Anglicans Online banner
Independent On the web since 1994 More than 200 000 readers More than 10 000 links Updated every Sunday


New This Week
Everything new is here.

News Centre
News archive
News flash: a summary of the top headlines
Start here
Anglicans believe . . .
The Prayer Book
The Bible

Read letters to AO
Write to us

Resources A to Z

World Anglicanism
Anglican Communion
In full communion
Not in the Communion

Dioceses and Parishes
New Zealand

Vacancies Centre
List a vacancy
Check openings worldwide

Add a site or link to AO
Add a site to AO
Link to AO

About Anglicans Online
Back issues
Awards and publicity
Beginnings, AO today
About our logo

Support AO
Visit our shop

Make a donation
Thanks to our friends

Our search engine


Hallo again to all.

The flower, not the movie.

Anglicans Online arrived on the internet nearly ten years ago, and from the beginning, some people haven't quite known what noun to use in describing us. We've been called an e-zine, an online newpaper, an online magazine, a blog, a cyberparish, and, on occasion, a nuisance. While we remember the quip often attributed the American humourist Will Rogers — 'Call me anything you want, but don't call me late for dinner' — we've always discouraged people from thinking of us as a cyberparish. We work hard to make these front-page letters rather more like editorials than sermons, and we've always encouraged you to find a parish and attend it faithfully. Brian has written about why he is not interested in a cyberparish and Cynthia has written about the pain of having to leave one parish and find another. We are parish people or, to coin a phrase, to koinon Xpisti.

This week the Diocese of Oxford in the Church of England announced the creation of i-church, 'a Christian community of the Church of England in the Diocese of Oxford'. They are even advertising for a Web Pastor in our Vacancies Centre. We were fascinated and puzzled, and responded immediately to their offer to tell us more if we contact them. Richard Thomas has written this explanation of the thinking behind i-church, which helped us better understand the ecological niche they presume i-church will occupy.

The fruit, not the movie.

We enjoy online communities, sparingly. A community of no more than 30 people, chosen with the same care as the guest list for a Victorian dinner party, can thrive and be a source of close friendships for years. A community of hundreds or thousands, brought together by common interests such as photography or 19th-century history or motorcar racing, can be the core of a satisfying hobby. Communities of people whose common interest is religious tend strangely (or perhaps not so) to dissolve into emotional arguments on a regular basis. They need to be managed carefully lest they attract only those who enjoy argument and conflict.

It isn't really necessary to ask the question 'Why does the world need more than one church building?', because it's obvious. Even if it were possible to build a church that could seat a million people, the logistics involved in church attendance would be daunting. So churches have always been local, and parishes defined by geography. An i-church, an online Christian community, would have no intrinsic limit to its size. If there were a million people who wanted to be part of it, they could participate quite without agoraphobia.

The magic in online communities comes from their ability to be real communities, to bind people together in fellowship and humanity. In our experience, an important part of this phenomenon is the occasional in-person gathering. We've heard the term 'listmeet' used to describe these occasions when people inhabiting an online community meet incarnationally to share coffee or wine or photographs. There's nothing quite like getting to know someone online over months or years, and then agreeing to meet in person.

What this says to us is that if i-church is at all successful, there will quickly need to be more and more of them, because at its centre, an i-church is a community, and if communities are too large, they lose the force binding them together. We can learn a lot from watching how this i-church progresses and whether it spawns more. And whether anyone cares about the sex of the clergy.

See you next week, right here, online.


Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 7 March 2004

A thin blue line
This web site is independent. It is not official in any way. Our editorial staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact about information on this page. ©2004 Society of Archbishop Justus