9.21.2005

Server, mainframe, or router?

Karen describes COTA as "post-denominational" yet rooted in its Lutheran and Episcopal liturgical traditions. She used a great metaphor for the changes that she thinks have to be made in the churchwide structure (for which she used to work in ecumenical affairs and worship) -- it's set up as a server, and it needs to function as a router. (For non-geek readers, the structure is set up as a central supplier of and gatekeeper to ideas, resources and funds, when it needs to make connections between congregations, leaders, publishers, experts, etc.)

I'd expand that to say that the central hierarchy functions more like an old mainframe -- it has a limited set of programs that run on its operating system, not compatible with programs that run on other systems (denominations), and it is careful about and controls how people access its data. It has firewalls in place to filter the information that comes in from (and goes out to) other nodes in the wide-area network that is the church, rather than permitting unfettered access.

Our congregations -- some are small workstations or terminals, others run servers to service their operations and sometimes a small network of congregations. The hierarchy needs to help direct information across the network and facilitate connections between the outlying nodes.

I think that some synods, including our SEPA synod, are starting to take on the router role. We have worked to try to build in connections between not only pastors and other rostered leaders but between lay leaders as well, sometimes responding to grassroots networks leaders have put together themselves. And we're facilitating access to information about the church, independent resources, and our own local mission stories through the web, email and video (check out our online resource catalog).

But we still have filters and gateways in place to protect the security of our network and our Lutheran identity. These are artificial filters and illusory security because our people have their own networks that continually cross denominational, theological, doctrinal and geographic boundaries. By focusing on routing connections, we can help people make better connections and get better information and experiences to expand God's Kingdom.

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