Good Zeal

How does a monastic community create a new website?

How does a monastic community create a new website? About like we do everything else: prayerfully, as a community, with individual gifts considered, with outside expertise when prudent, and under the leadership of a prioress.

Here’s how our new website came about…

Our community wanted a more hospitable presence on the web and our Prioress asked me, who knew nothing about websites except how to visit them, to coordinate the process. She trusted that I could and would learn, and gave me the resources I needed to figure out where to start.

Sister Therese, who knows much more about computers than I, accompanied me as we investigated various site development options, asked innumerable questions, and considered the issues from so many angles that you would have thought the project was a kaleidoscope instead of a website.

I had both a free hand and steady support as I did my homework, developed ideas, and offered regular reports to monastic leadership. Design concepts were reviewed at various phases by leadership, by selected Sisters, by others with pertinent expertise, and at times, by all Sisters. Final approval at each phase came from the Prioress.

As the design was unfolding, we were busy writing and developing content, and eventually posting it to our beautiful new page templates, again with consultation from the community for content review.

If you are wondering how a 5th century monastic rule – the Rule of St. Benedict – is lived in the 21st century, this story offers a good example. The core motivation was a central Benedictine value: hospitality. St. Benedict tells us that “all guests are to be received as Christ,” and we wanted a more welcoming web presence.

The task was undertaken at the direction of the Prioress, yet, as St. Benedict counsels, she consulted with the community, as well as knowledgeable individuals outside the community. St. Benedict tell us that sometimes God “reveals what is best to the young,” so wisdom is sought from the entire community, although the Prioress has the final responsibility for judging the best course of action.

The Rule has a chapter on the “assignment of impossible tasks.” At times this project seemed like such a task, but Benedict teaches the monk that “confident in God’s help, she must in love obey.” And indeed, the assistance of both God and my Sisters has been present throughout.

The Rule also counsels us to treat all goods of the monastery as if they were vessels of the altar, and I have tried to approach this task in that manner –a “virtual vessel,” if you will – and my monastic Sisters helped me carefully attend to the many details.

The flow of communication within the community as the project progressed, the values underlying the site, the impulse to undertake the task…all have been guided by the the 5th century wisdom of St. Benedict – wisdom that is as pertinent now as it was 1500 years ago.

The very best thing about this project? Carefully placing – one by one – our individual photos onto the “meet the community” page, all the while feeling such deep appreciation for each Sister and her various gifts – a beautiful kaleidoscope of individuals united in our search for God.

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