Our congregation needs a directory. One of my tasks as your Membership Coordinator has been to create a digital directory that will accessible to members online. After eight months of intermittent work on this project, I would like to update you all on my progress.
Like most congregations these days, FUUSN has a database of members, friends, and visitors that is stored “in the cloud.” By the way, I am told that the cloud metaphor has no connection with Jehovah’s words out of the storm in the biblical book of Job, and any resemblance to the remoteness, obscurity, and inscrutable wisdom of that thundercloud is purely coincidental. Perhaps the authentic derivation is from the London fog? But I digress. For the past several months the staff has been maintaining two database systems in parallel: an older system that was not meeting our needs, and a newer, more intuitive system that will eventually phase out the old. Our digital directory will be an extension of this newer system, which is called Realm. Can there be a realm in the cloud? Evidently there can.
For the past three months I have been cautiously field testing the directory with a few volunteers in the congregation (thanks to Greg Sullivan, Bruce Henderson, Jacki Rohan, and the Membership Committee). These volunteers have logged into the directory online, updated their contact information, configured their privacy settings, uploaded attractive headshots, and experimented with the internal messaging system, which allows a member with a directory login to privately message another member with a directory login. There is a phone app, which has been notifying me about new messages from my volunteers, as well as providing convenient access to the directory in the palm of my hand. None of the information in the directory will be publicly accessible or Google searchable: the directory is only visible to users who have been invited to create a login by the FUUSN staff. Logged in users will also be able to access their financial gift information, print contribution statements and year end tax report forms, and give online. So far the consensus among my volunteers is that the system is useful, uncomplicated, and a good thing for FUUSN.
Issues of privacy and data security are, of course, paramount. FUUSN members and friends who wish to investigate these important issues are encouraged to check out the product website. I would also encourage anyone with concerns that are not addressed on the website to contact me, so that I can investigate further. The Operations Council has recommended that I continue exploring the system with small groups of volunteers and soliciting feedback. If you would like to participate, please get in touch.
Who will be listed in the directory? This is an important policy question, which continues to be discussed by the Operations Council, the Membership Committee, and the staff. The paper directory has traditionally listed not just members but non-member friends of the congregation who expressed their wish to be included. A clear policy about the electronic version of the directory is needed, and it will be announced well in advance of the directory’s release. At minimum, everyone will have the choice to opt out of the directory entirely. I will update you all about developments in the weeks ahead. –Samuel Foster, Membership Coordinator