Is there a technology initiative within the connectional church? : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

I've become a regular visitor to this site, as well as AMECNET.ORG. I visit the sites of those episcopal districts that have them as well. I am dismayed by our presence, or lack thereof, in cyberspace. I remarked to my pastor some 4 years ago that it would be important that we stay on the forefront of technology, otherwise the secular and worldly ventures would inundate the thing and we would be hard pressed to catch up. Unfortunately, I am a designer of buildings, not web pages. I have not had much success in designing my local church's web page, but I am still working at it. What I want to know is whether there is a top-down method in place, or under construction, to "connect our connection." It is long overdue, and I know we have the talent within our church to make it happen. If there is, I certainly would like to lend a hand. If there is not, can't we get the ball rolling on it?

If my question has been posed before, please forgive.

-- Anonymous, August 22, 2000


W.J.-- We are clearly thinking on the same wave length about this topic. Earlier this year I described this problem as a divine digital divide. Rev. John Fisher is working overtime to see this problem corrected but he needs more help and resources. I currently live in the 11th District where we operate without a website. It has been brought to my attention that efforts are underway to correct for the problem. I'm concerned about how fast we as AMEs can respond to the technology gap problem. If we respond too slow we run the risk of playing technology catch-up along the learning curve. Just imagine the cost savings we could enjoy if all churches were online and we had a "connectional LAN server". Email, chat rooms and electronic BB can efficiently reduce the excessive costs we make for paper, paper, paper, hotel accomodations, travel and the list goes on ad infinitum. I would speculate our connection spends a minimum of $5 million on paper, travel and hotel accomodations. If we cut this in half by 50% we could free up resources for more deserving connectional projects. Perhaps what we really need is to hire a technologist who with a team of fellow "geeks" will coordinate software developpment for all Districts make timely updates and realize the savings. Technology is an ally to the human experience. Our churches should not be left behind.

-- Anonymous, August 22, 2000

That is a great question. We must be involved in cyberspace. As a matter of fact my district, the First Episcopal, under our previous Bishop Cousin, started a cyberspace initiative. He wanted to have all of the churches in the district connected to the headquarters. This would have been part of the initiative through the Economic Expansion Group we have. Also as a builder/designer you may want to check out the site and see what benefits can come your way. It would be great to have all of the local churches, conferences, and Districts linked to share information.

-- Anonymous, August 22, 2000

At one point Rev. Alton Paris was very aggressive about establishing a cyber-presence in the tenth, and I believe he has set up the infrastructure to make this a reality for expansion. The tenth is one of the districts with its own web page, and I was very excited when I could advertise both our church ( and the Annual Conference we hosted in 1999 through links on that site.

But this wouldn't be a contribution from me without a list :-), so here are some of the obstacles I think we face:

  • Many of our churches are trailing in digital infrastructure. Certainly all the mega-churches have computers, and perhaps the next layer down as well. But I suspect there is a large number of churches still operating with typewriters and AB Dick machines. We need to encourage infrastructure modernization to the lowest level possible. For churches that can afford it, it may mean a simple capital campagin or team-oriented project. For our rural, smaller, or mission churches, it may mean partnering with the very largest to assure connection.
  • We are trailing in internet awareness. Certainly most people born after 1950 have some computer awareness, and some in their 60s to 80s have been exposed as well, but for many the internet is still a wondrous toy. Using the internet as a powerful communication, education, and business tool is something that our churches should embrace as part of the Social Action Commission. Internet Awareness is critical to Mission Success in many life functions during the next 25 years, for we stand at the precipice of a "brave new world".
  • We must improve the understanding of the Internet among our leadership. Some of our bishops are avid readers of this forum, for example, and that's great. We should at the "geek" level develop some sort of inofrmation/introduction package that can help their colleagues understand the power and influence of this new tool.
  • Every Christian Education convocation should include cyberspace components. We "geeks" may want to contribute the learning modules to help otehrs int he areas I have mentioned, plus develop modules for Internet Safety, Fundraising, Networking (the human kind), etc.
  • We must determine an integral role in the core ministries for the internet tool. Many of us have surfed to sites other than AME Today. In some cases we have found great treasures, in others, terrible trash. But the tool is not the problem. The use of the tool for core ministry has not yet reached its potential. With hyper text and a broad array of resources, both intellectual and material, we should be ale to address every FAQ for resistance to the gospel. We should have the data to address social gospel needs. We should be able to point to resources that will encourage, uplift, and exhort, while not neglecting the exaltation of God.
  • There, I feel better. :-).

    -- Anonymous, August 22, 2000

    Well, we've heard from the 1st District, the 10th and the 11th. And I'm in the 7th (South Carolina). I certainly would like to know what other of our brethren think on the matter. I know the three of you above contribute regularly to this discussion string. It would be great if this discusion did not end. I know I'll be forwarding a letter to Bishop Belin, and to my presiding elder to see where we stand on technology initiatives in the 7th district. Bishop Adams placed this issue on his action plan for us, but I don't know that it was ever addressed during his tenure here. I'm sure he'll run with that ball down in Florida, Bill.

    -- Anonymous, August 22, 2000

    Jerryl I could not make it without your lists! Thank for the input! When I think of technology initiatives I always think of evangelism and retainment of present church member. Unlike Jerryl I am not a geek:-)but I do know how to use the internet. One of the resources I have found helpful with my non-profit organization is to seek the help of youth to navigate the web and design logo's and pages etc. Our young people teethed on the keyboard, they are comfortable with it's use. I am suggesting we ask the youth in and out of the church for help. Also in my town our local library offers free classes on how to use the internet, perhaps small committees can be formed so that a small group can learn to use the computer, they would be the heart of a Media Commitee which would then extend to publicity using the internet. Another suggestion would be to contact schools and colleges to see if someone can put on a seminar on in their computer lab. You could charge for this class, pay the instuctor and perhaps have money to put into your "computer fund". All of the above suggestions are also about evangelism and church growth. By the way I am in the fifth district. Also check out the web page for Jerryl Payne's church, see his response to this question for the address. It is wonderfully done and what a powerful testimony the Payne's have about starting a mission church in Texas. God Bless them, Rev. Denise Rogers

    -- Anonymous, August 22, 2000

    Well I am from the 6th District and I am very excited to see the dialogue that is taking place concerning the great void in our denomination. There are some churches in the 6th that have truly functional websites.. in the Atlanta area ( Turner Chapel and St.Phillip) a few others have taken a stab at it, but have not truly crossed the digital divide. I think the real problem as I see it when dealing with my local church, is that very few of our current leadership appreciate (have knowledge)of the potential and capabilities that the Internet can bring...very few of the Pastors know how to use a computer, not to mention how to 'surf'. Therefore when confronted with this new arena, they are reluctant to free up the necessary resources and give the required support for it to florish. Although I don't particularly like the term...I guess I am what you would call a 'geek' and a "Certified Web-Page Designer" who still has been unable to get my local church to come into the light! Just recently we finally got a functional computer and the church is now connected to the Internet and has was quite an effort to get that far...and the success is partially due to the fact we have a new 'young' church secretary. There are so many opportunities awaiting us, so sign me up for whatever initiative or effort to get the ball rolling! It is very frustrating!

    -- Anonymous, August 23, 2000

    I recently relocated from the 1st to the 7th district. Both have web sites, and of course many churches around the connection have sites as well, including my Charleston, SC Morris Brown whose pastor is a contributor here, Rev. Joe Darby.

    By the way, Rev. John was guest preacher here the other Sunday. The brother can preach too!

    I beieve there is or was an AME-owned company in the 1st or 2nd district attempting to develop a skills bank around the connection to develop an AME Network. I think it was connected to the FAS II project designed to address the "digital divide". I've not received mail from them lately. I'll send links to anyone interested.

    Much like any large organization, the speed at which we embrace technology depends on our choices in leadership. We must elect bishops equipped to serve the present age who will in turn appoint equipped pastors.

    I think that local church web sites are nice, but our goal must go beyond that. The concept of a network is where we need to go. I'm no "geek" either, but I'll support and work with one to get us going.

    A fantastic start is Rev. John's labor of love with this very forum.

    Rev. John, is there a way to include hyperlinks here?

    Victor Owens

    -- Anonymous, August 23, 2000

    Sorry for such a late response (I was on vacation), but as the web administrator for the First District I see that the issue is more in the information than the technology.

    The technology is there to keep the sites up to date and the web masters of the other sites in the district seem pretty responsive to doing updates. but dissemenating the information in a timely manner to the web admins is an issue. When events are planned, the people need to think of posting it online as soon as possible.

    I regularly check with the district headquarters for updates, and post them, but gathering the information to get to me could be a full time job within itself. Companies and other denominations have a staff dedicated to just this task. Even in our own in-print publications we do not see always current information and this is due to the same issue. Gathering the information from so many organizations and churches seems to be the roadblock. Also, until recently each organization has been taking there own direction in implementing technology.

    The Sunday School union has a web site, but it is rarely updated and you can't order online,

    The Christian Ed. web site does allow online orders, but does not offer the selection of the Sunday School Union site.

    The Recorder web site shows a picture of an old cover, but you cant subscribe online or read old issues. has no involvement from the historian of the church or any of the other connectional organizations so it is updated very infrequently

    In order to have a truly organized online presence and develop a good infrastructure of technology throughout the church a dedicated team of people will need to be hired and they will have to work with all the church organizations to enable them to use technology to its fullest capacity. The church officers need to ask this question first... Is there any way technology can help us do what we need more efficiently?

    Then there needs to be some people designated in each district and connection wide that they can contact and describe what they want done and have that group flesh in the idea.

    The UMC ( web site has a large ammount of information online, is updated regularly and is well organized, but it looks like it spawned from the Communication and news agency of that denomination. Our church seems to be finally following a similar plan. hopefully we can all help it along and our church will have all it's information readilly available online, and we can attend conferences and watch video of our events online in the near future.

    -- Anonymous, August 28, 2000

    Bishop McKinley Young is very supportive of the effort in the Tenth District. The goal is to have every church in the Tenth with a website before the 47th General Conference. I believe it is doable. The snowball is rolling downhill now! Praise the Lord! Blessings

    -- Anonymous, September 02, 2000

    I raised the same question here in the eighth district, and I even volunteered to put something together. One of our biggest problems is that so many are uneducated about some of the latest tecnology, and the advantages it gives us as an international church. Another problem is that so many have the talent and expertise, but don't believe they should waste them on the church (the can't pay me, I have more important things to do, what has the church done for me, etc,...). I say this to say, it is a slow process, but we must keep at it. The eighth district,although there have been some road blocks, is on the verge of gettng linked. This project is being lead by Rev. Michael Martin - St. James AME Church, 102 Church Street, Leland, MS 38756 phone (601)686-4638 or by e-mail You can also reach me at Heard Chapel AME Church, 2019 Colorado Street, Baton Rouge, LA 70802, phone (225)336-9710

    -- Anonymous, June 27, 2001

    I' very happy to find that there are others in the connection that want to see the church become apart of the 21st century.

    I see that we all see that the word never changes, but the way we get the word out has got to change.

    I'm attending the Connectional Lay meeting in Jacksonville, FL July 9- 13. If anyone want to have an informal meeting at the meeting, please e-mail everyone and lets set it up.

    I ask one of our past Elders to establish a ministry of technology and he just stated that he would take it under advisement. He has moved on and our new elder is working to become computer savy. I have the faith that we can bring the North Orlando District into the Cyber ministery. This will only serve as a lunching pad for the Central Florida Conference, and on the 11th Episcopal.

    Ray Snow AME North Orlando District Central Florida Conference.

    -- Anonymous, June 27, 2001

    In reading all the responses, I can see that most of us are trying to do two things: 1) box the internet into the structure of our church, and 2) get something for nothing. No offense intended. The internet is successful because it is not structured but linked. There is no top and no bottom. Anyone with a little bit of technical know can sufr the web, and with alittle more can put up some type of web site. Everybody is connected to everybody else. For as little as $1000.00 the first year and about $200.00 per year thereafter, one can hire a professional web developer to build and update a site. The smallest church in the connection can afford a web site. I've been in the business of building web sites for seven years. AME's are the hardest to do business with. One organization, the Connectional Minister's Spouses, Widows and Widowers Plus PKs (Conn-M-SWAWO Plus PK's) has been running for approximately three years. The President Sister Ora Easley is the driving force behind this organization. Stop by and vist the site.


    Pastor Paris

    -- Anonymous, June 27, 2001

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