hope that this peek view of the media seminar for nuns will rekindle in us all the necessity of reclaiming space for the gospel of Jesus Christ in the encroaching digital culture and civilization, whoever we may be.