As I write, I just finished uploading the most recent issue of Sojourners magazine to our Web site, Sojourners Online. Over the past three years I have posted more than a thousand articles, dating back to November 1994.
It must be acknowledged that cost and other factors will always exclude many people from this technology, but it certainly does have its benefits. Once on our site, for example, anyone in the world can search by any word and find any Sojourners article in which it occurs. After talking with my son about a Bruce Cockburn concert he recently attended, I entered Cockburn’s name in the Sojourners search engine, and instantly found all of the Sojourners articles where Cockburn is mentioned.
If I am preparing a talk on the Sermon on the Mount for my youth Sunday school class, I can find all of the places where Matthew 6 has been used. Our men’s group agreed to discuss Richard Rohr’s article, "Boys to Men" from last month’s issue. I only had one copy of the magazine, and several wanted to borrow it. Then I realized we could all copy it from Sojourners Online. (Yes, we are an enlightened men’s group and all have e-mail and Web connections).
I don’t think the Internet will ever replace books or libraries. An article on a screen can never replace a worn copy of Sojourners that I can curl up with late at night before going to bed. Making Sojourners available on the Web is my way of giving back to others for all that I received during the many years I worked and lived with Sojourners. I believe that there is enduring value in many of the issues and articles that have been published over the years, and this is one way of making them easily and cheaply available to view and use.
THE PUBLISHING MODEL for the Internet is different from the broadcast model of print media. Rather than "one to many," it is a "many to many" model. We are trying to build a Web site that incorporates the best of both models. We are providing an easily searchable collection of issues and articles that have been carefully edited and filtered over the years. But we are also trying to build interactive content.
The "Connections" section of Sojourners Online provides a place to locate people or to enter yourself into our growing directory of Sojourners readers around the world, which now includes more than 650 groups and individuals in 16 countries and 49 states. Through "Links" we have provided a way to enter and comment on other Web sites that might be of interest to Sojourners readers. In "Forums," we are experimenting with online chat and conferencing. The "Calendar of Events" will let you know if there is a Sojourners-sponsored event in your area, and the forthcoming "Exchange" area—like the "Connections" section of the magazine—is the place to look for volunteer, employment, and community living opportunities or upcoming retreats and conferences. The "Resource Catalog" area provides an easy way for you to order materials through Sojourners Resource Center.
In addition, we have provided a Sojourners e-mail discussion group where you can meet for daily discussion with other Sojourners readers around the world. You can also use e-mail to contact Sojourners with questions about subscriptions or membership requests, communicate with the staff, or write letters to the editor.
By the end of the year, I hope to have all of the issues for the past decade online. By the turn of the century, I would like to see the whole 30 years of Sojourners on the Web. We will be working to post more reflections, commentary, and editorials in addition to what appears in the magazine. Both "Connections" and "Calendar of Events" will become interactive. You will soon be able to enter your own local events, as well as volunteer, employment, and community living opportunities.
Some readers have suggested an online interactive Bible study using the weekly lectionary cycle. Each staff member is adding their own home page, so that you can get a better sense of who is behind the magazine. We have recently added a "Random Quotes" feature which—as the name suggests—pulls a random quotation from articles on the site. And we are developing polling features that will enable you to vote on a variety of social issues.
Sojourners Online is largely a volunteer effort. We value your feedback and contributions. I have a special interest in connecting people with technical skills to social change groups that desperately need the help. I value being in touch with anyone who would like to help build our online presence. If you have technical skills to contribute, or ideas to share, let us hear from you.
Bob Sabath is web technologist of Sojourners.
Sojourners Online (www.sojourners.com) received the Award of Excellence for Best Web Site at the Associated Church Press convention earlier this year.