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Peter Owen for Anglicans Online
It's 7pm on Monday 12 July 1999. The General Synod of the Church of England is meeting at York University. I am missing my dinner to attend the launch presentation of Church-Search in Alcuin Library. Most members of Synod obviously prefer their dinner since only a handful of people are at the presentation.
So what is Church-Search? The best way to find out is to try it out for yourself at www.church-search.com (or via the link from the Church of England's own web-site at www.cofe.anglican.org). Make sure that you include the hyphen in church-search or you will find a completely different American site.
Church-Search is an electronic church notice board on the Internet. People can find church services and churches from their computers at home or work. The guidance notes suggest that it will help
Every church (all 16000) in the C of E has been entered in the database with a few basic details; in this context 'church' clearly means 'church building'. After that it's up to individual PCCs to expand the information about their church (or churches) and to enter details of their services. This information is entered via the website, so anybody with internet access (and the necessary password) can do it. These passwords will be sent out in a few weeks time, but as compensation for missing my dinner I was given the password for my church (St Luke's, Great Crosby) and with permission from the PCC I have already entered many of our details. There is one problem with this; the database of services requires details of each individual service to be entered separately while you are online. It is impossible to enter something like 'Holy Communion (traditional) every Sunday at 9am'. At St Luke's we have three (or sometimes four) services each Sunday so that means at least 13 entries every month (or twice that many if I put in our weekday services). Last night I entered services for just the next three weeks before I decided that I'd had enough. For a Cathedral with perhaps 20 or more services a week this is going to be a major task. I hope that an easier way of entering service details will be found. Another thing that might be a problem in a few places is the requirement to fill in the field 'Officiant'; as a matter of policy some churches do not announce in advance who is to preside at the Eucharist.
I find the idea of a searchable database for all churches in the C of E very exciting. Provided all churches ensure that their information is kept up-to-date it will be a very valuable resource. Bill Beaver (the C of E's Director of Communications) told me that, in a survey of a sample of parishes, he had found at least one person with internet access in every one, so it looks as though no parish will have an excuse for not taking part.
The intention is to have a press release and follow-up campaign in the autumn, provided that the familiarisation is proceeding well and an adequate number of services has been entered.
The cost is an estimated £20000 and this has been met by gift-in-kind sponsorship from the Share Centre at no cost to the Church of England.
Peter Owen Liverpool
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