I was going to be arriving somewhere on Christmas Eve and I simply wanted to know the time and place of Christmas services there at the Anglican Church. Search online. Nothing shows up. No website. Ask others. No idea. “Why don’t you look on the website for the diocese of the area?”
I follow that seemingly good advice.
Not a single parish is mentioned on the (flash looking) diocesan website! There is a search box. Try that – put in the name of the town. Result: 30 “Statutes”! All PDFs – really exciting stuff people who want to go to church at Christmas really want to read (not!): finance statutes and clergy housing statutes… [And I was lucky with the search result. Put in the cathedral parish and up comes, “There are no results for…”!]
Click on every tab provided. Nothing.
Then I spot, right at the bottom of the page, the small word “Sitemap”. I click on that. Believe it or not, amongst the list of dozens and dozens of things and subthings: “Parish Contact List”. I click on that.
Up comes a page with links to a number of “Archdeaconries”. Now I’ve met people working in diocesan offices who do not know what the difference between a deacon and an archdeacon is! So we are, sitemap> Parish Contact List > Archdeaconries deep into churchy language now. But wait – there’s more! The Archdeaconries are given titles that possibly those living in the area would not realise that’s a name that refers to their area!
Each archdeaconry link downloads a PDF [anyone with a little website know-how realises that you use PDFs on websites as an exception, for very particular purposes, certainly not for providing contact information]. So now I search through all these pages of parishes I’ve downloaded. Yes, I finally found the place where I was going. It had a phone number (hooray for the church and nineteenth century technology!!!).
Yes. I did get to church this Christmas.
ps. On the PDFs each parish and other type of ministry unit had a space headed, “website”. Only one in five provided (have?) a website!
pps. I am going to bet this diocesan website was professionally produced, and paid for. Clearly no one responsible for the website has tried using it from the perspective of “an ordinary person”. The professionals who produced the pretty site possibly/probably have no church connection, no real idea what a church site should function like.
Many in the church continue to wonder why the church struggles to make connections in a third millennium world when our real agility is in functioning in nineteenth century ways.
ppps. For this town the Baptists have a good website, a facebook page, and even google reviews; Catholics have a good website and are on google+; the Salvation Army has a national website, the town is easily found there, and all needed information is present; the Presbyterians have an excellent contemporary website.
pppps. There is absolutely no excuse for not having a website. Here are instructions for making a FREE website. In about an hour. If you seriously cannot be bothered (the only honest reason!), give some teenagers pizza and coke and get them to do it for your laziness. That’s win-win-win. The teenagers get pizza and feel useful. There is a contemporary website for your church. You can pretend you are doing great youth ministry, and boast about the youth you are involving in the life of your church…