21 June 2012

Website Presence

The context for this post is North American.  It may be true for other English-speaking lands, so please read with an eye toward local adaptation of these ideas.  Is there an idea worth exploring?  Are we already doing something we could do better?

I begin with a negative observation and then pass to what is positive and commendable:  One of the repeated complaints about the U.S. Ordinariate is that its website is not updated enough, or is not updated frequently enough, and does not provide information the laity desire to have.  

When the U.S. Ordinariate page appeared it looked like it would be a bold effort with a large beautiful painting of Our Lord captivating the eye.  Today it is already whispering of a need for overhaul or redesign.  So get folks who can be on top of the web page throughout the day every day... What? There's no money to pay someone?  Not a problem, lieblings, the laity are 'chomping at the bit' to volunteer.  And many retired people with a little training would give it their best effort.

It does take some effort to keep a contemporary website going when it serves a diocese or a business start-up.  The website will be the main point of contact for the "uninitiated" who do not know they are expected to check the Facebook page which in the case of the CSP-Ordinariate is: http://www.facebook.com/CSPOrdinariate

Today a Facebook page is what a listing in the telephone directory used to be.  Some would say a presence is needed on Google+ and other platforms.  Of course, they are correct.  Facebook keeps making changes that some find unnecessary and it drives them away.  But churches like businesses cannot afford to be driven away.  Facebook and an unique website are the main platforms at this time and we must use them for the work of the Gospel and Christ's poor Church.

Facebook has some benefits in that one can offer story after story for people to read.  Quick interviews with those whose names are mentioned in news stories, links to news stories in the mainstream press, photos from your clergy, new communities, new facitilies, daily Scriptures, short messages from the Ordinary and the other clergy... oh, it is tremendously versatile and very easy to maintain.

By way of example, the Facebook page  is a great place to put a photo of the international liturgical Working Group together with the names of members, the Chairman, and contact information.

The truth is the Facebook page is not something to discuss; rather it is something to do straightway.  Praise God there is one for the CSP-Ordinariate! It does have new stories from time to time.  The Press Officer for the U.S. Ordinariate has done a great job in the mainstream press and the Facebook page is off to a tentative but strong start.  So hats off to Susan Gibbs and those who collaborate with her.

Now back to the website... this is one of those occasions where well-qualified volunteers could help a great deal.  But you need to have some method of welcoming the gifts and skills from the laity being volunteered rather than just telling them that it is covered by someone and no one need apply.  Bad business practise, and even worse for the Church.  

Always, always turn over an offer of help to a person who will take time to connect the person with something that needs doing.  Maybe they volunteer to plan luncheons.  You've got someone coordinating that already.  Don't tell them they are not needed.  Put them in contact with the person already in charge and thank them in the Lord's name for coming forward to help in that work.

Hurt feelings can be avoided by putting a form page on the website where laity and clergy can volunteer their skills, gifts, and competencies.  Generating such an information-resource from a form page is vital with anything starting from the ground up.  (And, yes, you also need to do this parish by parish, mission by mission, group by group.  You can never employ only one method and say to yourself, "Well, there's that done and dusted."

Some might say that we in the Anglican diaspora and our communities are older and don't use the internet.  To that notion I say, Balderdash!  My octogenerian father surfs the web with the best of the young whippersnappers.  And should the younger members respond in a disproportionate manner... is that really a problem?  No.  It is a huge gift from God!

The bottom line is that a website needs to be responsive to the communities and individuals that are using it.  If there are questions, misunderstanding, problems... the website is the first place to respond making every use of the website's potential to unify, encourage, and guide ... not in a reactionary way but in a pro-active positive presentation of facts, apologies when necessary, and calls to share in the apostolic mission to take the Gospel to the ends of earth starting where each of us live.

Am I a website developer?  Not today.  I jump in and help where there is a great need, but normally internet service providers have all sorts of useable templates that can be adapted very, very easily and cheaply.  The key is updating the website daily such that those interested won't want to miss whatever will be posted next.  Rather than overwhelming someone in the Ordinariate Office with a thousand million questions by telephone or email, an aggressively informational website can greatly reduce such burdens upon office staff.

The other side of this is building up the e-mail list and sending out at least a bi-weekly email.  It is as necessary as sending out a monthly parish magazine.  And be sure to have an Archive on your website where all of these things can be found after they have been sent out.

New communities and older parishes should take advantage of the Facebook page immediatley and make sure they have an attractive web presence on an unique website that makes clear who they are.  Remember no one really understands what "Personal Ordinariate of ... " means.  It says nothing about the Anglican content within the Catholic Church, so make sure your website says something like the following adapted to your situation:

Roman Catholics of the Anglican Patrimony
 The Personal Ordinariate of the Light of Christ
By Decree of H.H. Pope Benedict XVI


S. Nectan & S. Tredwell Ordinariate Group
Roman Catholics of the Anglican Patrimony
The Personal Ordinariate of the Light of Christ
By Decree of H.H. Pope Benedict XVI

These very simple ideas are mission-imperative and are part of the very missionary work of the Church.  They also support those engaged in missionary work, those boots on the ground armed with tracts and informational brochures who go out into the highways and by-ways to gather in as many as will come to the Marriage Banquet of the Lamb. 

These are support efforts that do not require a paid person or a member of the clergy.  Set the laity free to do what the Lord has given them the skill to do so that the local Church benefits from their competencies such that all contribute to the Gospel work of the Lord of the harvest.
+O lux beata trinitas