This training emphasizes the importance of using internet services for communication—a “new norm” in Africa, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic. During the training, Yearly Meetings are encouraged to embrace online communication channels such as Zoom, Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, and others. With the introduction of these new technologies, African communication is becoming dynamic and diverse. Through social media platforms, churches can connect with their members as well as people who may not attend church. They will also be able to schedule meetings online through Zoom, and have the opportunity to listen to sermons from other churches across the board, despite geographical location.
In his presentation, FWCC–AS Clerk Bainito Khayongo emphasized that social media is especially effective for keeping youth aware of and involved in church events. Attending an online church and Zoom meetings are likely to expose congregants, as well as Yearly Meeting leaders, to a greater diversity of people, cultures, and opinions than you would normally be exposed to at your local church.
Presenter Kate Gunza, communications staff for the FUM Africa Ministries Office, encouraged Yearly Meetings to have functional email addresses. Also, platforms like Facebook offer a free, easy way to promote church events and strengthen the community outside of Sunday services. Community is one of Quakerism’s core values, and is not defined by the building where people meet. In today’s technological age, worshipping digitally has become a legitimate way to express your religion and build community bonds. Through Zoom meetings and online platforms we go beyond our comfort zones and get to interact with different people far beyond our church walls.
Technology is changing people, and not only to fit into the church—online churches are changing church to fit the needs of the people. Over the past two years we have not been able to have face-to-face meetings, annual conferences, triennials, etc., due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been difficult for the elderly, or people with underlying health conditions, to attend church services, or travel. Many people have been homebound; the ability to attend church services digitally matters. Digital services are a meaningful alternative that can be just as fulfilling, enlightening, and beautiful as an in-person service.
To equip Yearly Meetings for digital services, FWCC–AS will be providing internet access technology to Yearly Meetings that qualify, based on an assessment that will be conducted in collaboration with the FUM Africa Ministries Office communications staff. Both organizations hope that this will improve Quaker digital literacy in Kenya, and in East Africa at large.