Bringing Light to the World Wide Web: Antiochian Archdiocese Online
by Douglas Cramer
“Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols . Therefore he reasoned . . . in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there . ”
Acts 17: 16-17
Throughout the New Testament, we find stories of St. Paul making use of the tools of his day to communicate the Gospel and engage in the marketplace of ideas. From ships to the postal service, St. Paul used the communications systems of the Roman Empire in service of our Lord Jesus Christ. This model continues to guide the Church today, as we seek to use well the tools of our society to communicate with each other, and with the world beyond. The most significant communications technology of today is also the one that is so new that we are still coming to grips with its place in our lives: the Internet.
Well over a billion people across the world are estimated to have used the Internet in December of 2007 alone, including 250 million North Americans, over 70% of our continent’s population. An Internet business expert recently noted that, “the Internet is one big gigantic never-ending computer conference call, with people joining in and dropping out all the time.” This raises an important question for us at the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America: “What do we have to say?” The answer is, “A lot!”
One Church, Many Voices
When I began assisting the Department of Communications with editing www.Antiochian.org in August 2007, I was immediately struck by its scope. The site currently contains over 4000 unique pages. I have no idea how many words this is, but a very conservative estimate would be that each page contains about 500 words, the length of an average newspaper editorial. That would put our site at 200,000 words. By way of comparison, the entire New Testament is about 150,000 words! As our team has reviewed these materials, not to mention all the potential content that hasn’t yet been posted online, we’ve developed a new appreciation for the vital, organic nature of the Church, the Body of Christ, and the implications of this truth for our efforts.
A healthy, living body, our Archdiocese contains a great range of people and projects. From the leadership and guidance of His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP and our other hierarchs, to dedicated clergy and laity sustaining great works, like our youth programs and the Order of St. Ignatius; from the powerful local service of pastors and congregations across North America, to the inspirational teachings of great Antiochian writers and speakers; the information, stories and resources that deserve to be communicated via our site are vast.
Antiochian.org also needs to speak to a great range of audiences. We need to serve well the clergy and laity working diligently in support of the Archdiocese, so that they can easily access everything, from important information about events and policies to well-written accounts of their brothers and sisters in Christ laboring in the fields of ministry, stories that we all need to hear to increase our bonds of fellowship and find encouragement when we falter. Beyond this, we need to be an exceptional resource for all the members of our congregations, including our youth; for Orthodox Christians of other jurisdictions; for the local and national media; and for seekers, inquirers, and other fellow travelers interested in the teachings and life today of the enduring Church of Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
Telling Our Stories
As I write this in January 2008, we’ve just released a new design for the site that has received very positive initial feedback, for which I’m grateful. As we worked on the design, we talked often of how the site must visually reflect the living uniqueness of the Antiochian Archdiocese, honoring our roots in our mother Church, the Church of Antioch, while also embracing the collective life of our faithful in America. We decided to incorporate a beautiful icon of Christ by Antiochian iconographer Jan Isham, whose iconography has been praised for its ability to bridge the experience of the Church in Her birthplace and the Church in America.
Our site is a collection of writings, images and audio, and we’re blessed by the resources available for us to feature online. We’ve worked closely with the other media ministries of our Arch diocese, particularly Conciliar Press and Ancient Faith Radio, now united as Conciliar Media Ministries. Conciliar’s professional team brings the talent necessary to help create great resources for our faithful. We’ve already partnered on creating a new section introducing the Orthodox Christian Faith (pictured), and have begun releasing what we hope will be regular audio messages from our bishops.
We’ve also launched a special Featured Authors of the Archdiocese section, where we’ll be compiling the works of some of the great working writers of the Archdiocese, like Frederica Mathewes- Green, Fr. George Morelli and Fr. Patrick Reardon. By the time you read this, hopefully we’ll have available a new special section for Great Lent, the first of several projects to strengthen and highlight the liturgical, devotional and theological resources of our Archdiocese.
Beyond this, we’re eagerly working to better promote the resources and stories of the Department of Youth Ministry, Teen SOYO, the Department of Christian Education, and everyone else building up the youth of our Church. We’re becoming a better gateway to the broader work of the Orthodox Church on the Internet, particularly that of the ministries of SCOBA, like the Orthodox Christian Network, the Orthodox Christian Mission Center, International Orthodox Christian Charities, and Orthodox Christian Fellowship.
Antiochian.org, Today and Tomorrow
Sean Buscay, chairman of the Department of Communications and Information Technology, will be leaving his position at the Archdiocese in May 2008. Part of his legacy will be the professionalism that he brought to efforts that spanned the Archdiocese over the course of four years, from the development of the Archdiocese eTapestry database, whose support will pass to others, to his technical support of our bishops and of departments and ministries like the Antiochian Village. His legacy also includes a solid technical infrastructure for Antiochian.org, a foundation on which we can build a website that serves our Lord and His Gospel. From a top-line server managed by a provider who has scored award-winning high ratings for security, to a premier open source software platform that we can grow affordably for the foreseeable future, Sean has left us a vehicle in Antiochian.org that we can use for a powerful witness.
Helping bring this vision into reality will continue to be my full-time commitment. I’m deeply honored to be working on Antiochian.org under Fr. George Kevorkian, who brings a vast knowledge of large technology projects as well as a pastor’s guiding hand to his oversight of all our Archdiocese communications. For the past four years, I’ve worked as a freelance writer, editor and communications consultant for a range of Orthodox ministries. Since converting to Orthodoxy 15 years ago, I’ve been blessed to join, with my wife and sons, several Antiochian parishes — from St. George Cathedral of Worcester, MA, with Fr. Michael Abdelahad, to my current home at Holy Trinity of Santa Fe, NM, with Fr. John Bethancourt — and I’ve developed a deep respect for the power and range of the Antiochian witness. As managing editor of Conciliar Press’s AGAIN Magazine, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with many of the best teachers and writers of our Church, under the guidance of great laborers for our Archdiocese, like Fr. Peter Gillquist and Fr. Thomas Zell. As a staff writer for the Orthodox Christian Network and an editor for the Greek Archdiocese Department of Education, and in other roles, I’ve seen the work of our brothers and sisters of other jurisdictions. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is just how hard our Orthodox clergy are working to maintain the ministries of our Church while also serving as the leaders of our communities and our spiritual fathers. They need the help of we laity; they need us to bring what talents we have to the service of our Lord.
Our website team at the Department, which includes Timm Wenger and Amy Starr Redwine, is going to continue to build the resources available at Antiochian.org. As of this writing, we’ve got a number of projects in the works, including a refresh of the sections for each Diocese and each official Department and Organization; a conversion of some of the best articles from recent years of The WORD so they can be easily read and promoted online; a special section collecting the writings of Metropolitan PHILIP; and more.
Our focus will continue to be on improving Antiochian.org, every day. We won’t be providing technical support for other Departments, and we won’t be building websites for individual parishes, although we strongly encourage churches to create their own sites so we can link to them. Our aim rather is to provide a platform to tell the stories of your work, to promote your efforts and to help you communicate with each other. In order to do this, we’ve been introducing over the past weeks our new policy for posting content on Antiochian.org. In the past, individuals at Archdiocesan entities from Dioceses to Departments were encouraged to learn the Antiochian.org software and maintain their own sections. There have been some great successes under this model, and we’ll continue to support the people who want to go this route; but for everyone else, we’re encouraging a different, and we hope simpler, model that we believe will allow all of us to focus better on what we do best.
Anyone who wants something posted on Antiochian.org can just send their request via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. In most cases, our team will review the request and post the content within three business days. If the project is more complicated — for example, creating twenty new webpages from different sections of a department manual — we’ll follow up via email so we can work out a plan together. We’ll do a review of all submissions, but since we don’t have the resources to edit everything carefully, we ask that you provide us with source material that you’ve already reviewed carefully, either as email text or as attached files. We’re also happy to post images and PDF files, but ask that you include captions for pictures and any other instructions necessary.
Please use Antiochian.org as a resource, and recommend it to others. And please let us know what you like — and what you don’t. While our site does need to be, in a sense, all things to all people, we will strive to take into account all the feedback we receive. So please email any thoughts or questions you have to us at email@example.com.
In its general definition, “epistle” means “a formal or elegant letter.” The website of our Archdiocese is our collective epistle, our formal and elegant message, to our community, and beyond. It is a way of educating, and of edifying; of teaching, and of inspiring. May our Lord bless our collective effort to use this medium in His service.
Courtesy of the
March 2008 issue of The Word magazine.