Umbers' meme-ministry connects with Millenials

The Ash Wednesday meme by @bishopumbers (Twitter/@bishopumbers)

Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Richard Umbers has made a name for himself as a "meme-making" bishop. He tells the Washington Post how he uses Twitter memes to convey important messages.

Lent was fast approaching, a time to renounce small pleasures, a time to do without social media. But the Mardi Gras binge that precedes 40 days of selfie denial happened to coincide with the appearance of a particularly sassy young teen on the Dr Phil Show.

Her slogan, “cash me ousside, howbow dah,” (apparently meant to read: catch me outside, how about that?) went viral, and caught my attention just as I was trying to think of ways to remind parishioners to come to Ash Wednesday services. And voilà – Ash me ousside, howbow dah – as a reminder of the Wednesday start to the season.

Liturgy-related memes may be preaching to the choir but church services are the usual point of contact that just about anyone has with the faith. They also tend to elicit the greatest response: a deer recoiling from an outstretched hand at the "Our Father" or a dreaded liturgical dance got hundreds and hundreds of likes. That many young people shared those memes on their own networks is a reflection of Millennials’ love for rubrics and Young Pope aesthetics, a generational divide that leaves most Baby Boomers mystified.

You might wonder why a successor to the apostles, with all the gravitas that an office of 2000 years standing brings with it, finds the time to make memes. It isn’t a ridiculous question, and it doesn’t have a ridiculous answer.

On the one hand, memes are just a bit of fun, eye candy for the harassed and overburdened who scroll through their phones on the way to or from work, or as they drop off to sleep at night. But they can also carry important messages in ways that are accessible to millions.


I’m a Roman Catholic bishop. And I make memes for Jesus (Washington Post)


Bishop Umber’s meme ministry gains global attention (Catholic Weekly)

The Meme-Sharing Bishop: Why You Should Follow Bishop Umbers of Sydney (Church Pop)

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