As the COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread loss and hardship, people across the world have drawn closer to the World Council of Churches (WCC), showing increased interest in many channels of communication.
Among the most appreciated WCC offerings, especially on Facebook and Twitter? “Prayers, Thursdays in Black, and The Ecumenical Review,” said Marianne Ejdersten, WCC director of Communication. The Thursdays in Black campaign for a world free from rape and violence has helped increase awareness of the heightened risk of sexual and gender-based violence during the pandemic.
The Ecumenical Review, WCC’s quarterly journal, addressed topics such as theological and ethical perspectives on the digital age, including the implications for the church as a community, something that has taken on particular significance as congregations have been unable to meet face to face during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A special joint virtual issue of The Ecumenical Review and another WCC journal, International Review of Mission, offered key articles from the two journals on health and hope.
“People are seeking comfort, peace, and accurate information at this difficult time,” said Ejdersten.
Ejdersten added “Communication is a multifaceted concept. For the WCC, communication is a key part of its work, in terms of using communication as a nonviolent method for fostering trust and confidence between different groups,” and she said “At the moment are we focusing on the global prayer campaign on Korean Peninsula.”
The WCC, which published on average of 78 Facebook posts per month during 2020, reached 200,000 people every month via Facebook, compared to 165,000 in 2019, representing about a 20% increase. The page also received a "blue badge,” a visual sign that indicates the authenticity of the page.
On Twitter, WCC saw an average of 12,500 visitors per day, compared to 10,400 per day over the same period in 2019, gaining some 900 followers since March. The WCC now has 28,700 followers on Twitter. Instagram followers have grown by 12% since the beginning of the year, to 3,500 followers.
There have been more than 25,000 downloads of Ecumenical Review articles in 2020 until the end of April, an increase of almost 8 % compared to the same period in 2019.
The WCC main website has also experienced a significant increase in its overall attendance in the first six months of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019: 43% more users and 38% more visits. Average weekly visits in January-June 2020 were 25,000 (compared to 18,000 in 2019), and average monthly visits 110,000 (80,000 in 2019).
“With total visits from 1 January to 17 June at 617,000, we are very likely to achieve our goal of one million visitors by the end of the year,” said Ejdersten.
The WCC YouTube channel also acquired a relevant space, hosting several video messages from the WCC leadership, as well as webcasts and webinars that continue to show how the WCC promotes love, unity and reconciliation. About 300 new YouTube viewers have joined the channel since March.
“During the global pandemic, WCC’s online presence has been a resource for prayers, reliable information, interviews, new publications, online meetings, online consultations and webinars,” said Ejdersten, who led her global team remotely from her home in Switzerland. “We have now been asking how we move forward together as a fellowship of churches and adapt to continue using electronic communication in our daily lives and work.”
It has been a special time to be the WCC director of Communication, concluded Ejdersten. "We formed an advisory group of communication officers in regions in different parts of the world. We will emerge with more experience, wisdom, and new, positive thoughts about being a prophetic voice,” she said. “We are focused on searching for new pathways and having the courage to choose and make changes.”