Friday, November 20, 2009

RIC church website showcased both for its elegant design and its Christ-like vision

“Ugh! How gaudy!”

Apparently my very Lutheran classmate didn’t appreciate the soaring vaulted ceilings, intricate gilded plasterwork, and pastel-colored frescoes of angels and cherubs displayed on our professor’s PowerPoint. In fact, he didn’t seem to appreciate a lot of the imagery in our Protestant Reformation history course, whether it was this overwhelmingly complex cathedral of the Catholic Counter-Reformation or the stark plainness of the small Calvinist churches.

When it comes to religious iconography, Lutherans tend to be firmly-planted fence-sitters. We recognize that there is something inspirational or even divine within works of beauty, but we are also firmly committed to a gospel that commands our humility in the face of both God and our fellow humans. Lutheran churches, as a result, tend to fall somewhere between inspirational “high church” decadence and plain, puritan starkness. One sanctuary I’ve visited had clearly been professionally and expertly remodeled to be as tastefully and beautifully ascetic as possible, complete with the words “SOLA SCRIPTVRA” carved into the white marble floor. Clearly, scripture alone just isn’t the same unless you’ve etched it into the ground.

Besides church buildings, websites have become a congregation’s most publicly visible incarnation. And just like our buildings, our websites manifest our ambivalent theology of beauty: Do we design them to be attractive to web surfers, or do we design them solely to fulfill an explicitly godly purpose?

As we at LC/NA recently learned, it’s fully possible to meet both goals. Lord of Life Lutheran Church of Columbus, Ohio used Joomla!, a content-management system that allows users to design websites using templates rather than from plain code, to design its website. When they submitted their site to Joomla’s Community Showcase, they may not have expected the response they got.

“Though the site showcase has many submissions, occasionally one will hit a bit close to home,” wrote one member of the Joomla! Showcase team. Lord of Life’s website had been selected as one of only 33 “Religion and Spirituality” sites the Showcase, he wrote them, but it had also affected him personally:

I am from the South and it is rare to find a church that has the ability to discern what it means to be Christ-like rather than "religious." Here, church is almost more of an "enterprise" rather than a place of worship. […] I spent a good bit of time on your (well-designed) site and believe your vision of what it means to be a Christian is amazing. I am especially amazed at LoL being a Reconciling in Christ church and from a personal point wish to simply say "Thanks."

We here at LC/NA would like to echo the Joomla! team’s thanks and congratulations to Lord of Life. As their recent accomplishment in the Joomla! Community Showcase has shown, sometimes a little Lutheran-style fence-sitting is just what we need to reach those on either side of us.

Ben Refling
LVC Intern and Special Projects Coordinator for Youth, Young Adult and Family Ministries
Lutherans Concerned/North America

P.S. The Joomla's Showcase Team member's views may (or may not) differ from those of Joomla! or the other team members

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