God Talks: Interview with Digital Minister Eric Elley

God Talks: Interview with Digital Minister Eric Elley

In the latest God Talks interview, Executive Conference Minister the Rev. Darrell Goodwin interviews Rev. Eric Elley, the Conference's Digital Minister.

In the 30-minute conversation, Rev. Elley traced his faith journey from Catholic monastic community to the Episcopal church, where he is a deacon in the ordination process, and to a calling in the UCC. Rev. Elley talked about his immersion in both the Episcopal church - where he serves as a deacon at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in East Longmeadow and Church Without Walls in Springfield, MA - and the UCC, where his husband serves as a pastor in Somers, CT.

"Part of the beauty, I think of you serving as the digital minister within your own ministry is I think it really does help the Southern New England Conference literally manifest its commitment to ecumenism," Rev. Goodwin said. "I think what we're recognizing in this region is that we really don't move forward without one another, and you are really the manifestation of that."

Rev. Goodwin went on to ask Rev. Elley about the transformative moment the church now finds itself in. 

"Where do you think we're going?" Rev. Goodwin asked. "Because some people want to think, oh, well, we're going to just go back. Other people think, no, this is the way we're going to be now. From a person who's in this day in and day out and working with our churches, where do you see the church from a digital presence perspective going?"

Rev. Elley responded that in this endemic stage of the pandemic, a lot of churches have gone back to in-person worship, or are about to go back. And he said that while some churches think that means they can put their video cameras and streaming software away, others have realized that's not the right answer. And, he said, digital ministry means more than streaming what's happening in person.

"Digital ministry is not simply offering your worship service on Sunday morning and then kind of walking away from digital ministry for the week," he said. "Yeah, sure, continue to offer your church services online. But also, when you're in that online place and in that space, ask yourself: how am I building community in that space?"

Rev. Elley said it's important for churches to follow up with people who have in some way, such as through a prayer concern, responded to the online service.

"Follow up with that person. Find out who that person is. Because many of our churches have folks who are participating digitally, and they're not in the same town, let alone the same state," he said. "There's one church in Martha's Vineyard, in our Conference, who has a member who lives in Chicago, who is on the council, who has never stepped foot in the church."

Rev. Goodwin asked Rev. Elley what most churches are asking him.

He responded that the most frequent questions he gets are around integrating technology into the worship space of church, including technology that allows churches to offer hybrid worship services where people viewing online can participate. The second most frequent question he gets is from churches looking for website design help. And the third is the broader question: where do we go from here?

Rev. Elley has developed a variety of resources for churches and hosts weekly online discussions. Those resources, and his contact information, can be found at: www.sneucc.org/digital.

Watch the full interview here:

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