Churches may not yet have become virtual, but they need to be accessible online if they want to reach people. Such were the views of the participants to the Eighth European Christian Internet Conference attended by RW.
The conference, which took place on a ship between Helsinki and Stockholm in early June, gathered webmasters and other project managers belonging to mainstream Churches, primarily Protestants from Germany, the Nordic countries and a few Eastern European countries.
A group of ministers in the Danish Lutheran Church organized around Paul Bo Sorensen is currently developing a project known as http://www.cyberkirke.dk. It recreates online church surroundings and should ultimately be open 24 hours a day, with somebody ready to answer questions at any time, and at least from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. the next morning.
In Germany, the website http://www.evangelisch-das-ganze-leben.de targets people who would like to reconnect with the Church, primarily women who are eager to recreate a link during turning points in their lives, explained Tom O. Brok.
In the Netherlands a website will be launched this Fall (to be at:http://www.dejacobsladder.nl), as the Missionary Department of the Dutch Reformed Church is taking into account the reality that 75 percent of the Dutch people had a link with the Church in 1958, 37 percent in 1999, and the figure is expected to be down at 25 percent in 2010. Despite this apparent disinterest, commented Otto Sondorp (who is in charge of the project), human beings remain religious as usual, but religious feelings no longer mean being a Christian for many Westerners. Consequently, the Church must find new ways to communicate the Gospel.
All these projects are the product of long reflections and their designs are highly professional. They are clear indications of the increasing significance given by mainstream Churches to the new media. Conversely, some commercial firms have also become aware that there is a “Christian customer segment” worth their attention: in Finland, the huge IT group Telia-Sonera has entered into a partnership with CredoNet (http://www.credo.fi), a Christian firm active in the field of communications.
According to a representative of the company, a cooperation with a Christian partner firm helps Sonera to understand and serve better the Christian customer segment. With about 630 fellowships of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and 300 other Christian fellowships, it represents a market which should not be ignored in a country counting a little more than 5 million inhabitants
— By Jean-François Mayer, RW Contributing Editor and editor of his own website Religioscope