Friday, December 29, 2006

Web update time

Before I go on leave, one of the bits of unfinished business needing to be done is a make-over for the Parish website. I started work on giving it a new look back in October, and bought a new domain name to go with the new Parish. As the existing domain name, is registered with all sorts of organisations, and search engines, I'll keep that running for a year or so, to point to the same pages, as before
, also to the websites of the two Cathays Parish Churches which I'm losing.

It's hard as an amateur, to realise just how complex a task a web-site a makeover can be, especially when the site in question has evolved organically, and has been augmented piecemeal. In a way, we're still learning what sort of information and news is useful to have on a Parish website. Planning the essentials, nearly four and a half years ago was no great task at the time. But now the website is more than twice its orginal size. First, there's the task of making sure every one of over a dozen web-pages no longer refers to the way the Parish past was constituted or run, but to the new order. Then there's the discovery, on detailed examination of how photos need updating, pages need pruning, data correcting or updating. Some pages look awful and don't display correctly once modified. It takes ages to ensure it looks and works right. It was just as well to have Holy Innocents Day free to do this, well not free, just the morning Eucharist, for which four turned up, as usual. Even so it was one o'clock in the morning by the time I felt satisfied enough with as much as I'd managed to do to creep into bed.

It was gratifying to get most of it done and see it working, even though there are a more pages needing to be modified to give the site a unified look, and there are also some new pages needed as well. As I worked on it, I realised a new draft Parish Mission Action Plan was needed for discussion and adoption, at the Extraordinary General Meeting to elect church officers, required by the Parish split. The Parish MAP is a policy document currently favoured by the diocesan hierarchy, as a way of getting congregations to think about what they do and what they can do to further the cause of the church's mission in their situation.

Until now we've had a strategic Plan at the level of the Team Ministry and Parish, and each church had its own plan, relating to its needs and circumstances. The St John's Plan was bound to be substantial and different because of it's not a domestic residential community church, but a mission congregation serving the city centre. The closing of St James and the start of another mission congregation in Tredegarville school, within the embrace of St John's Parish means that the Plan needs some modification to reflect changed circumstances, a different economy, and agenda of issues to keep a close eye on. My couple of hours spent on drafting will do no more than start a discussion process that can lead to putting flesh on bare bones as the year goes on. It was worth doing, and posting on the new website, as an indicator of changes happening right now.

I greatly enjoy such variation in activity. Well, to be honest, I don't much enjoy using web publish tools, and have no competence in writing html code. I taught myself to use MS Front Page while preparing the first ever Monaco Anglican church website, when I worked there in 2001, and switched to Dreamweaver on return to the UK, just recycling a few of the template ideas I'd found to work, rather than go through the effort of re-learning things properly from scratch. When I can't get things to work as they should, I get very annoyed with my own laziness. Productivity doesn't come easy in this area.

However, preparing briefing and policy documents, writing articles for publication, I find comes to me very easily, and I enjoy both the freedom and the resulting sense of productivity. Perhaps this may serve to explain the length of most of my blog postings. I find this kind of writing comes easily, and it doesn't take me a huge amount of time. A few readers have remarked that they don't know how I find the time to write so much. It's simple. I don't watch TV! I need space in which to think, and writing is only another form of conversation. Irregular periods of posting indicate that sometimes there's no space or time even to think. I feel a lot better when I have time to write, and I'd love to do lots more. If you have a commision in mind, don't hesitate. Try me!

Contemplative Monk Thomas Merton was one of my early inspirations. One of his essays was called 'The vow of conversation', playing with the words 'vow of conversion', the fourth Benedictine commitment after poverty, chastity and obedience. Conversion, is here understood as a commitment to keep on deepening one's faith and commitment to giving one's entire life to God. Merton had been obliged to spend his monastic life reflecting and writing upon concerns of the Gospel in the modern world. It led him into dialogue with leading thinkers of his day. He longed for hermitage life, and when he finally attained it, he found he was often welcoming visitors, eager to continue in person with him ideas and debate exchanged in letters. His entire adult life was a conversation between himself as a man rooted in eternal catholic truths and the changing world of modernity. I don't have the privilege of dialogue with contemporary thinkers that he did. When I have time, I listen to conversations of others occurring in cyberspace, and wonder what God is up to in all this. Trying to work out what I think, in relation to my life experience and whatever else is going on out there, is an important part of what blogging is about for me. Hopefully it stops me getting too bogged down in the particularities of my job, especially as I don't travel physically nearly as much as I'd like to, these days.

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