Extravagance UCC digital evangelist to share best practices in Germany
How does one pray on the internet? What are the best virtual avenues for religious communication? A gathering of pastors and professors in Loccum, Germany, will discuss these and other questions Nov. 13-15, and among them will be the Rev. Lawrence Richardson, digital evangelist of the online Extravagance UCC.
Richardson will address the Evangelische Akademie Loccum on Saturday, Nov. 14, on “Extravagance: The online church of the United Church of Christ, USA. Exploring faith as a virtual environment.”
“I will be sharing … the way that Extravagance UCC connects people to the United Church of Christ and to one another, how virtual community is formed and maintained, and my hope for the future of Extravagance UCC as being an online expression of the UCC that connects people digitally to multiple expressions of church and ministry happening across this country,” said Richardson.
Richardson says is excited about attending the conference, and about sharing the message that “any virtual faith community IS community.”
“The connections made and experiences shared are real experiences that have the opportunity to deeply engage, empower, and inspire people,” he said.
Richardson said that while virtual community is not a substitute for a physical congregation, it can supplement a local church. However, “it can also be the only means by which someone can maintain connections to a broader community,” he said. There is a need to develop creative ways to minister to people who are geographically dispersed, are isolated, or have other barriers that prevent them from feeling comfortable in a local church, he added.
Since Extravagance UCC was announced at the 2013 General Synod, founding pastor the Rev. Jo Hudson has seen it morph “from the expectation of being an online church with standing in the UCC to being a broader ministry of the UCC.”
“We are now partnering with people and ministries that are doing online ministry across the country and, in some cases, globally,” said Hudson. “Lawrence’s participation at the conference is simply an extension of this new vision of what Extravagance is becoming.”
“We see Extravagance, along with many other good online religious expressions, as a voice of generous, progressive/liberal Christianity,” Hudson continued. “We hope that [Lawrence] will be able to connect with the church in Germany and find ways to share ministries with the people who are part of that conference.”
A body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover, a UCC partner, the Evangelische Akademie Loccum organizes conferences that are open to all. In addition to exploring religious communication on the web, this year’s 80 events include such topics as foreign and peace policies, refugees, biodiversity, and sustainable energy, among others.
Richardson sees the conference as an opportunity to build new relationships. “As we continue to embrace new ways to share our varied experiences, we [expand] the church to include new populations of people” with new ways of thinking about the church, he says. “It is an exciting time to see the world and the church intersecting in this way.”
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