Starting from a remark addressed to her during a coffee break, Sr Rhona Burns reflects on the place of a Daughter of Jesus at a large gathering of website enthusiasts.
Coffee break Wordcamp Paris#2019
Two weeks ago, I met someone who made me think. First, the context – during a coffee break on one of the conference days at “Wordcamp Paris#2019“, a woman addressed the above remark to me. She did it in a way that was just a little mocking. It turned out she had been mistaken for me! It’s understandable – we were two women of the same age, with the same grey hair, and both present as volunteers. In addition, each of us had given a pre-conference interview on Twitter.
All the same, we had very different backgrounds. She was a writer, journalist and blogger with her own website. And me? This Christian who had dared to talk about her commitment to her Congregation’s web team? What was that all about? Finally, she understood that I didn’t pose any risk to her reputation and, perhaps, that Christians also had their place in organizing such an event. The reasoning behind the last point is the subject of this reflection.
But what’s a “Wordcamp”?
Yes, a “Wordcamp” is a conference, but it’s much more than that. It is also a large annual gathering and celebration of professionals and amateurs. While you are reading the articles on our site, have you ever asked the question, “How does the team actually produce the Congregation website ? Well, we do it with WordPress, a system now used to create 32% of all the websites in the world.
It has become so powerful because it is “open source” software that continues to evolve thanks to “communities” of enthusiasts all over the world. Each year these communities gather for 2 to 3 days with the slogan “Learn / Connect / Contribute”. The first Wordcamp was held in San Francisco in 2006. Since then, they have been organized in 65 countries on 6 continents. This year WordPress Paris celebrated its 11th anniversary with more than 400 guests.
When you prepare and organize a Wordcamp the idea is to:
- Work together collaboratively.
- Give freely of your time and skills to ensure a welcoming, respectful and friendly atmosphere.
- Contribute to the construction and development of an international project.
- Ensure that the project remains open and accessible to all.
- Learn to become agents of change.
Don’t you see in these ideas what we are trying to put into practice in religious life? The context may be different but I think that we, the “Christians”, share the same principles.
A volunteer for two days
I had already taken part in Wordcamp Europe in 2017 as a simple visitor. It was a great experience, and I had a very good memory of it. So this year I offered myself as a volunteer. The first day, I helped with the welcome and catering – a rather modest contribution but even geeks and techies (i.e. computer experts!) need to know where to go and to eat.
It was my day for:
- Learning in order to share and help our website to evolve.
- Connect with a very cutting edge world, what you could call a “periphery”?
On the second day, I had the privilege of serving as personal guide for a speaker who is blind, Tanguy Loheac. Tanguy has just set up Didactiweb, a training platform adapted to the needs of the visually impaired. Equipped with soft and hard ware that allows him to listen to instead of seeing what is on the screen, he told us how he had had to solve a lot of technical problems to make it work. He got there thanks to help from other technicians, but everyone was in admiration of his willingness to contribute and to become himself an actor of change.
If you want to have an idea of the atmosphere of the Conference click on this link.
An annual celebration
The socialising – the two evenings of the cocktail dinner and the after-party – I left that to the younger participants. Despite the compliments on my dynamism, after two days of hard work, I was beginning to feel my age. I can say though that I lived these two conference days as a celebration. I was pleased to have been one of the “volunteers who made it the TOP“.
Pleased too that I had given a very small particular response to the invitation
in the Acts of the General Chapter 2016 to
To move out of ourselves and our familiar habits
To risk some bold commitments
Because I say yes, Christians have a place in the new technologies. Its up to us to occupy it.
Sr Rhona Burns dj
(With special thanks to Matthiue Viet@imath / Bénédicte Dagan Taufflieb / Sylvie Clément@oelita / Eoxia / Karine Wendling@auserviceduweb, all of them photographers who have agreed to share their photos with the wider public!)