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Social Media Is Drawing Interest to Longmont Temple

Andi Dean’s interest in Buddhism was sparked by her late grandfather – and what he told her as a teenager resonated with her and eventually led her to the Longmont Buddhist Temple in Colorado.


Fast forward to the present, and Dean has been in charge of the temple’s social media since July 2021. And the metrics don’t lie – interest in Longmont is way, way up.


According to Facebook metrics, the post reach – the number of people who saw any posts at least once – had been hovering around 10 or 15 people, and shot up to 300 in July 2021. Likewise, the number of reactions, comments, shares and more has been increasing from fewer than three to more than 30 this year.


“Andi has been an amazing spark to the energy of the temple,” said Longmont’s Minister’s Assistant Rev. John Hughes. “I attribute 100 percent of the increase to Andi’s efforts. She posts several times a week (on Longmont’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sites), and she has excellent skills in graphics.”


Rev. Hughes said that he first met Dean in May 2020, and since then, “she has gone from an interested newcomer to the biggest factor in the growth of interest in Longmont Buddhist Temple.”


The Longmont temple is small, according to Rev. Hughes, with fewer than 30 members. Services tend to have 15 to 20 people in attendance. But ever since Dean took over the temple’s social media, he said they often have more than 30 people attending the Zoom services – up from the handful of previous participants.


After Dean took over Longmont’s social media, Rev. Hughes said “we are getting five to 10 inquiries a week for Zoom links and information about LBT.”


Dean said her grandfather Clinton Critchfield, a Christian who had a distinguished career in the U.S. military, set her on the path as a Buddhist.


Critchfield was involved in three wars – World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War – and served as a Motor Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy and a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.


“He was such a storyteller,” Dean said. “It was how he spoke about the monks in Vietnam and in Thailand. And the one thing I remember him saying is that it felt like the Buddhists got something right. Like there was something pure and wholesome and just. He was really drawn to them and he had stories about talking to the monks.”


After Critchfield passed away when she was 14, Dean wanted to explore Buddhism more. She would go to the public library in Parker, Colorado, the small town she grew up in south of Denver, and check out books on Buddhism. And she and a friend began practicing meditation.


“I continued that practice, even if I wasn’t reading sutras, and wasn’t chanting or wasn’t going to temple,” Dean said. “I’ve maintained the meditation practice for years and years. It’s one of my passions.”


Dean has a background in Theravada Buddhism, specifically the Thai Forest Tradition, but had no experience with Jodo Shinshu or Pure Land Buddhism.


The wheels of change began more than 10 years ago, when Dean moved to Longmont for her husband’s job. They lived about a mile from the Longmont Buddhist Temple and Dean drove past the temple all the time, for years. And then she became curious a couple of years ago.


“I felt like I needed to come back to the core of Buddhism because I had been away from it for a while,” she said. “And with the pandemic and everything going on, I thought, ‘I’m just going to send an email off and get the Zoom link’ and see if it’s for me because I wasn’t familiar with Jodo Shinshu.”


She began attending the Zoom services – “and then i was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I love it.’”


Dean signed up for EVERYDAY BUDDHIST through the Orange County Buddhist Church because she wanted to learn more about Jodo Shinshu. She bought a handful of books on Shin Buddhism. And she met the Longmont Sangha once they began in-person services last year before the COVID-19 variant shut services down again.


“It felt right, like the place to come for a like community for comfort,” she said. “That grounding in my life, just having that there, felt right for me.”


She said entering the Hondo, and meeting Rev. Hughes and other Sangha members, “was really neat – like you’re instantly in the community. It’s one of the more welcoming places you can ever go to because everyone’s just happy to see you and if this is the right path for you, than it is.”


Rev. Hughes had been posting notices to Longmont’s Facebook page for several years – and nothing on Instagram or Twitter. “The social media was generating a little interest, but nothing exciting,” he said, so he asked for help with graphics.


“I said, ‘I can do a little something. I can do some graphics,’” she said. “And it helps me support the temple and support Rev. John and take that off his plate because it’s fun for me. And I had no idea that it was going to snowball.”


She generally devotes one to two days a week with the social media posts and estimates she spends between two to four hours a week.


And the social media and graphics work also serves to dovetail with Dean’s current college studies in marketing.


Dean’s involvement with Longmont is growing, too. She was just elected Recording Secretary of the temple and began taking the Jodo Shinshu Correspondence Course on March 1.


Rev. Hughes noted one major change since Dean took over Longmont’s social media.


“My only complaint is that her efforts have dramatically increased the amount of time I spend on correspondence for the temple,” he said.


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