The United Methodist Church latest communication channel dubbed UMConnect has reached Liberia and is expected to revolutionize communication among members of the Liberia Episcopal Area. Tested during the 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church, the product was rolled out in July 2016 and has since been in operation in other parts of Africa, especially Southern and Eastern Africa. According to the UMConnect trainer Ndzulo Tueche Joe, who visited Liberia Nov 23-26 to assist in the deployment of the program in the Liberia Annual Conference, the application is intended to make information available to members of the church who do not have access to the internet and to also make it quickly available to the church membership. “We want you to reach all United Methodists in your episcopal area in the shortest possible time with vital information about the church,” he emphasized.
United Methodist Communications aims to assist annual conferences to strengthen their ability to communicate with their members said the UMConnect trainer. In the Nigeria Episcopal Area, over 80% of United Methodists use a mobile phone, adding, “if the mobile penetration in the Liberia Annual Conference is similar, what an opportunity to be able to send vital and engaging information to members.”
On the second day of Ndzulo’s visit to Liberia, Acting Bishop Arthur Kulah listened to a presentation about UMConnect and welcomed the equipment which the Liberia Annual Conference received as a grant for the deployment of the program. The equipment consists of a laptop computer, a rechargeable battery, a solar panel and a smart phone through which messages will be relayed.
Ndzulo cautioned staff of the department of communications of the church in Liberia that they must figure out the best way to sustain the application once the UMConnect project phases out. With the participants they brainstormed on ways to render the setup sustainable.
On behalf of the UMC Liberia, the chairman of the communications board, McArthur Hill said the department is going to work with church leaders to ensure that UMConnect will not die as do other projects once the sponsorship rolls out. “The church must make sure that this project is funded and sustained so that we can reach our people,” Hill said. He also warned that church members needed to be well informed as the project was being rolled out, saying, “we don’t want this idea to be one that benefits only the so-called elites of the church.” The Board Chairman indicated that the local churches of the conference will be challenged to uphold UMConnect through membership contributions and individual support. “We want to reach most of our members with information by 2017,” Hill noted.
UMConnect will allow UMC Liberia church leaders to build their own mobile databases, easily reaching those who may not have access to internet and email, or those who will prefer text messages and it will be managed by Edward Massaquoi. Being the manager also of the UMC Liberia radio dubbed ELUM, Massaquoi said the station will also use UMConnect to enhance its distribution network once the application is off the ground and working. He thanked UMCom for setting up the application that will allow the church to stay in touch with its membership easily and quickly. “We will ensure that this is sustained,” he concluded
Church leaders who participated in the opening session of the training include Interim Bishop Arthur Kulah and Rev. George D. Wilson, Director of the Connectional Ministries among others.