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Communications Minister’s Report to Diocesan Council, August 2, 2017

Communications Minister’s Report to Diocesan Council, August 2, 2017

By Maurice L. Harris | Diocesan Communications Minister

(1) Drafted and pitched press release about Stowe sisters leading July 4 service, which was picked up by VT Digger:

(2) Drafted and pitched press release about the Rev. Mark Thompson being named priest-in-partnership in Arlington, which was picked up by the Bennington Banner and Brattleboro Reformer.,512658,513014

(3) Drafted and pitched press release about Rock Point Pollinator Grant, which was originally picked up by VT Digger, later covered by VPR, and subsequently mentioned again by VT Digger as part of their VPR coverage.

(4) Drafted and pitched press release about Rock Point re-branding effort, which was picked up by VT Digger:

(5) Worked with the Rev. Sherry Osborn from Rock Point Summer Camp and Kesey Guarino from Rock Point School to develop a creative collaboration between the two entities. Under the guidance of diocesan communications, a student from Rock Point School is producing a music video of Rock Point Summer Camp. The video is being filmed during summer session and will be edited in autumn for a winter debut.

(6) On June 27, LONDONmiddlebury presented its brand discovery results to the Rock Point Board. The Rock Point rebranding effort is being co-led by the Rev. Craig Smith, Rock Point’s director of operations and program, and diocesan communications. As a next step in the process, the Rock Point Web Design will recommence under the guidance of Maurice and Craig to begin implementing some of the recommendations set forth in the discovery brief, and to make progress on the Rock Point website redesign.

(7) I hosted half-day workshops for parish communicators on July 22 (Trinity Shelburne), 27 (Zion Manchester) and 29 (St. John’s Stowe). Twenty-nine individuals participated in the event at which we discussed practical tools and tips, as well as spiritual matters related to communication. (See Appendix A for agenda.) As a takeaway from the workshop, I presented each participant with a free copy of 2017 Perspectives on Communication: A Reference for Communicators in the Episcopal Church in Vermont. The book is an anthology composed by contributors in the diocese and beyond, including me. Each chapter of the book is meant to represent a “hot button” issue for communicators in our Diocese over the past 12 months, and it concludes with an introduction to this year’s Convention theme: Declare Dignity. A limited supply of print copies is available upon request, and an electronic edition is available online at the following link:

(8) During their closing activity at the communicators’ workshop, participants shared with me their lingering questions. As a follow-up to the event, I will be posting on the diocesan website additional guidance as per their request. More details to come.

(9) After the July 29 communicators’ workshop in Stowe, I filmed three new episodes of the Many Gifts, One Spirit video series. (Many thanks to St. John’s communications director Barbara Cunningham for setting these up!)

(10) The diocese has once again partnered with the Society of St. John the Evangelist to provide a Lenten Study Guide. We are scheduled to receive 1,000 copies of the book as soon as they are available, and the Vermont edition features a custom cover and an introductory message from the Bishop.

(11) I spent some time with St. Michael’s Brattleboro to assist with the redesign of their email newsletters. As part of this project, we are considering migrating St. Michael’s from Constant Contact to Mail Chimp and will be conducting a test of the new service. If all goes well, the conversion will not only improve the appearance and efficiency of St. Michael’s email blasts, it will eliminate their monthly email expense. This model could potentially be replicated throughout the Diocese. Stay tuned for more to come.

(12) Please note that the diocese has established a Zoom account for web conferences. (Many thanks for Michelle Sandul for setting this up!) Going forward, web conferences hosted by the diocese (such as diocesan council meetings) will be conducted on the new platform rather than Skype-for-Business. There is no additional action required on your part. Individuals seeking to conduct 1-on-1 web conferences are encouraged to sign up for a free account at

(13) For a few days this week, I am serving as a volunteer counselor at Rock Point Summer Camp in addition to my diocesan communications role. The purpose of this “immersion experience” is to develop a firsthand understanding of Camp’s communication needs, and to identify any unarticulated opporunities. This experience will also be useful as I’m asked to weigh in on the Rock Point re-branding project.

(14) Be sure to read the current edition of the Mountain. It features a reflection on the 2017 Jerusalem Peacebuilders camp, which contains brief, video interviews that can be very useful for engaging potential applicants and volunteers:

Appendix A

Communicators’ Workshop Agenda

1) Introduction, Ice Breaker and Opening Prayer

We’ll start out by getting to know each other and seeking God’s guidance as we embark on our workshop agenda.

2) Funding Your Communications Ministry: Applying for Diocesan Grants & Loans

There are many tools that can dramatically enhance our communications. Some of them may emerge through our workshop conversations today! The reality is, many come with a price tag. The good news is, funds may be available. Canon Lynn Bates will discuss the diocesan grants and loans process.

3) Creating or Enhancing Your Online Presence: Web Design & Management for Churches of Any Size

Regardless of your church’s membership size, having an online presence is a must. In this segment, we’ll discuss a range of web design options, as well as methods for managing them—for novice users as well as pros.

4) More Than Just Facebook & Twitter: Finding the Best Social Medium & Getting the Most from It

When someone says, “social media,” what comes to mind? Facebook and Twitter are at the top of the list, no doubt, followed by a litany of apps popular with teens and college-aged youth. What platforms, if any, can be useful to mature adults? Hint: You’ll be surprised at the answer!

5) Newsletters and List Management Tips and Tools

Newsletters, a staple of organizational communication, come in a few formats today: Print, email, and web. In this session, we’ll discuss some best practices for administering your publication, and expanding your church’s access to diocesan communications, no matter what format the newsletter takes.

6) Sharing and Growing Together: Exploring the Links Between Communications and the Jesus Movement

In this segment of the workshop, we’ll spend some time discussing the ministry of communication and how, with a little intentionality, our work as communicators ignites the Jesus Movement.

7) Wrap Up and Closing Prayer

We’ll review our key takeaways from the day and dismiss with thanksgiving.


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