A new online church aims to reach those with no experience of God or church Holy Trinity Ripon launches evangelistic church 'plant' on the internet www.church-on-the-net.com
Holy Trinity Ripon (Derbyshire) has launched an online 'church' for people who are not already engaged with the Christian faith, and who are looking for answers, but may not feel ready (or be able) to walk into a church building.
Its goal is to help people discover if God is of relevance to them today, providing a safe and self-directed way to find straightforward answers to questions about Christianity. Longer-term, the goal is to encourage them to find a local church where they can feel at home.
Very few churches exist purely online, and Church on the Net (www.church-on-the-net.com) is unique because it is evangelistic, rather than designed to serve believers or any pre-existing fellowship.
The team behind the project says that as well as agnostics, atheists and seekers, however, the online church may be useful to new Christians afraid of asking 'silly' questions, Christians who have slipped away from an active faith, and those who find it difficult to meet together (such as the housebound, carers, and those in remote areas or who face persecution).
"As odd as it may seem to Christians, who have all the advantages of fellowship through belonging to a traditional church, there are huge numbers of people who are accustomed to being part of online communities, whose 'friends' they may never meet face-to-face," says Mark Tanner, vicar of Holy Trinity Ripon. "The idea of doing things online feels safe and attractive to them, so why not introduce church into that lifestyle?"
Church on the Net is divided into three sections: - a reference section, with 85 articles offering explanations or perspectives on many issues relating to God, church and Christianity, including common and difficult questions - a weekly article, updated every Sunday, exploring the Christian faith and how it is lived out on a daily basis. T
he launch address has been provided by the Rt Revd John Packer, Bishop of Ripon & Leeds - an interactive community area, where visitors can engage with the site and one another through forums and blogs. Site content is provided by an editorial panel of ordained and lay people drawn from within Holy Trinity Ripon, plus guest writers.
"In an increasingly secular world, we are in danger of making assumptions about what people already know about our faith - which may not be much!" says Nicola David, project leader of Church on the Net. "This hit home when a teenager asked me if Christmas was when Jesus married Mary. So our articles try to be as clear, conversational and jargon-free as possible - particularly because we expect the majority of our audience to be outside of the UK, and won't have English as a first language."
40% of visitors to Holy Trinity Ripon's own church website (www.holytrinityripon.org.uk) are overseas, and come looking for answers to spiritual questions. Most commonly, these are seekers from China, Brazil, Vietnam, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Korea, Morocco and Israel.
"Church on the Net is one of a range of ways Christians are extending a new invitation to community, to exploration and to faith through fresh expressions of church. I warmly commend it," says the Revd. Dr. Steven Croft, archbishops' missioner and team leader of Fresh Expressions (www.freshexpressions.org.uk). Plans are already afoot for phases two and three of the site, which will introduce extensive new functionality and features. Church on the Net is registered as a fresh expression of church with Fresh Expressions.
It exists under the authority of Holy Trinity Ripon (a church in the Church of England) and the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds. It is co-funded by Holy Trinity Ripon, the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, and charitable grants.