I spent some time today working on the benefice website. We have now added a page with some information about baptisms and there are a few more notices about upcoming events included as well as my letter from last month’s magazine. Have you ever looked at the benefice website? If you haven’t and you have access to the internet, then please visit the site and take a look around. The site can be found at http://www.cinderford-churches.org.uk/. There a quite a few photos included now and a variety of pages and articles. The weekly newsletters are available online as well. The site will gradually grow as time goes on and more information and more photos are included, so do check back on a regular basis. (If you have any suggestions as to useful information to include on the website or any constructive criticism, then please let me know.)
One of the things that you tend to wonder about a website is ‘How much it is being used?’ It is hard to get a lot of specific details about people accessing the site and it is impossible to tell what visitors were looking for, whether they found it or not and what they thought of the site. There are some statistics available though; these relate to the number of visits, the number of pages accessed, the time spent on the site, the means by which the site was found, and, perhaps most interestingly, the location from which the site was accessed.
As it happens, I received an email today with these statistics included for the previous month. Here are some of the key pieces of information: over the last month we had 224 visits by 129 different users who accessed 729 page views; 95 of the visits were the result of the site being found be a search engine (Google, Yahoo, etc.), 70 of the visits were the result of referrals from other sites and 59 were the result of the site being accessed directly by someone who knew the address of the site. That may be interesting to a few of you, but I suspect the following information will interest the majority of you (at least a little bit): as well as visitors from the UK, we had people visiting our website from Brazil, the United States, Australia, Canada, Russia, India, Kuwait, Norway and the United Arab Emirates! Who would have thought it?
I could hazard a guess as to some of the connections that may have led to some of these visits, but the full list is somewhat surprising. The email containing the statistics also included a map of the world with all the counties listed above coloured in (and countries with no visitors to the site left blank). With Russia, Canada, USA, Australia, Brazil and India being so large, there is a good proportion of the world that was coloured in, although I must admit that I was slightly disappointed that Africa was completely blank.
As well as working on the website today and looking at the website statistics, I have been spending some time thinking about services and sermons for this coming Sunday (12th June), Pentecost Sunday. The major reading for the day is, of course, the account of the disciples receiving the Holy Spirit and Peter’s sermon to the crowds gathered around. We are told that those listening to Peter included Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs.
If Peter were to have received some statistics after the event relating to the people who had listened, and if the statistics had come with a map with the represented countries coloured in, then a good proportion of the world that Peter knew of would have been coloured in. “Who would have thought it?” Peter might have said. The answer to Peter’s hypothetical question is of course, God. God not only ‘would have thought it’, God, I’m sure planned it. I don’t believe that it was an accident that the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost. Pentecost was a Jewish feast day occurring fifty days after Passover and would have involved many devout Jews and Jewish converts visiting Jerusalem to go to the temple with offerings and sacrifices.
Just before his ascension, Jesus had said to his disciples “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost ensured they got off to a pretty good start – they were witnessing in Jerusalem, but many of those listening and many of the 3,000 that we are told were ‘added to their number’ that day, took the message of Peter and the disciples – the Good News about Jesus – around the known world.
Jesus was big news around the world then and still is today. Also today, (it’s been a busy day!), I’ve spent some time talking to Jim Fisher who has just come back from an Alpha conference in London. He tells me there were attendees at the conference from 105 countries. People who had travelled around the world to receive training, updates and encouragement relating to the Alpha course and the spread of the Good News of Jesus. We are all engaged in the mission that Jesus entrusted to his disciples, the mission that started with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and continues today around the world. What part are we playing? In what way is God using us as witnesses ‘to the ends of the earth’? Could it be that we are not making ourselves available to God or allowing his Holy Spirit to work in our lives? We all have a part to play and we will only be effective as the body of Christ if we all play our part. Please look out for opportunities to get involved. Please get in touch with me if you would like to discuss your part in God’s mission.
Yours in Christ,