Next Monday afternoon at OHALAH (the annual conference of the association of Jewish Renewal clergy, which is also named OHALAH) I'll be co-presenting a session for the first time with my friend David. The session is titled The Modern Clergyperson's Internet Toolkit, and here's how we've described it:
What does it mean to minister to people online? How can Jewish clergy best use Facebook and G+, Twitter, and blogs to reach out to our communities and to stay connected with our chevre and those to whom we tend...and what is the shadow side of all of these technologies; what are the challenges and potential pitfalls of being plugged-in? Is it possible to provide pastoral care via Skype? (How about via Facebook?) How careful do we need to be in monitoring our own online presences? What messages do we send when we are (or are not) available digitally 24/7? What are the unexpected blessings of being clergy in this brave new networked world? Can cultivating online presence tangibly support brick-and-mortar communities, and if so, how?
Panelists Rabbi Rachel Barenblat (Velveteen Rabbi blog / Velveteen Rabbi website) and David Markus (Reb David) will each offer brief prepared remarks, and then will open these questions up for conversation. They will moderate a roundtable in which participants around the room can share their best practices and their experiences and their resources.
I'm looking really forward to this. David and I have prepared a solid presentation, and it'll be interesting to see what insights and questions are raised by other folks in the room. We'll be talking about internet presence and how it's no longer optional for clergy, about some of the questions and cautions raised by online pastoral work and online connections, the blessings of blogging and of (potentially) reaching the whole wide world, some case studies in online pastoral care and online clerical interaction, the legal implications and the shadow side of this brave new world, and what we've found (and others have found) to be best practices in this realm.
If you're going to be at OHALAH, I hope you'll join us. Handouts, and a copy of our slides, will be made available at the OHALAH website after the conference is over, and if someone's able to record audio of the session, we'll post that too -- though I'm pretty sure that all of those resources are password-protected for conference registrants only. (But hey, it's not too late to register to join us at the conference!)