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Funny GIFs and heartfelt expressions

Some delegates used Twitter to report on MC Canada’s Special Assembly

Aaron Epp
By Aaron Epp, Young Voices Editor
Nov 01, 2017 | Volume 21 Issue 21

‘You do it to connect with people who aren’t at your table [and] you do it for the diaspora of people who aren’t here,’ Kyle Penner said of his decision to tweet at assembly. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

Once an avid Twitter user, Steph Chandler Burns almost never uses the social networking site anymore. That changed, however, when she attended Mennonite Church Canada’s Special Delegate Assembly in Winnipeg Oct. 13-15, 2017.

Chandler Burns, interim pastor at Bloomingdale Mennonite Church in Bloomingdale, Ont., was one of more than 15 delegates who were tweeting throughout the assembly, using the hashtag #mcassembly2017 to share their thoughts online.

One of the key reasons she tweeted at assembly, Chandler Burns said, is so that she could report in real-time what was happening to people who could not be at assembly.

“I think of if I were missing [assembly], where would it be easiest for me to follow updates?” the 27-year-old said. “I probably wouldn’t sit and watch the live feed… but there’s a chance I’d check in [on Twitter] and get a sense for what’s going on.”

Between five and ten of Chandler Burns’ friends who weren’t at assembly were following her tweets. A few expressed their appreciation to her via text, and one friend sent her a message on Twitter asking for documents related to assembly so that he could do more research.

Kyle Penner, associate pastor at Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach, Man., was tweeting throughout assembly for similar reasons as Chandler Burns. “You do it to connect with people who aren’t at your table [and] you do it for the diaspora of people who aren’t here,” said Penner, 34.

Penner was one of the more prolific tweeters at assembly, and his posts ranged from heartfelt expressions to GIFs that gently poked fun at assembly proceedings.

 

During Saturday morning’s business sessions, when the discussion turned to amendments to the bylaw to restructure MC Canada, Penner was one of a handful of delegates tweeting funny comments. “It’s a humorous way to interact with content that… at times can be less than engaging,” he said.

Micah Neufeld, a youth delegate from Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont., joined Twitter during assembly. It was the 14-year-old’s first time attending a gathering of the nationwide church, and he said checking the #mcassembly2017 hashtag from time to time to see what people were saying enhanced his assembly experience.

“Usually in this kind of stuff, you’re just sitting there and listening, but [with Twitter] it felt like you were interacting with people even though they weren’t necessarily next to you,” Neufeld said. “It gave you more options for communication, and it opened [you] up to more people's views other than just that of your table.”

 

Chandler Burns added that tweeting during assembly kept her on task. “This many people, this much discussion, it’s exhausting for me as an introvert,” she said. “[Tweeting] is a really good way of keeping me focused instead of shutting me down.”

 

She discovered this while tweeting at the MC Canada Assembly in Saskatoon in July 2016. “As I was trying to follow along and tweet things as they happened, it actually helped me pay better attention to what was going on,” she said.

For people like Chandler Burns, Penner and Neufeld, Twitter replaced the pen and paper that some people were using to take notes during assembly. “It is a way of note taking in the public sphere,” Penner said. “It’s a way to look back at what you said.”

Those notes can come in handy later when interacting with people in your home congregation, Chandler Burns added. “It’s a good way for being able to report back,” she said.

Tweets about MC Canada’s Special Assembly can be found on Twitter with the hashtag #mcassembly2017

For more reports on Special Assembly 2017 visit here:
http://www.canadianmennonite.org/focus-special-assembly-2017

Micah Neufeld joined Twitter at assembly so that he could follow the conversation happening online. (Photo by Aaron Epp)

For Steph Chandler Burns, tweeting was a way to stay focused at assembly. (Photo by Aaron Epp)


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