In a first for Europe, 150 communicators from across the continent gathered to connect, collaborate and change the way the Seventh-day Adventist Church uses technology, media and communication skills.
What is likely to become an annual event, Global Adventist Internet Network (GAiN) Europe was held at Newbold College of Higher Education, a Seventh-day Adventist school in Binfield, England, from March 23-26. While previous conferences have been held at local or regional level, this was the first time the Trans-European Division (TED) and the Inter-European Division (EUD) church regions have joined in a conscious attempt to improve networking and collaboration on media projects. The event included a new record, as the youngest presenter ever, 8-year-old Noah Gungadoo, shared ideas for using a drone for mission.
According to the event official website, GAiN meetings are “designed to foster the use of technology, media, and the internet to help the mission of the Adventist Church.”
Event organizers, TED Communication director Victor Hulbert and EUD Communication director Corrado Cozzi, did exactly that on the opening evening, as they introduced the Catch Box, a soft throwable microphone, into the Adventist media world.
Tossed around during the inaugural program to introduce attendees in the hall, it helped identify that delegates joined from as far away as Russia in the east, Portugal in the west, Iceland in the north and Greece and Italy in the south. Also, a few guests came from North America. In keeping with a technology event, there was no printed program, but the schedule, information on speakers, and campus maps were all found on a specially designed guidebook app.
In line with the 500-year anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, the theme for this year’s GAiN Europe was “re:formation, re:volution.” “Luther’s words, ‘Here I stand, I can do no other,’ a sentence Luther used as he started the Reformation, inspired the GAiN organizers during the planning process,” said Cozzi.
Hulbert held the opening devotional, demonstrating through photos, that the reformation is all around us. He explained how he likes to use his social media time by sharing stories and information which could be interesting to people who are not necessarily part of a church. Comparing the kind of “gossip” people like to follow on their Facebook and Twitter accounts, he explained that Adventists “have something better to gossip about.” “I encourage you to reflect on this throughout the GAiN weekend,” said Hulbert. “Take the opportunity to learn how to tell some of those stories and reform the revolution which makes our church.”
“This is the best GAiN [conference] I have ever been to.”
On Friday the live Twitter TV screen was opened where attendees could express their feedback and opinions by using the hashtag #GAiN17. “The internet is NOT virtual. It is a reality. When you speak, there are people on the other end.—@jamespoulter,” posted by Cozzi, was just one of the many tweets that popped up on the screen. James Poulter is Senior Global Social Media Manager at LEGO and a committed Christian. Poulter brought modern relevance to Bible themes during his presentation on “good news or fake news.” Following this seminar, popular vlogger, Espen Johnson showed everyone how powerful, yet simple it is to vlog—and generated a substantial amount of discussion.
The event included 17 workshops, including publishing, choosing various fonts, social media strategies, iPhoneography and news production. These workshops were specifically targeted for Adventist communicators, equipping them to “gossip” about their stories better.
Daniel Wildemann, from Advent-Verlag, the German Publishing House, led the attendees through Friday vespers. As a cartoonist, he showed how the reformation combined faith with art to share strong messages. He then demonstrated how images are being used today to illustrate, advertise and broadcast the Adventist message—and perhaps, how we can do it better.
What turned out to be the most popular meeting, was the Sabbath afternoon “Project Slam,” hosted by Wolfgang Schick, vice president of Media Services at the German Media Centre, Stimme der Hoffnung. With a strict 10-minute rule, attendees had a chance to present their projects, activities, and proposals. It included Animal Encounters, a project by Adventist Review TV partly co-funded by the two European church regions.
During networking time on Saturday night, delegates looked for a combined project on which all studios could collaborate. By this time next year, expect to see myriads of very short video clips highlighting individuals of all ages, background, and cultures involved in mission. Klaus Popa, Stimme’s general manager, was thrilled with the response, as he announced the project during the closing ceremony on Sunday and countries across Europe enthusiastically committed to participate.
Indeed, excitement seemed to be the general feeling of participants by the end of the event.
“This is the best GAiN [conference] I have ever been to,” said Canadian Union Communication director Stan Jensen. And he was not alone, as comments, both verbal and on the anonymous online evaluation form indicated the same mood. “Great job! A wide variety of topics and presenters!”
Or the comment that touched Cozzi and Hulbert’s hearts: “Big thanks for organizing [this event] and your love of His Mission.”
The next Global GAiN Conference will be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in August 2017, while GAiN Europewill return in March 2018.