Members of Seventh-day Adventist congregations in Nicosia, Cyprus — aged 9 to almost 90 — spent the April 5-7, 2019, weekend learning more about both the theology and the practical skills of using social media for God.
Social media is now an integral part of many people’s lives, including the residents of Cyprus. According to official statistics in Cyprus, more than 95 percent of the population has access to the internet, and 65 percent make active use of social media, with a larger proportion among youth. With only around 200 Adventist Church members on the island of 850,000 people, program participants recognized the need to be active and to increase the profile of the church using their personal social-media access to share their faith.
For one teenager, that meant creating a 60-second video clip sharing how he managed to keep the Sabbath even though a major competition was scheduled for a Saturday (Sabbath). That was just one of many ideas that came from the Sabbath-afternoon breakout groups that led to a number of recordings on participants’ mobile phones.
To prove that social media is not just for the young, Jony Manasian, a retired pastor and former Middle East Union president, was filmed by another volunteer, Banislav Hrubik, telling a story from his days in the Iranian army in the days of the Shah.
In leading the training, Trans-European Division Communication director Victor Hulbert filmed that process on his phone, demonstrating to participants that it is not difficult to make videos for social media.
“Recent presentations in Iceland, Scotland, and Lithuania led me to realize that getting people ‘hands on’ with the equipment and in front of the camera means they can then have the confidence to continue once the training is over,” Hulbert said.
In Iceland and Scotland, Hulbert had prepared a sample “reflection” piece in the local context that participants could use as an example. Both in Lithuania and Iceland, he took that idea a stage further by taking attendees outdoors to interview local people, creating a feature with local interest.
“In my own experience, I’ve discovered that reflections like these reach way beyond my Adventist friends, and often have an impact on people who have little experience of organized religion,” Hulbert added.
Nicosia has three Adventist congregations: Greek, International, and Bulgarian. All three groups were involved in the training to create localized content in Greek, English, and Bulgarian.
Unlike much of Europe, Cyprus still maintains a rich religious heritage. Branislav Mirilov, president of the Adventist Church in the Cyprus Section, noted that this gives Adventists something of an open door to share their faith alongside the strong religious traditions on the island. As such, filming in locations like Salamis, St. Barnabus Church, or Lazarus Church in Limassol could build bridges with local communities. Hulbert said that this kind of filming is done both in the local Greek language and in English for the very diverse community on the island.
The Sunday morning training also included photography skills, with tips coming from local communication expert, and member of the Greek-speaking church, Alex Elmadjian. Hulbert used photos from an evening visit to St. Barnabus Church to illustrate, among other tips, the difference between a snapshot and a creatively planned image.
This is not the first training in Cyprus. An earlier training in March 2018 led to the inauguration of "Holy Cakes", a children’s cooking program. What Mirilov had earlier described as “very useful and instructive seminars” will undoubtedly add to that portfolio, Hulbert said.