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About The Mission of St. Clare

The Mission of St. Clare is an ecumenical web site offering Morning and Evening Prayer using the order set out in The Book of Common Prayer. The Mission was named for St. Clare because (at the time) no one had designated a patron of the Internet and I thought she represented the idea of prayer available anytime and anywhere the best. (Especially because she was already patron of television.) No official body was involved in elevating St. Clare to patron of the Internet because, really, who would you ask?

The Mission of St. Clare originated after one too many clerics gave one too many sermons opining about how people didn't make time to come to church anymore. Since I was, myself, working 60-hour weeks in Silicon Valley, I knew very well why people weren't in church on Sunday. In my mind, the question was not can you get the people to church, but can you get church to the people?

That was in the early 1990s. The Internet wasn't widely used. But Simon Kershaw and gang at Ely Cathedral (UK) had already put up a really good web site which provided me with inspiration and, more importantly, HTML code to be "borrowed."

I also knew that MIT students had won a match with ECUSA over publishing The Book of Common Prayer online; the psalms had been formatted and posted via Keith (last name not remembered) at JPL; James Kiefer was publishing his wonderful essays through CHRISTIA; and Chad Wohlers on the East Coast was working on posting the entire lectionary, which he has completed (yay, Chad!).

Nothing else seemed to be needed.

At first, I posted Morning Prayer every morning (got up, slapped the code together, and uploaded it to the server at Cruzio, our local ISP). After a couple of months, I added Evening Prayer and started posting an entire week at once, and finally, started posting a month at once.

People seem to use it. I get a report from our ISP every week: about 1500 people are visiting each day. it would be a big congregation were they all in one place.

The music was there from the beginning: the idea was to make the web site experience as close to going to a physical church as possible. I used a MIDI interface and MusicShop software to put the hymns together--one note at a time. This effort was greatly aided by Dalh Forysthe who recorded the entire 1982 Hymnal as MIDI files. I still have all those files, but the Internet's ability to deliver media has greatly increased, so most of the hymns made available now are in mp3 format. At this time, plans are being made for a sort of Mission St. Clare pickup choir consisting of local singers and musicians to do some recordings.

Early on, a hospitalized man in Hawaii wrote to ask for a text-only version so he could use it with his screen reader. Seemed a reasonable idea, so that was done. Then a deacon from Los Angeles (whose name I don't remember) requested a Spanish-language version, and with her help, that was started, too.

And then somebody asked for a version for their handheld device. The thought of commuters riding off to work reading Morning Prayer from those tiny little screens was irresistible. So, now the Rev. Eliot Moss supplies iSilo files which can be read on almost any mobile device, and David Wills supplies mobi versions for the Kindle and Nook. The Rev. Ed McNeill suggested having an app for the iPhone (and iPad), so with his help and the financial help of himself and his congregation a programmer was hired to write that app. For Android users, the Rev. Christopher Richardson wrote the Android app.

The prayer page was requested by a reader, and did exist for a long time. Useage was about 8 or 9 requests per day. However, the prayer page was hacked three times, and the last time was the show-stopper. Instead of a prayer page, we got a pornographic web site that halted the readers' browsers. The prayer page needed security, and Blogger was the simpliest way to get it. Usage at Blogger is down to about one request each week.

The readers have participated in three surveys which is where the idea of community was first brought up. Almost everyone who replied felt that they were praying with a community when they were at the web site, and they said that The Mission of St. Clare felt like a physical place.

The readers span denominations, weighted towards Anglicanism, of course, but with good representation from the other mainsteam groups and a few not-so-mainstream. There are many clergy, other religious, and seminarians reading the website, along with people who like the discipline of formalized daily prayer. Most are over age 50.

Several years ago, a group of monks living in the Hebrides sent a message that the weather had been so stormy that they couldn't get to down to chapel. But their Internet connection was working. They used The Mission of St. Clare for Evening Prayer that night.

Feedback occurs in the form of people gracious enough to send "thank yous", people gracious enough to send corrections (and patient enough to wait for those corrections to get done), and people who give donations.

In the future, I'd like to restart "Ask the Clergy" which suffered from a server crash that deleted all the questions readers had submitted as well as answers previously given. It was good having various clergy participate in an effort to answer readers' questions. But, this effort would require a coordinator.

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My family was not church-going but because we moved every few months (dad was a Navy officer), I found the Church to be, as advertised, universal no matter where we went. I've attended services in a great variety of congregations which were associated with a great many denominations. At present, my husband and I worship with an ECLA congregation (my husband was raised Lutheran).

I worked for 20+ years in Silicon Valley as a technical editor covering hardware and software documentation for various computer companies, and, finally, for Hewlett-Packard. After being laid off from Hewlett-Packard, I found work as an academic editor at the University of California, Santa Cruz where I am still employed (as of this week, as we say).

My hope is that The Mission of St. Clare will continue, if it's needed, after I don't.

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