By Donna Presnell, for ACNS
In the Episcopal Church, Advent begins the church’s liturgical year the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It is a season of preparation and waiting, preparing Christians to remember Jesus’ humble birth and also the fulfillment of his promise to return. In recent years, the digital revolution has provided the church the ability to move beyond the chocolate-filled calendars historically used to teach young ones about the Advent season, into a day-to-day spiritual interaction with Christians around the world.
For Advent 2013, the Episcopal Church Office of Communications is presenting three traditional Advent services, Lessons and Carols, Evensong and a Christmas Eve Pageant, from Grace Church in New York City. To ensure, though, that the message of Jesus’ humble birth and fulfillment of his promise reaches far and wide, each of the services is webcast live. It seems with the advent (pun intended) of digital distribution, everyone is excited to share the message of the season.
In 2012, the Brothers at The Society of Saint John the Evangelist, a monastery in Cambridge, Massachusetts realized that the photo sharing app, Pinterest, had become wildly popular and found a way to use that popularity to reach a much broader audience than usual with the message of Advent. SSJE, in collaboration with the Episcopal Church, created a digital Advent Calendar that, just like traditional calendars, opened a new window each day of Advent. But, instead of chocolate, the treat inside was a thought provoking Advent image and a meditation for the day.
With a Pinterest following of nearly 1,000 in 2012, SSJE and the Episcopal Church decided to create a new calendar for 2013 and have now reached a following of over 2,500. And, SSJE, motivated from the success of the Pinterest Advent Calendar, created a new digital offering for the season, O Antiphons videos, delivered each day from December 17-23 via email. But digital Advent offerings are certainly on the rise and going far beyond your email inbox.
Episcopal Relief and Development has created an online Advent Took Kit to provide tools and inspiration for diocesan and other groups to construct and host Advent giving campaigns. Advent Conspiracy, an international movement with over 41,000 Facebook fans, uses its Facebook page for digital outreach to "restore the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption". And even the Twitterverse is not immune to Advent outreach. St. Michael’s in Dallas, Texas is using Twitter to share their daily, Advent Minutes videos just as a great number of other churches and dioceses turn to Twitter to spread the Advent message.
Many dioceses like The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of San Diego have developed source pages offering numerous Advent resources created by other organizations including an email series, Let Every Heart Prepare: Meditations for Advent and Christmas, by Barbara Crafton, an Advent Podcast Series from the Anglican Church of Canada as well as an iTunes app called, It’s Advent.
Celebrating Advent has become as simple as sitting down at your computer or tapping open your mobile phone. And The Episcopal Church is making the most of its ability to ensure that the true tradition and meaning of the season is readily available far and wide.