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Everybody's Going Surfing
By Michael S. Bauml, Web Coordinator

When" Surfing USA" was released by the Beach Boys in the early 60's, no one realized how prophetic the song was! Today everybody is surfing - but not the ocean. They are surfing the World Wide Web!

Since the onset of video games, man's love affair with interactive audio and video has grown to epidemic proportions. The rapid advancement of computers and their availability to everyone has placed the world at our fingertips. Like most technological advances, however, the Internet has its advantages and disadvantages. It can be a dangerous breeding ground for pornography and pedophiles… or it can become an obsession for those lured into cyberspace. On the positive note, it can be an extremely effective evangelism tool.

Many of our newer parishioners had their first contact with the Saint Luke community through our web site. Attracted by the site, many of them made initial contact via e-mail to our parish priest. Being familiar with the pastor and parish made them feel comfortable when they worshipped in our edifice for the first time. They even felt more compelled to return.

It is extremely important that the web page be kept current and lively with pertinent information on our faith and the life of our parish. The site has basically three components: (1) historical, (2) informational, and (3) interactive.

(1) The web site in effect is a running history of our parish. The monthly events page is archived by month and year and can be viewed as a historical pictorial of our life in the parish. Likewise the prayer of the week filters into an archive that can be viewed. Even the history of our recent construction is preserved in a slide show accompanied by musical selections from our choir.

(2) The bulk of the site is informational. Directions to the parish, the Sunday bulletin, upcoming events, ministry activities and reports, and other items relating to the administration of the church can be easily found. "Current issues" features articles relating to our faith as well as issues in the modern world. A large article in this section covers everything from bio ethics and cloning to environmental issues. "In the News" presents copies of articles involving Orthodoxy in general and the Saint Luke Parish in particular. "Parish Info" contains articles from "How to make altar bread" to "Preparation for Holy Communion." "The Faith," "Bells," "Saints," "Iconography" and other sections provide a resource for Orthodox Christians around the world.

Our web site offers many opportunities to interact with visitors and one another. The "members only" area is a secured area for members of the parish with message boards and classified ads area where members can converse and even place ads. The main site also maintains a message board for ongoing discussions as well as a chat room hosted by Father Andrew. The cookbook page offers recipes and is a depository for additional recipes. There is a Bible search for those seeking to find specific passages; a site for our bookstore; and a site with items for sale by the parish.

Periodically, we obtain a report indicating the number of visits to our site and their origin. We have many visitors from around the world. One young Jewish girl from England asked and received help from us for a school report on the Orthodox Church. We responded to a request from a man in Belfast, Ireland, who wanted a Bible that he could not afford.

I would like to share a few e-mails we received. This was from California: "When searching Google.com for various subjects surrounding Orthodoxy, I often come across links to your Website. I appreciate your site more and more each time I visit. I'm from a Serbian Orthodox church in California. I found myself laughing out loud when I read your bulletin regarding attendance. It looks like we have about the same size parish and the same time problems. I am an older, non-Serbian, 'by marriage' Orthodox woman, who stayed away a long time. Five years ago my husband and I heard an entire service in English and we finally got it! I feel like we are a couple of 'converts'. What a journey this has been. My husband teaches Sunday school and I'm the Building Committee chairperson. We will continue to stop in…we pray your church is fruitful. Thank you so much."

Another was from Ohio: "Just a short note to let you know how wonderful your Website is. I happened across it tonight and just spent almost an hour going through it!!!! And I still didn't see it all."

This one concerned our movie club: "I found your name on a web site re a parish movie club. I am an Anglican priest, Director of Parish Support Ministries for the Diocese of New Westminster, BC, Canada. For eleven years I was a parish priest and used movies extensively. In November I am teaching a one day seminar in a 'Theology and the Arts' series at the Vancouver School of Theology. I would sincerely appreciate any insight, resources, or methodology that you are willing to share."

In a sense, our web site has a life of its own and it must be kept current and constantly updated. This requires the efforts of the entire parish. Ministry leaders are asked to review their pages and keep them current and alive. Parishioners are to contribute articles that they see or new items to be added and be active on the interactive areas of the site. The web team must constantly work to improve the site by updating the current areas and developing new sites of interest. Along this vein, we are currently expanding the "Saints" and the "Iconography" pages and will be working on a visual tour of the church. Also coming soon is an online Bible Study hosted by Father Harrison.

I encourage you to take some time and view the parish web site. I also highly recommend reading the "Parish Info," "Iconography," Father's pilgrimage to Greece (accompanied by music from Zorba the Greek), the spiritual legacy of Father Borichevsky with the audio of some of his radio programs, or the "Kid's Page" with the videos of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.

So, come on, join the fun! Surf's up. Catch a wave over to www.stlukeorthodox.com.

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