Ten years ago, Tod Maffin was unemployed, living near Vancouver and fooling around with something called the Internet. Participating in an online discussion group, he discovered that the founders of something called Yahoo were looking for Web sites to add to their directory.
Being an Anglican and enamoured of both technology and organization, he collected a few church Web links — one was to an early diocese of New Westminster site — sent them to Yahoo and set up a Web page for Anglican links called Anglicans Online! The name was a bit grandiose considering that it only consisted of four or five Web site links.
Today, on its 10th birthday, Anglicans Online (minus the exclamation point) is the largest, most thorough and comprehensive online resource for Anglicans worldwide. It lists thousands of Web sites for Anglican provinces, dioceses and parishes, collects links to news reports of interest to Anglicans and provides information about such pillars of Anglicanism as the Book of Common Prayer. The site says it has more than 200,000 readers.
Mr. Maffin still lives in Vancouver but is now a national producer for CBC Radio, a speaker and technology columnist. He has also acquired a reputation as a savvy futurist, predicting various developments in technology. The power of the Internet amazed him from the beginning, he said in an interview. “After I collected about four links, I posted a request for others to a discussion group and got hundreds of responses. I didn’t think it would be that big. I didn’t think that many Anglicans would be online,” he said.
A year or two later, he said, a friend was ill and he sent out a request for postcards from around the world to cheer her up. “I received dozens of packages and cards. It was an incredible outpouring,” he said.
In 1997, Mr. Maffin — by then employed — was unable to continue managing the site. Today, the site is run by a team in the United States and Great Britain, led by Cynthia McFarland in Burlington, N.J., and Brian Reid in Palo Alto, Calif. Other members of the team live in Liverpool and St. Albans, U.K.
Ms. McFarland, an active Episcopalian who was a delegate to three General Conventions (the U.S. church’s governing convention) and Mr. Reid, who attends Christ Church in Los Altos, added editorial content to Mr. Maffin’s list of Web sites. They both sign the greeting on the home page, which changes weekly, but alternate the writing. The editorial tone of the site mixes a generally-liberal attitude and a dry sense of humour with great respect for church history and tradition.
“We wanted to honour the Canadian roots of Anglicans Online but not be bound by them. So we still use Canadian spelling (the ‘our’ rather than the American ‘or’) but the focus is relentlessly global. And we’ve added job vacancies and house exchanges,” noted Mr. Reid.
Ms. McFarland, who emigrated from Britain to the U.S. as a teenager, owns a communications business that specializes in writing, design and editing material for colleges and universities. In an interview, she estimated that she spends 10 to 12 volunteer hours per week, mostly after church on Sundays, working on Anglicans Online.
Mr. Reid describes her as a “walking encyclopedia” of Anglican church history and, fittingly, she attends St. Mary’s, the oldest Episcopal parish in New Jersey (founded 1703). Her interest in history, she said, allows her to look at the church “with a greater degree of equanimity.” History, she noted, “gives you the sense of people in their own time — loving, living, squabbling. There is the sense that this is not new; this has happened before. We have squabbles about gay and lesbian people, well in Victorian times the debate was equally as impassioned over whether a man could marry his deceased wife’s sister.”
Mr. Reid, a computer scientist living in the high-tech confines of Silicon Valley, runs the Web site from servers in his garage. He estimates he spends 15 to 20 volunteer hours per week maintaining Anglicans Online.