Information and Communication

This time last week, I was with the Vestry on an Awayday. Well, it was a Stayathomeday really as we did not go far, but it was a day together discussing things that matter most.

On of the topics that we gave quite a lot of time to is the subject of Communications. We discovered as we talked that there are a relatively small amount of information that we want to communicate (eg ethos & Gospel, times, dates, events and group details) and quite a number of ways of doing so.

Some of the ways in which we communicate can be done better, and we started to make a list of them. Other things change as people change. For example, until recently, the primary means of communicating things was through printed media, with online methods being for geeks, specialists and enthusiasts. We recognised last week that nowadays, the exceptions (whom we still need to think about) are those who cannot be communicated with online. The norm is that most people who come to St Mary’s will already be adept at using online communication tools in their lives.

This realisation means various changing emphases. Sermons once delivered to a subset of the congregation can now be made available on a listen again basis for those who were not present in the flesh. The challenge to use e-mail more effectively lives with us all daily.

The way we use the web changes too, all the time. I’ve been hinting that we would move  to a new website for the Cathedral for quite a while. This week, following on from that discussion last weekend, I managed to get my finger out and get something ready.

There is now a new working website on

Ideally, I want that name to be hosted on the server that the site is hosted on and not just redirected, which looks messy and amateurish. I also need to get pointing to the same place and I can’t do th at until next week. You can see the old site there for comparison.

There is lots to do yet. Here is my list of things to work on:

  • information on accessibilty
  • information on the groups we support financially
  • how to book a wedding
  • more about the liturgies (colours, vestments etc)
  • parking information
  • how to get here by public transport
  • more pictures
  • Link to flickr pool
  • sermons
  • video (in time)
  • interviews with some of the interesting people we are encountering

Take a look at the new site. I’d appreciate suggestions of other things that people might be looking for on the website. Suggestions in the comments please.


  1. Not convinced that the new site is any better than the old site.

    Comments on the old site first. I feel it lost its “St Mary’s” feel when the Gywneth Leach multitone background (from the Sanctury) was replaced by the all over green.

    Turning to the new site, the main feeling I have – is that the images (non verbal communication) is sadly lacking on most of the pages. I have not been able to find the coming Sunday notice’s; the precher list for the coming weeks. I would have expected to see an announcement about the visiting preacher on 3rd August.

    In summary, the new site is different, but I do not think it is an improvement on what is currently there.

  2. Many thanks for your comment Stewart, though it sounds like you are looking at the wrong website Stewart.

    The weekly notices are linked from the front page – look for the words “Weekly notices” they are a kind of a clue.

    The notice about 3 August is again on the front page. This time the clue is: “+Gene Robinson @ St Mary’s” followed by the sentence: “The Rt Rev Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire will preside and preach at St Mary’s on 3 August 2008 at the 1030 service.”

    The details of who is preaching this Sunday are in the side bar on the right.

    In the list of things to add to the site above, “more pictures” is a hint that I’m already aware that there needs to be more images.

  3. I liked it, especially the responses to the “are you a biblical church?” and “what about gay clegy?” questions. A clergy bio would be a good idea. A bit on the Eucharist would be worthwhile, for the benefit of poor raised C of S types like me who, although they can work out roughly what evensong is, don’t know if the SEC Eucharist is a fancier communion or something closer to a Mass.

    I also think it should be (not just in this context) GLBT, not LGBT but that’s probably just a personal thing.

  4. as someone new to St. Mary’s,I think it is an excellent website.It gives an overall feel as to what kind of place it is.I particularly liked the section on what to expect when you arrive for the first time at a service and also the different types of services and what happens at them.I am not gay but I think it is great that the website reasures gay Christians that they will find a welcome here.I find it very comforting that the clergy here still have lots of questions about the bible and it’s interpretation but not about God’s message of love ,forgiveness and the gift of grace,or have I got this wrong?

  5. Thanks for your comments Kelvin. I have now re-visited the new site and found the items that you have mentioned.

    I have now re-read your blog, and this is the first time I have decide to composed my response outside the blog. This has the advantage that I can review/revise and save to come back to. In fact it has taken me around two hours to compose, review, revise.

    The “Away Day” has identified a issue – Communications. From this a goal has been determined. Comparing this goal to the current situation will have identified a gap. Now how to fill this gap? How to validate the gap is correct? Even reflection on the goal to ensure that it is complete and achieves the appropriate

    And as a side issue – has your time been channeled in the correct direction by producing a brand new site to fill this gap.

    I would also suggest that the relatively small amount of information is not the totality of what needs to be communicated and some issues will only be noticed once they cease to be there.

    The three issues I believe need to be addressed are:
    Communication of Past Events
    Communication of Forthcoming Events
    Maintenance of these activities

    Past Events
    Firstly, an issue close to my heart, the communication of past events – Archives.

    You only need to read some of the past magazines to see a history of St Mary’s which I believe has been sadly lacking since the demise of the monthly magazine in the previous incumbency. One example of this is the Rector’s Monthly letter. It provided a reflection on the month just gone and the month to come. Looking around quite a few SEC sites I have yet to find any that come anywhere near that. I also do not think that clergy blogs fulfil this role. I have found a site in the diocese of St Albans that has the Rector’s Letter on the web site.

    Another example of Archives is keeping a record of significant events. Consider your Installation as Rector, where is the record of that day kept for posterity – a posting on your blog, my fotopic collection, the Word file containing the order of service (does that still exist – or has it been deleted), +David’s sermon on his blog (is it still there), the header pictures on the current incarnation of your blog. In ten years; twenty years; longer when someone is updating the history of St Mary’s where will this information be – who will remember that you sang the Gospel? A big item I know, but there are many other events in the life of St Mary’s that may currently be considered in

    Consider the site (both the existing and new) what are they going to provide to the St Mary’s archive for those who come after us?

    Forthcoming Events
    Now turning to the communication of forthcoming events. This is where the web site should come into its own. However the immediacy of a web site is not an excuse for not giving sufficient notice. I would suggest a minimum of two months, ideally three/four months The Cathedral Web Site should already by identifying the programme of events for the Homecoming Weekend. Neither old or new versions are currently providing this. By the beginning of September the All Saints/All Souls weekend programme should be widely available.

    One item missing from you list is a church calendar. As example of what I have in mind is provided by St Laud’s, Sherington. Although St Mary’s would have a lot more events / concerts / etc. in it.

    It is sad to note that one thing a monthly publication date for a magazine gave was a deadline to ensure that sufficient notice is given. If an event was to take place at the end of a month, it had to be sufficient organised and finalised six weeks before hand to get into press. This discipline to advance planning and publicity is sadly missing in our modern world with electronic communications. Bad communication is throwing something onto a web site late in the day and expecting the intended readers / visitors to see it in sufficient time to take the appropriate action.

    How many times has someone said they did not know, only to receive the response well it was on the web site. I equate the old style church magazines to the supplements to the Sunday papers. They are left lying around to be browsed over the next few days / weeks, and kept longer if something catches your eye. A web site does not provide this. As an example during the recent correspondence on Kelvin’s blog – An Announcement your could follow the last five items on the right hand side, however Brown Shoes briefly appeared, but was quickly lost in the side list. Even a magazine that is available as a hard copy to hand out, but also in pdf format via the web can be browsed and highlighted – circled in red pen – etc. to ensure that a future event is not missed.

    I note that you have used the WordPress engine for this – I guess this will aid those who follow to easily update the site. This is important, as a poorly maintained all singing/dancing site is worse than no site at all. A simple well maintained site that is robust across many browsers and operating systems is best. I would hate to see an excellent Autumn 2008 site, drift into a poor Easter 2009 site and become out-of-date by Christmas 2009. That would result in a full circle and negate all the current work, it would also indicate that what was put into place to fill the identified gap did not work.

    One thing both the previous printed media and a well maintained web site needs is discipline and planning. Events / special services / etc. need sufficient notice.

    I am still convinced that there is a place for a regular (quarterly or bi-monthly) magazine – probably balanced 75/25 to reflection and what is coming. This could be produced in pdf format and also be available on the web site. AND it would provide a valuable input to the archives.

  6. Gosh, Stewart, what a lot you hope for. It sends my little country-church-trio mind spinning. I would be very impressed indeed if any church without full time administrative staff and a part time web administrator could manage what you suggest, however laudable the intent. But perhaps St Mary’s will prove me wrong.

  7. David |Da?veed| says

    As soon as you finish Stewart’s list you will be getting right on to translating the whole thing into Spanish and French as well as that quaint little diatecto they speak in Scotland, right?

    (jejejeje – predoname hermano)

    ¡Tu pagina nueva es muy chida!

  8. Thanks Kimberley and David – I was highlighting some of the issues that I thought were important in any Communication strategy – Reflection on the Past; Highlighting the Future; and how to ensure the process is undertaken.

    As you will have appreciated I feel passionately about archives and what we leave behind for our descendents.

    Im my usual fashion (as someine who writes technical papers for a living) I have expanded my thoughts and it resulted in me writing a short report on the issues.

    You will have notices that with the exception of a calendar of events, I have made very few comments on content – it has all been about process.

    Get the process right and the content can be fitted in. If the process is not properly thought out, you can have the best intentions for your contentm but the content will not get out – whether it be about immediate issues or reporting on events.

    I come back to my thought that a new web site is not going to help the communication issues if the processes around using it are not in place.

    HOWEVER a new web site will Jump-Start the new process if there are in place at the outset.

  9. Elizabeth says

    I think the new site looks lovely. (and having been a full-time administrator and part time web [not really designer – perhaps maintainer is better word]person, I fully agree with Kimberly).

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