Old Religion Meets New Media


Years ago, the concepts of tweeting, poking, and tumblr would have just seemed like derogatory terms. Certainly not actions condoned by the Church. There’s no denying that life is not the same as the world depicted in traditional holy texts; but now, in the changing world, religion has found its own use of new media.

While the Vatican has long embraced social media such as YouTube and FaceBook in an effort to stay relevant in a media manic society, smaller factions have only recently come to discover the possibilities of the world-wide web.

A group of Benedictine monks residing in Portsmouth Abbey in Portsmouth, R.I. have turned to the internet to solve a problem of their own. Totally 12 in all, the monks are aging, with five octogenarians and the youngest being a nimble 50. While their peak numbers were no more than 24 in 1969, the monks still feel an added isolation that has kept modern-day society from inquiring about their faction.

Said Abbot Caedmon Holmes,head of the abbey since 2007: “We’re down in numbers, we’re aging, we feel the pressure to do whatever we can. If this is the way the younger generation are looking things up and are communicating, then this is the place to be.”

The monks have hired Partners and Simons, an advertising agency, to help recruit members and instill interest in the Abbey. Their campaign involves an ad campaign featuring videos, blogs, and even a Gregorian chant ringtone for those true devotees. The campaign revolves around portraying the monks as approachable and friendly. On their Facebook page, they have uploaded photos and testimonials. A new website has also been set up and answers questions the public might have, specially in relation to becoming a monk.

“If 500 years ago, blogging existed, the monks would have found a way to make use of it,” Abbot Holmes said. “Our power is very limited. In the end it’s God who is calling people to himself and calling to people to live in union with him. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do our part.”

For more information about this story, check out the New York Times article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/18/business/media/18monks.html?_r=1&ref=media

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