|Monday, December 4, 2000|
|I just received the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio's newspaper a few days ago. I used to develop the Diocese's website until they hired a full-time 'Information Specialist' about a year or so ago. There have been a number of decisions recently concerning the church (in this case the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio) and the Internet. While I take full responsibility for the direction and development of the Diocese's webpresence for the two years I worked with the website, the lack of time (my time) and interest among some in the Diocese was frustrating. The Web is now approaching ten years old and there is a decision to spend a year studying the issue. Why? Let me say this again and be more complete: Why is this study only being undertaken now and not even five or more years ago? How long does it take to read the tea leaves? This isn't an accusation or condemnation or negative judgment on those in charge or the regular person in the pew, but this statement is expressed from a lifelong frustration with the organized Church and it's ability to understand what is happening in around it and its ability to move forward with speed. It is the same as a very large technology company with all its bureaucracy not being able to nimbly move and bend with the newer, leaner, forward thinking startups.
I understand the need to study the situation and move forward in an informed and organized way, but why does the church tend to begin these types of processes so late in the game? There are an over abundant supply of denominational, para-church, and religious websites out there today, and have been from the beginning. Some are effective and some aren't. In this sense, in terms of effectiveness, it is good and wise to study the situation and develop a strategic plan, but why so late in the game?
As one statement says, 'It has become a truism to say that the revolution in Information Technology is reshaping the world on the same order as did the Industrial Revolution." A very true statement, except that instead of 'IS reshaping' we are at the point were it 'HAS reshaped and continues to change...' It isn't just semantics, it is perception of where things actually are and the effect those things have had and are having on our culture and society. The Church (in general), with exceptions, once again finds itself coming late to the game. Why is this? Because the very nature of the Church is to sustain the status-quo or to be 'conservative'? Because the church is led by older people who only want to see their security, their peace, their 'sanctuary' from a now unfamiliar world sustained and unchanged -- to remain familiar at all times? Because some are so afraid of change that they thwart it at every attempt? Because of lack of funds? Because of lack of vision or inspiration? Because .... why? The 'why' questions should be included in studies being undertaken.
My frustration is one reason I resigned from continuing on as Webmaster with the Diocese of Ohio and to begin this web project. Again, this isn't to condemn or cast blame, these statements are simply my expression of how I understand things at this moment in time and how I think the Church can be most effective with young people in our current society. And let me say, I think this is a great Dioceses and the Episcopal Church, with its faults and problems, is a great church to be a part of -- if I didn't feel this way, I wouldn't be involved, I wouldn't care, and I would be writing this right now. I'm no longer a part of the Pentecostal church, in which I grew up, because I could no longer engage them or sustain my interest in them or agree with much of what they were doing. And before anyone says anything, it isn't a liberal theology vs. a conservative theology that caused me to switch churches. Anyway, many of the things I wanted to do and develop didn't seem to grab a listening ear -- or at least an ear that could say, 'yes, do it.' I have to take some of the blame for that, but much of what I did with the website was despite the church and not as a result. Now, the Diocese is studying the situation to see what it wants to do and how. Why so late? We should be doing web-casts of Diocesan Conventions, church sevices, Mission and Ministry Conferences, etc., etc. There should be dynamic web-based communities and discussion boards/chats. There should be virtual youth groups designed in a way to engage young people and encourage them to join real-world communities. There should be distance learning opportunites for the small , isolated, and poor parishes, as well as parishes far from the Diocesan offices. They have the ability. They have the servers, the software, and people to help, and they have the money. So, yes, parts of the Church is being left behind and will have to play catch up once again. Parts of the Church will never catch up nor catch the vision. I was tired of waiting and wanted to 'just do it.' So, here I am with the beginning of this website. I have an idea of what I want to do and how it can progress. I will be deveoping a webcam for this site with plans on web-casting the church service from my church. I plan on beginning a web-based book discussion with a real-world counter part at my church to get a feel for the differences between virtual-world and real-wold group dynamics. I plan on engaging people in Episcopal seminaries, as seminarians, accross the US. I am way too late myself, but this is a beginning. In many ways like the beginning the Diocese is undertaking with its study, yet I can't wait any longer. But, there comes a time when we have to simply being. I hope this is a beginning for the Diocese of Ohio and that from here on out the full potential of the Web and the Internet will be realized and utilized for the benefit of human kind. I hope I can have a part of that!
I need to do a lot more thinking about this. I need to be able to speak persuasively and sysinctly. I need to translate my vision into a reality.
Oh, by the way, I had a great time at my grandmother's this past weekend. I was there with my sister & brother-in-law with a surprise visit from a cousin I haven't seen in a number of years. Glad I went. Oh, and of course, the first installment of the SciFi Channel's mini-series version of Dune, perhaps the greatest science fiction series ever written!!! We shall see how well they do. The first part wasn't bad, but there were aspects of the original movie that I think were better, even though I didn't particularly like the original movie.