The Exploring Digital Online Conference

05 October 2023

“I found the entire day very enriching, engaging and inspirational.”

Over 500 people from across the UK, India, South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland, Ghana and many ecumenical partners signed up for our Exploring Digital Online Conference held last Saturday in Church House Westminster. 

The 4th floor, where the connexional team work from, was turned into a studio for the day with cables connecting lights, cameras, screens, microphones, laptops. We even borrowed the comfy yellow chairs from the Diaconal Order Room the give the studio ‘The One Show’ look.

Three keynote speakers provided theological, practical and informative input after which everyone was invited into breakout rooms for conversation and reflection. James Poulter invited participants to think about how they live, work and worship along with AI, an area of interest that was new to many. Katie Tupling Disability Advisor for the Oxford Diocese, shared her experiences about inclusion and belonging and helped people to understand the difference between online church and onsite church and Emma Sijuwade CEO of Socibelle, ended the day with some top tips and best ways to transform a church’s social media presence.

A panel of local Methodists joined Ben Hollebon, Director of Digital Engagement, to discuss questions raised by participants which included digital poverty, how the church’s history and heritage might support current mission contexts, online church, inclusion and disability, digital scared space and much more!

The entire day was accessed through the Exploring Digital App which provided a who’s who background on everyone involved in the day; a schedule of timings; space to interact and ask questions to the panel; write reflections and feedback from the small groups and an online marketplace with 20 different organisations and Teams from the Methodist Church sharing information about their work and opportunities for learning, training and development.

Fiona Fidgin, Digital Communications Training Officer for the Methodist Church who hosted the day with Ali Johnson from Cliff College, explained the thinking behind the title ‘Exploring Digital’, “we recognise that many people in the Methodist Church are at different stages in their understanding and experience of the digital. Whether you are a digital expert or a digital luddite, we are all, in many ways ‘Exploring Digital’ because it is changing so rapidly. We’ve been stimulated and inspired today by our keynote speakers, who are all digital experts in their field, but we’ve also had an opportunity in small groups to share our thinking, listen to others, ask questions and it’s through this type of conversation and encounter that deep and meaningful learning happens.”

The day stared and ended with worship led by the District Chairs of Scotland and Shetland and Wales Synod Cymru, Rev Mark Slaney and Rev Dr Jennie Hurd. The closing commissioning invited participants to make a commitment to how they would explore digital in the future and included comments such as, “I will commit to ….”

“Share one message of the gospel through different media streams.”

“Learning more about using AI.”

“Ensuring that our digital presence is as accessible and inclusive as possible.”

“Not being fearful of social media.”

“To improve our outreach to those who are isolated and lonely.”

“Sharing what I have learned with my leadership team.”

The follow up to the Conference is already in place with smaller bite size digital learning opportunities being offered by the Communications Team. The Exploring Digital Lunchtime Learning series starts on Wednesday 15 November 12.00-13.00. Fiona Fidgin and Ali Johnston will be unravelling the mystery behind AI with a very basic guide to what it is about, how to find it and top tips for using it well in mission and ministry. Registration is open and book your place here.