Communications: My role as I see it
WHEN we speak about communication, what comes to my mind is the ‘community well’ where women in the olden days gathered to draw water. That was their favourite meeting place, where they shared, laughed, sympathized and grieved together. There was no print or electronic media, but there was communication. They shared news that was most important to them… the local and the immediate neighbourhood… it was all that mattered to them…
Today, to use a worn out phrase, “Global is local”.
I mean that the economic situation in America, Greece or Italy is more likely to affect my daily life than anything in my neighbourhood; scenes of religious tension telecastin any part of the country triggers violence in all the other parts; fashions are adopted at the speed of lightning, books can be read online, and there are tourists that travel to the moon!That’s the challenge… the struggle to be relevant in a world that changes a zillion times for every degree that the earth rotates……
Where is the church in this melee?
What is the message that Christianity can bring into this world of poverty, injustice, of war, of diseases, of a humanity that is virtually sitting on the brink of a nuclear holocaust?
Where is Christ in all this as we run from one end of the spectrum of denominations to the other, in spiritual enquiry?
I don’t have the answers but there are experts in every field, scientists, economists, anthropologists, historians, social analysts, theologians and so on. The challenge is to assimilate all that the experts think and say and to relate it with Christian thought and action that is relevant in the present context.And that’s what Christian Communications is all about…. trying to integrate these thoughts through a medium to initiate social change.
Go tell it on the Mountains
Mountains are of great significance as seen in the days of the Old Testament and the New Testament, for example, Moses and the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the Transfiguration, the Crucifixion. I guess a mountain top is a great vantage point for communications… “Go tell it on the mountains”. Is there something good? Something which deserves attention? Is it something on love, peace, faith and loyalty? Tell it on the mountains, share it and communicate. The medium of your choice can vary from Print, electronic, cinema, art, music, liturgy, the scope is unlimited, it isn’t confined to just news reporting, it is a whole new world.
It’s easy to say but more often than not, all who want to communicate are not successful as they lack visibility, adequate training, and sufficient organizations where they can utilize their skills or their passion. It is also difficult because the field is so flooded with gadgets and tools and technology that by the time one masters one tool, it is already obsolete.
CCA Communications and Ecumenism
The Christian Conference of Asia brings together 100 churches from 21 countries and 17 National Councils in the Asia Pacific.
It has the challenging task of bridging the cultural, linguistic, geographic, political, social, economic and denominational divides to bring together Churches in Asia, on a common ecumenical platform that would serve as a confluence of Asian Philosophy, Theology and Praxis.
Communication partially helps in this onerous task of keepingall of us together, by sharing the life and activities of the CCA and the member churches, through the publications of the CCA, a Magazine titled CCA NEWS, through monthly letters to all the Heads of Churches, Executive and General Committee members, Program Area Committee members, related organizations, e-letters, and the website.
Achievements and significant milestones in the life of people from the member churches are felicitated and shared on the website, significant events from the member churches are shared and so are pastoral letters in the event of natural disasters, war, human rights abuse, the passing away of personalities. Reports on programs conducted by the CCA on Regional and National levels, Statements brought out by the participants, advocacy letters, and solidarity letters are all part of the Communications portfolio. It maintains an online Library and also deals with copyrights and Royalty issues.
Communications also means documenting Executive and General Committee meetings, and all other special events, and is responsible for the Annual Reports and Program review reports.
Actually, I envisage a larger role for the communications desk in the CCA.
I think in terms of a kind of Asia watch, in which events are closely watched and analyzed, so that the role of the CCA and the Churches can be discussed and shared with the concerned people, and passed on for comment to a wider audience.
I imagine a more vibrant desk that will make CCA come alive, with something to say almost every week. One of the projects is to make each church a reality to every other member church, by bringing to them a profile of every church in Asia. For instance is the Church in Laos or Cambodia in any way a matter of concern to our people in Kerala? How many know the struggles of the church in Timor Leste or in nearby Bhutan and Nepal? Profiles of each church on the website of CCA and our magazine will be an eye opener.
In the pipeline is also a plan for calling together all Communicators from the different churches in Asia for a consultation cum conference on Christian Communication. I seriously think that we have to meet and train on how to be effective communicators and reflect on the content. Are we publishing too much of rhetoric when what we really need is the Voice of the People, are we churning out volumes of abstract thought while we are missing out on what Jesus did…. go and walk with the crowds. Communication means travel, to explore and to write…. maybe we need a Communications team, not just one person…
Communications and the Orthodox Church
I happen to be the first ever Orthodox woman to be employed in the CCA. So with my presence, there is an Indian, an Orthodox and a woman…. a rare combination I am told by my Marthoma friends who have been so kind and encouraging to me.
First of all it reflects the Orthodox presence in Asia and that, we as a Church have walked with the CCA in co-operation and friendship all these years, and have contributed meaningfully to ecumenism.
My being here is a constant reminder that here is somebody who belongs to the Church which has a over 2000 year-old tradition, and that there is an Orthodox dimension, another way of thinking or another way of doing things, which makes it a learning experience for them and for me as I get to learn more about others.
I see my presence here as a link between CCA and my mother Church. It would help me to be instrumental in strengthening the ecumenical ties and the relationship we have with the CCA and all the other member churches; to make sure that the Malankara Orthodox Church is within the loop of all communications and all other activities that are planned for the Men, Women, Youth, Clergy and Laity; that the Church in turn responds in time, pays the membership fee etc because any relationship is a two way system.
It also gives me the opportunity to give more visibility to the experts in our Church who can be invited as resource people for CCA programs, because our Church has a many scholars, academicians, theologians and so on. We are initiating a data base on experts from all member Churches, and we should not lose this opportunity.
The same can be said of participants. As consultant I can suggest people who are working in fields like Child protection, or HIV and Aids or climate justice for special programs. We have so many specialized people who can share their views and also get an opportunity to discuss with others from Asia.
In our Church I get the feeling that we are a Church divorced from reality….we never relate to what is happening in the world… our intercessory prayers are fixed ones…. don’t we have the flexibility of changing it to suit the needs of the day? World Aids Day, Water day, Asia Sunday, Spirit of Unity or the week of spiritual Unity called the Unity Octave, NCCI Sunday, a prayer for those who are killed in earthquakes, accidents, large scale ones…what do we really care for? We lose out on the personal touch, I don’t mean that we should change our traditions and faith, but we can be alive to human beings and their sufferings, be more understanding towards the youth, I am sure that wherever the young are active in Church it is because of a good and understanding Vicar. And when we win the hearts of the young they are more willing to learn, they love the church and will never leave it.
I am sure that when the youth attend such meetings it willwiden their world view! As an Executive Committee member of the NCCI, I used to encourage and invite our Seminary students and other young people to attend Ecumenical events and I am glad to say that they all liked it and benefitted from it. I will continue to do the same in the CCA.
It gives me the opportunity to share news, showcase talents and achievements, encourage Art and Music, encourage people to write for our publications and in short keep the Orthodox presence alive in the Asian Ecumenical forum.
We have had good representation in the World Council of Churches, as there are more Orthodox Churches from all over the world. In the WCC they are a real force to reckon with, whereas in the CCA we are still a museum piece!
This is my vision and my dream; I need the blessings and the prayers of each one of you, because the mantle I am wearing is a heavy one, heavy with responsibility and expectations. I’m just a woman, but with all of you I gain strength and courage to move on.
Susan Jacob from the Malankara Orthodox Church is the new Consultant for Communications of Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) since January 2012. She will be based at CCA’s headquarters at Chiang Mai, Thailand.