As the United Church of Christ begins to lay the foundation for Extravagance UCC, a web-based spiritual community, the church can count on the expertise of an international partner for assistance. The Rev. Peter Reimann, who has helped the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland (EKiR) establish spiritual online communities in Germany will spend the next four weeks in Cleveland.
Reimann is interning with the UCC, spending his time between Local Church Ministries and the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns. During his internship, which runs through Sept. 13, he will consult with LCM as its builds and defines the future of Extravagance UCC – announced at General Synod 2013 – and will work with the Coalition to evaluate its social media and electronic communications efforts.
"For me, I'm really at a point to share my experiences and insights, and it's good for [the UCC] to get feedback on what they're doing,” Reimann said. "I think it is encouraging that a huge denomination like the UCC wants to go online with an online congregation. I'm happy to experience that road with them.”
Andy Lang, executive director for the Coalition for LGBT Concerns, first met Reimann in 2003, and said that he has since "taught me a great deal about online ministry."
Reimann manages electronic communications for the EKiR, and was previously the electronics communications manager for the Evangelic Church in Germany. His expertise will be helpful as the UCC navigates the challenges of building an online congregation that reaches out to members spiritually in a new way. He has already brought up thoughtful questions that the UCC must eventually answer as it builds Extravagance UCC, while professing that he doesn't know the answers to those questions immediately.
Among the issues he has already raised: How will an online congregation administer sacraments (communion or baptism)? What are the most effective forms of online communication for an web-based congregation - chat, video, or other online environments? How will the liturgy and music be developed, and what will an online congregation's covenant look like?
Those are questions that will be discussed by the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, UCC national officer and executive minister for LCM, and the Rev. Jo Hudson, the gathering pastor for Extravagance UCC in the coming months.
"Peter has a wealth of experience in online community-building and is able to articulate for us what has worked, what is working, and models for different approaches,” Guess said. "It's also helpful he offers a global context to online community, because we have envisioned that Extravagance UCC may become, and should become, a worldwide online Christian community.”
In terms of what the next steps are for Extravagance UCC, a Leaders in Koinonia (LinK) Event, scheduled for Nov. 6-8 in Cleveland, will bring together a group that will meet, discuss and further define what Extravagance UCC will become. LinK events are organized by Local Church Ministries to strengthen relationships among ministries of local churches, clergy and lay leaders, and the national setting of the denomination.
To participate in Extravagance UCC, visit the website and fill out the questionnaire.