Monks Go Social to Gain New Members

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April 17, 2011; Source: New York Times | If you haven’t yet jumped on the social media bandwagon, a dozen monks with five octogenarians in the mix can show you how. The small community of Benedictine monks at the Portsmouth Abbey in Portsmouth R.I is building online visibility as a means of recruiting new members into their order. They have a Facebook page, videos, a blog, and a downloadable Gregorian chant ringtone for inspiration.

This is more than a leap of faith. Having concluded that they need to connect with young people to grow their community, the monks have called upon Partners and Simons, a Boston based advertising agency and BPI, a film production company, to tell their stories and invite questions via the web. Among the frequently asked questions they feature: “Do I have to get up in the middle of the night?” (No), and “Do I have to give up my car?” (Yes).

Engaging in social media technology and conversation is now one more part of monastic life, which otherwise centers on teaching, contemplation and five religious services a day. The monks have drawn the line at Twitter, however, for now. It would “require a regularity in posting that we would find very difficult to maintain,” said Monastic Renewal Program Director David Moran.

It remains to be seen whether they’ll fully follow the direction set by the Vatican and establish their own YouTube channel as well.—Kathi Jaworski