Pocahontas Church Responds to Congregation, Launches Unity News to Share Parish Updates
Posted: July 26, 2022
Courtesy of Danny Ellis
Anchor Danny Ellis interviews the pastor, Father Stephen Elser, June 10 on Unity News, a monthly 30-minute show, which includes parish news and events, interviews and panel discussions with parish leaders.
It may be early, but the synod on synodality is already bearing fruit in a small town in Arkansas.
When St. Paul the Apostle Church in Pocahontas surveyed its parishioners during the first phase of the synodal process, the congregation let pastor Father Stephen Elser and the parish council know that the lack of communication and opportunities of fraternity were among the biggest problems that the parish needed. Address.
“The diocese asked us for the three main conclusions; our two main ones, by far, were communication and fellowship,” Fr. Elser said. “On the fraternity side, I blame that a lot on COVID. We just built a new fraternity hall and events are happening, so it’s sort of taking care of itself. Communication was the other common thread running through all the responses. Parishioners simply didn’t feel like they knew what was going on, or they felt like only a select few knew what was going on.
As the council discussed ways to improve dialogue, member Danny Ellis, a freelance real estate and aviation marketing executive, came up with the idea of starting a news program focused solely on parish news and events. .
“The diocese asked us for the three main conclusions; our two main ones, by far, were communication and fellowship… Parishioners just didn’t feel like they knew what was going on, or they felt like only a select few knew what was going on .
“People weren’t picking up the phones. They didn’t read the ads. So, I thought, I was doing marketing for a living. I have the equipment, the cameras,” Ellis said. “Let me see what we can do to fix this problem.”
In May, St. Paul’s Church launched Unity News, a monthly 30-minute program that begins with parish news and events, interviews and panel discussions with parish leaders, and a question-and-answer segment where Parishioners can send e-mail requests for Father Elser to be addressed on the show. Unity News is featured on Facebook and YouTube once a month on Sundays at 7 p.m.
“The goal is to reach as many parishioners as possible to let them know what’s going on, make sure they feel part of the parish and give them the opportunity to play a role,” said said Father Elser. “We did a few episodes, and it was well received. It’s great for us to see.
“At first the reaction was confusion, ‘Why are we doing this?'” Ellis said of the parish’s initial response. “But once they got to see what we report – the facts, the news and the truth – in a professional-quality current affairs program with enhanced production value, the reception was excellent.”
In early episodes, Unity News was able to highlight the parish’s RCIA program,
growing faith formation opportunities for adults, a youth program – which includes five members who serve on the statewide Diocese Youth Advisory Council – and the launch of the St. Paul Columbarium Project while diving into deeper discussions of church-wide topics like the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.
Ellis said he originally thought of producing a live show, but instead thought the value of the production would be better if it was recorded and edited. Each half-hour episode takes over six hours to produce, from coordinating topics and interviews to recording and editing. Filming usually takes place a week before the show airs.
“I never thought I’d do a news show, but it’s a lot of fun. It really is,” he said.
Ellis anchors the show with Angie Capps, a volunteer who helps lead the parish’s youth ministry. Although she has no media experience, Capps said she “can pretty much talk to anyone” and jumped at the chance.
“People want more communication other than the newsletter, so when Danny called me and asked if I would be a co-host, I said, ‘Absolutely’.”
When it came time to film the first episode, however, her confidence surprisingly gave way.
“It was different; I was nervous,” she said. “We tripped and laughed for 45 minutes and then we had to regroup and start over.”
After taping a few episodes, she said, “I think we’re getting there. I don’t mind talking in front of the camera anymore.
Capps said she hopes the show inspires people to get more involved.
“I hope we can continue to spread our message and better involve our parish in the life of the Church,” she said. “We have a lot of people who can do a lot of things.”
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