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Hallo again to all.

Albion, from Blake's Jerusalem, plate 100We have noticed, from the sidelines, an interesting contraction in Anglicanism online during the last year.

It started with dioceses. Between the beginning of 2010 and the start of 2011, we saw the number of Anglican dioceses with websites shrink about 5%. Dozens of dioceses in India and Africa failed to renew their domain name registration, and ended up with expensive, professionally-designed sites whose abandoned addresses sent visitors to pornography, online gambling, free iPhone scams, or schemes to acquire (probably non-Anglican) brides from the former Soviet Union. There were times in 2010 when there was no online presence for the entire Province of Hong Kong or the Australian Diocese of Ballarat. There were also several months in which we saw the launch of a half dozen Nigerian, Rwandan, or Ugandan diocesan websites, none of which have lasted through to 2011.*

This trend of shrinkage was just as true with parishes. In some instances, 20%-50% of a given diocese's parishes have abandoned the use of the internet for informational or evangelical purposes. This means that it would have been much easier a year ago for you to use the internet to learn about a church and its service times. It also means that the people who have been the most persistent about maintaining a web-presence have a louder voice now than they did a year ago. From the pews where we sit and kneel and stand, this is not a positive development.

Some of this contraction is natural. We know that from time to time parishes will close or merge even as others are created afresh. We know that sometimes a priest doubles as the webmaster for a parish, and that when rectorates change a web-presence disappears. We also know that webmasters do from time to time die, and that sometimes a financial exigency pushes a parish from online visibility to quiet invisibility.

Bellerophon and Pegasus fight the monster ChimeraAs diocesan and parish websites have gone away, we have also watched the sad, slow-motion disintegration of online usefulness for the Church of England itself.

are all now quite as useful as the old, and we're not sure why this has to be.** It's going to be a messy year or three as everyone figures out where his or her links now point. We'll be patient, but we're not sure that this patience will be as dogged for someone interested in learning Right Now about a service time or a place to call for priestly help when a friend dies.

Should we fail to be faithful as stewards of Anglicanism online, God's work will still continue in every place. Children and those of riper years will continue to be baptised. Deacons will continue to be made, priests will continue to be ordained, and bishops will continue to be consecrated. Sextons will continue to care for the fabric of our church buildings, and vergers will continue to guide and guard our worship. Sermons will be written and preached, ignored and heeded.

But it will all be harder, and that is unnecessary.

Online stability for dioceses, parishes, and the 'Christian presence in every community' is not a chimera. It is not just possible, either. It is easy to maintain when people are thoughtful, determined, and work together in the service of the common good that is communication about our faith. No matter the hard work some of our churches seem to do to obfuscate rather than elucidate the treasures of Anglican Christianity, wise men still seek and find the Christchild this Epiphanytide, many of them through the global system of interconnected computer networks most of us call the internet.***

So even with a 2010 characterised by online change and decay for Anglicanism, we are hopeful. We know you are, too. So sursum corda. It gets better, or so have we heard, and do in part believe.

See you next week.

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Last updated: 16 January 2011

* The Episcopal Church of the Sudan, in which civil war and famine have threatened the very lives of churchfolk, has a strong claim to be the best-wired province in the entire Anglican Communion, with accurate information about all of its dioceses available online at all times.

** The launch of on a Friday in early 2011 makes as much sense to us as would the creation of in place of the perfectly-good

*** Our friends who people the Society of Archbishop Justus provide free webspace to any Anglican organization that will use it. They seem open-minded to a fault, offering their services to Anglican people several miles to the ecclesiastical-political right of King Charles the Martyr, and several kilometres to the left of Robespierre. We have never known them to refuse assistance to an Anglican diocese, parish, school, or other organization that asked for their help.

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