Sunday, July 23, 2006

So Many Churches, So Little Time

I'm trying to figure out where to go to church this morning and am fascinated by the fact that none of the websites say anything specific about Sunday services, just general descriptions of what goes on.
Is it too consumeristic to want to know, as a potential visitor, who's preaching and what they're preaching about? Even the big, famous churches in the city don't include this in their websites, which are often huge, confusing affairs with thousands of links.

Good Sabbath, everyone.


Blogger Chalicechick said...

Props to CC's church which has a website that is updated every week with what's going on, and has the registration forms for the retreat downloadable from the website.


Blogger boyinthebands said...

I thought Old North was Episcoplian. I mean I used to think it was UCC, until I saw the rector come out after a wedding dressed in not-Congo attire.

You think they would make that clear. Using lanterns or something.

Blogger Songbird said...

I'm pretty sure it's an Episcopal church, Peacebang.

Blogger boyinthebands said...

Back from church. I was thinking -- as my mind was wandering off during the service music -- that perhaps PB had gone to Old South, Copley Square.

Of course, when I think Old South I get a set of very un-Boston, un-Congregationalist thoughts. Mostly Greek Revival houses and barbecue.

Blogger Steve Caldwell said...


You may want to check out the online summary from Rev. Dan Harper's 2006 GA workshop on "Creating Great Content for Church Websites" ... located online here:

One of his recommendations is to update the congregational web site weekly if possible.

The UUA Office of Electronic Communications has some recommendations for congregational web sites online here:

This page contains a suggested list of basic content that every congregational web site should have.

One suggestion from the UUA Electronic Communications folks is to have a FAQ (frequently asked question) page to answer basic visitor questions like the following questions:

1. What should I [and my children] wear to this church? [This is by far the most frequent query]

2. Is there childcare/Sunday School during church?

3. If my child doesn't separate well, can she or he stay with me in the service?

4. Are there any [insert race] people in this congregation?

5. Are people of [race] welcome in this congregation?

6. Are there bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgendered people in this congregation? Are they welcome?

7. Are there people in the congregation who believe [insert belief here]?

8. What goes on during the worship services?

There's also an email discussion list for UU congregational web site folks called "Websters" ... info on this resource can be found online here:

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Sorry. I meant to say Park Street Church, which is the conservative UCC Church.

Blogger Caroline Divine said...

It's actually not UCC. It's Congregational from the Congregationalists that didn't merge with the UCC when the Congregational and E&R (Evangelical and Reformed, that's the name of one [former] denomination, though of course it was itself a merger) merge. There are still a bunch of independent Congregational churches out there. I think they are members of a small federation but the name of it escapes me. Park Street Chuch is definitely not part of the UCC. But it's worth visiting.

So how was it? Oh wait, you've posted on it. I'm going to read all about it now.


Blogger LT said...

The main reason, I think, why people look at our church websites, is to decide whether they want to come this Sunday. So it should say what is happening this Sunday. And btw, that whole thing that some UU ministers get into about not publishing their sermon titles, or what is happening this Sunday, because it shouldn't matter !!! What's that about?

Blogger Caroline Divine said...

The RC and EC congregations I've been in often don't publish who's preaching because they don't want people to come because of the personality of the preacher -- a lot of people have their favorites and follow them around (I mean a lot of people who are already members of the congregation) and church staffs try to keep that at bay to avoid the whole cult of personality thing.

But it would be really helpful, in any congregation, for the place to explain at the very least what people are likely to find at the worship service, what goes on there, how long it lasts, more or less, who is welcome there, and so on.

I remember HOWLING when I found an Episcopal website explaining what a visitor was likely to find and saying something like "you will not be embarrassed; you will not have to introduce yourself" -- now, I know this was meant to welcome a) introverts b) shy people and c) (perhaps especially) people who had been badly burned by the whole altar-call thing. But as someone who had previously been in a very welcoming, warm Catholic (and largely African American) congregation where we ALWAYS asked visitors to introduce themselves (of course, they could choose not to and just sit in the pew and be quiet) so that we could say directly "we're really glad you're here" and offer a closing prayer thanking God for bringing people to us who were always a gift, wherever they might be coming from, I found the whole "don't worry, you won't have to talk to us and we won't talk to you" approach offensive. I joined the Episcopal Church anyway, but I'd been to real live congregations in the EC already. For me that web message would have been a killer.

So, there's another challenge: you never know who your potential visitor is.

I really like the FAQ guidelines you offer, Steve. Thanks.



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