Calendars, the Church Finder, and a few impending tweaks

Thanks to everyone who responded to our request for suggestions on how best to create calendars and a church finder for the new website. After conversations with you, and the diocesan staff and the web developers, we’ve decided on the following way forward.

Church finder

The list of parishes will soon be sortable by the name of the city of town in which the church is located. Parishes in Chicago will be sortable by the side of town on which they are located: north, south and west. Parishes that are northwest-ish or southwesterly will be listed in both categories.

In addition to sorting the list of parishes, those seeking a church can also locate all diocesan congregations a Google map that can be manipulated to view every church in the diocese, or to find the parish closest to you own location.

With a few weeks, we are in hopes of making it possible for seekers to get directions to individual churches through the list of congregations.

It is worth keeping in mind, that at present, clicking on the name of a congregation will take you to its website, where you can acquire its address, open a Google map and do the directions yourself.

Calendars

Most of the feedback we have received indicates a need for three calendars.

a) A “building calendar” for St. James Commons. So much activity takes place in the diocesan offices and the cathedral, that a calendar for the many visitors who come to those locations for particular events is a must.

b) A calendar of diocesan events. The diocese holds events that range from council meetings, to safechurch trainings, to liturgies, speeches, forums and concerts. This calendar will contain any event that is held under diocesan auspices, and the occasional event sponsored by a parish or affiliate that is likely to appeal to a large audience in the diocese.

c) Technology permitting, we are going to offer a calendar to which congregations and organizations affiliated with the diocese can submit events by filling out an online form. Again, technology permitting, this calendar will be sortable by type of event (arts and music, speaker, etc.) This is a calendar for special events, not another place to post the worship schedule, and the editors won’t publish items that are clearly of exclusively parochial interest such as vestry meetings.

We will be in touch again in the near future to discuss some work we are doing on the information architecture—especially the Our Tools and Our Work categories, which may be renamed—to make it easier for clergy and lay leaders to find the materials that they need to do their jobs.

In the meantime, what do you think about the calendar and the church finder?

Of Calendars and Church Finders

We had an excellent question from the Rev. Martha Gillette, priest-in-charge at Church of the Holy Apostles in Wauconda, in response to our last blog post. It concerned calendars. We’re building a few, and are interested in your advice. It is our sense that showing you everything that is going on across the diocese at a single glance isn’t possible. The list would be too cluttered. The information might all be there, but it would be extremely difficult to find the tree you were looking for in a forest of events. The solution that we are leaning toward is multiple calendars—all of which can be viewed individually, and some of which will feed into an extensive “events around the diocese” calendar.

We are imaging a calendar for:

  • Diocesan-sponsored events, be they programmatic or governmental
  • A “use of space” calendar for St. James Commons—that will include all events at St. James Cathedral, as well as those in diocesan offices
  • The aforementioned “events around the diocese” calendar

The events calendar will comprise sub-calendars for particular types of events. We are in hopes that congregations and church-related organizations from around the diocese can submit items to these calendars using an online form.  We are currently considering sub-calendars for:

  • Arts and music
  • Education and formation (lectures, panel discussions, etc.)
  • Special worship services

Keeping in mind that these calendars exist primarily for publicizing distinctive events that might be of interest to those outside of the parish (So it would not be appropriate to post your Sunday morning service times, or reminders for your vestry or altar guild) what other categories might be helpful?

Would it make sense to have a category called something like Advancing Good Causes in which we could list activism, advocacy and fundraising initiatives? Do parishes hold youth events that might be of interest beyond parochial borders? Should we have a Miscellaneous category for events that don’t fit easily into any particular category?

We could also use some advice regarding the Church Finder that is in the works. It will, in all likelihood be possible to search for churches using the name of the church, or the zip code in which you hope to find a church. (And, obviously, we will have a list of all diocesan congregations.) Are those two fields enough? Should we try to make it possible to search by the name of a town or neighborhood? If so, what kind of language should we use to help people find churches in the city of Chicago? Should we use geographic language? Neighborhood language? We’d appreciate your thoughts on this.

Welcome to a Work in Progress

Welcome to a web-work in progress.  Please come on in, and start poking around. When we realized that we were going to have to move out of our old site before a new one could be completed, we decided to get a roof and walls up, and then invite everyone in to help us finish the job. Over the next six or eight weeks the web team will be busy with a number of tasks that include:

  • reviewing the information architecture (the way information is categorized) in an attempt to make information as easy to find as possible,
  • working on a new flag for the top of the page (unless the current one is greeted with great acclaim)
  • building a better calendar
  • building a better church finder
  • adding pages for which we currently lack essential information
  • seeking your opinions on what we’ve done, and what we should do next.

Please give us your feedback by leaving a comment on this or any successive posting on this website creation blog, which is dedicated entirely to the development of the new episcopalchicago.org website. We will try to respond to in a timely fashion.

Here are a couple of questions to get the ball rolling:

  • Do the names of the categories (Our Diocese, Our Work, etc.) work for you? Do they need subheads to make clearer what content lives in each section? Would other names work better?
  • Are individual pages in the categories where you would expect to find them?
  • Do you think the site serves the needs for regular users (who are likely to be Episcopalians who are involved in the life of the church) as well as those of seekers who are curious about the Diocese of Chicago and the Episcopal Church? (The lack of a church finder makes it hard to say a resounding yes to this question, but one is in the works.)
  • What other comments do you have?

You will notice that this site has less content on it than the old site. That is mostly by design.  An enormous amount of material can be archived on a web site, but the more material that is added, the harder individual pieces of information can be to find. Additionally, making space for every short-lived enterprise and fleeting initiative can dilute the focus on the diocese’s core commitments (Build the Church. Form the Faithful. Change the World.).

If you are looking for information about a particular program or ministry that was on the old site but isn’t on this one it is possible we are unaware of it, in which case we’d appreciate knowing about it. It is also possible that the program or ministry is inactive, or has no contact person or events or meetings scheduled in the foreseeable future, in which case we’d appreciate knowing about it once it becomes more active.

As a general rule, we did not include pages in the Our Diocese section if a commission or committee had become dormant, or nearly dormant, and we did not include pages in the Our Work section if visitors to the site could not participate in or benefit from an on-going diocesan-sponsored ministry. However, there are on-going diocesan sponsored ministries that don’t yet have a presence in this section, and if yours is one, please let us know.

That’s about it for now. Let’s talk.