Satiric Ship of Fools Web site celebrates 10th anniversary

Published May 1, 2008

A Web site that is possibly the most irreverent in the Anglican world, Ship of Fools, celebrated its 10th anniversary on, appropriately, April 1 or April Fools’ Day.

Founded in 1998 by two theological students who did not, eventually, seek ordination, carries such irresistible features as Gadgets for God (“tacky religious items”), the Fruitcake Zone (such oddities as a group that offers to send telegrams to the dearly departed) and the Mystery Worshipper (anonymous volunteers who file reviews of church services).

“The Web site’s subtitle is ‘the magazine of Christian unrest.’ We are about questioning our own faith without diminishing our commitment to it. We think questioning and mocking our faith is a healthy thing to do. Rather than let atheists mock the Christian faith, we do it for them,” said co-founder Simon Jenkins, 53, who went on to earn a master’s degree in theology, decided that being a priest was “not a good fit,” and is today a London-based freelance designer, artist and Web site writer/producer. His co-editor, Stephen Goddard, is now a public relations consultant in Manchester, U.K.

In addition to chronicling Christianity’s quirks, Ship of Fools runs several lively bulletin boards, on which interested folk discuss church and faith matters. “About 13,000 people have signed up on the bulletin boards over the years, and 500 to 600 are active at any one time,” said Mr. Jenkins.

The “ship” began as a magazine in 1977, but folded six years later, again on April Fool’s Day, due to financial pressures. “It’s much better to be on the Web,” said Mr. Jenkins, noting that a site re-design marked the 10th anniversary. The name, he said, came from a long 15th-century poem by German humanist Sebastian Brant, which satirized the follies and vices of the time.

Although maintaining a Web site costs much less than publishing a paper magazine, Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Goddard are not paid and have hired an advertising agency to generate more ad revenue with the aim of eventually having paid staff. Currently, the cost of a computer server (about £13,000, or $26,000 Cdn per year) is funded through donations and a few ads.

They also want to do more “community-building,” having blogs (Web logs, or diaries) and community news.

One thing that won’t change is the animated logo Mr. Jenkins designed for the site: two earnest fellows in the same boat, backs to each other, rowing in different directions. “I love the mystical side of orthodoxy, but there is a sense that you do what you are told, that there is a right way and a wrong way,” he said. Mr. Jenkins leans more toward heterodoxy, defined as “opinions or doctrines at variance with an official or orthodox position.” It means freedom to choose, for people who “want to glorify God in their own way,” he said.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

Keep on reading

Skip to content