Virtual Pioneers Over 9 million of these are aged over 45, so it can no longer be considered a communication tool for younger people. This presents an exciting opportunity for the promotion of Spiritualism and our churches and centres, not least because it can enable us to connect with new people who have not yet experienced what we have to offer. Our pioneers were very successful in promoting Spiritualism and used everything at their disposal to help disseminate its message. As well as books and journals, things such as “seedcorn” pamphlets were made available for exponents to distribute and “germinate” new ideas to the masses. We would recognise these today as flyers but at the time advances in printing technology meant that they were becoming a quick and cheap way to spread the word – the social media of their time. This is powerful inspiration for us, as today’s pioneers, to use new technology to advance our movement. With 42.5 million smartphones in the UK, we have a clear way to reach new people and keep in touch with existing ones, even when they’re on the go. In the Publicity & Promotions Committee of the SNU we have been using Facebook to do this for some time and have had some great successes. For example, the Channel 4 programme, “My Psychic Life”, presented a very narrow and damaging view of mediumship. Immediately after the broadcast we issued a statement from Minister David Bruton to mitigate this and within the first 48 hours managed to reach over 60,000 people. It provided a rapid way for the Union to stand up for Spiritualism and continues to do so, as our posts regularly reach people in their thousands. Creating a Facebook page for your church or centre is a free and accessible way to share the great work that you’re doing, keeping congregations engaged and reaching new people. It’s natural to have concerns about safety but Facebook has inbuilt tools to help you stay in control of your page. This means that you do not have to have your page overrun by spam, leaving it clear to promote what’s important, your church and your religion! "We first set up the Church page to advertise services and events. It soon developed into an extension of our Church." We caught up with Amanda Fuller, Vice-President of Cirencester Church. They have been using Facebook for some time now and found that it has been instrumental in promoting church activities and Spiritualism itself. Amanda told us: “We first set up the Church page to advertise services and events. It soon developed into an extension of our Church and a way for our congregation to interact outside of the building. The focus of the page became about trying to build a community to reach those that couldn’t always make it to a service. We still post about our services and groups but also bring in Spiritualist philosophy.” We asked Amanda if there were any social media successes that Cirencester could share with others: “We ran a seven-week philosophy discussion about the Seven Principles. We posted a Principle each week and asked people how it made them feel and what it meant to them. They responded in words, music or pictures. The response was fantastic, sparking off some great discussions on what the Seven Principles mean to us in today’s world. To bring it all together we printed these responses and used them in a Divine Service. Each week we say our Principles parro tfashion but do we actually take them in? This was a great way to blend the two together, enabling the congregation to hear what their fellow Spiritualists thought. A rewarding experiment which worked well!” The biggest challenge in working with social media is keeping it up to date but many find the little and often approach is both manageable and effective. A variety of short posts throughout the week can keep people engaged and thinking about Spiritualism. We wondered if Cirencester had found it a struggle to update and how well it had helped them to engage with current and potential congregation “As the church page has grown, the need to regularly keep it fresh and exciting is a task in itself, communicating that our church is a place that they would love to come and visit, and perhaps start their own journey in Spiritualism. Not everyone on the page is a ‘seasoned’ Spiritualist, and some have yet to realise there is more to this than ‘talking to dead people’. When sharing events, I don’t just post on the wall. I create an event invitation. "This isn’t just a page on Facebook. This is our Church, a virtual church that reaches over 500 people." This gets sent out to every member. It means that they are drawn to look at the page too. People are kept up to date with education, workshops and circles. Also, any charity events we are working on, such as our recent evening for Cirencester Housing for Young People, are promoted. An effective way to raise awareness of our wider community as well as our church. Sharing items from the Union’s publicity and events page can help our page members keep informed. By sharing posts such as the recent Peace Walk and events at Stansted and Stafford we can show what is happening within the Union. The SNU YouTube channel [SNU Film] has also provided videos which can be easily shared and launch discussions.” As technology moves ahead at a rapid pace, it is likely that further opportunities to promote our religion will emerge. If we adopt the pioneering spirit and accept this challenge, we can forge new avenues to engage with the public to talk about what we do and why we do it. Finally, Amanda shared some words of encouragement for us all: “The biggest thing I have learnt is that this isn’t just a page on Facebook. This is our Church, a virtual church that reaches over 500 people. When it works well and you see people interacting who may never actually meet, it makes you feel part of a community - which is what we are! A family…“ If you’re thinking about setting up a Facebook page for your church or centre and would like some support, get in touch with the SNU Publicity and Promotions Committee.