It was more than 13 years ago when I suggested that the meeting should have a website. Many people said that they didn’t see the point of it (George Fox didn’t have one) and some seemed to fear that some unnamed evil would result, but it was agreed that I could create one.
At that time computers were very limited; most home machines had pitifully small monitors, often with only a limited range of colours. Software which now makes it easy for anyone to create a website did not exist, certainly not at an affordable price, so the whole site was built by hand.
I had three aims in mind; to make it easy for anyone with a computer to find out about Lewes meeting and perhaps to attend, to tell people the history of the Meeting House, and to inform them about our beliefs and practices.
I believe that it had its successes. Several people contacted me via the email link to enquire about the meeting, some visited and some became members. I had many enquiries about the history of the meeting and its former members, and in return I was sent more information about our history, including transcripts of journals and unpublished biographies.
It was not so easy to explain our beliefs and practices – we all know that it never is. A lot of published material was unsuitable for the format of a website. Friends House refused permission to include parts of Advices and Queries – they were considering putting this on the BYM website, and a few years later it appeared. I was surprised to find that a meeting in the USA had copied some of my web pages as an accurate statement of their beliefs.
A colleague emailed me very recently, telling me of the difficulty that he had of finding people who would check and comment on his work. I had the same difficulty back then. Sometimes people did not like my wording on other websites. I always replied, “Please suggest some better wording and I will use it”. No one ever did!
As I wrote above, the whole site had to be built by hand, and this made it difficult to update, so only the most important changes were made. In one way that solved a problem. Once it was acceptable to use photographs of our children, and, by the time that there were concerns, most of the children shown were already adults.
That website is now hopelessly old-fashioned in its appearance, although I hope not too much in terms of its content. It was more than time to replace it with one up to modern standards, and also to include new facilities so that several people will be able to update it quickly and easily.
Two years ago the BYM website included links to the websites of many other meetings, and I found that about half of them no longer existed and others had not been updated for years. That happens when a website is the responsibility of only one person. I am pleased that our new website will be the responsibility of an appointed group within the meeting, with members who can be replaced when the time comes. All who participated deserve our thanks.
I am sure that Liz and Lou will welcome suggestions, but if there is something that you don’t like, please don’t complain; say exactly what you would like to replace it.
David Hitchin, September 2016