Today is the fifth anniversary of Episcopal Café. Five years ago a team of volunteers began posting news stories, commentary, spiritual reflections and artwork provided by Episcopalians from all around the country—and, to a lesser extent, the world. Today we are still at it.
We are missing a few months worth of Google’s analytical data, but it is safe to say we have had about 4.2 million visits from 1.2 million “unique visitors.” In the last year, we have had not quite 947,00 visits from almost 273,000 visitors. We’ve got 5,700 friends on Facebook and 4,700 followers on Twitter.
This seems like a good time to thank all of those folks for dropping by, especially those who stuck around, read what was on offer and contributed comments via a system that we know some of you find unwieldy at times.
The Café began as a ministry of the Diocese of Washington, which provided $20,000 in start-up funding from its communications budget, and space on its server. It has been independent since December 2009 when Jim Naughton, the Café’s founder and editor, left the diocese to form Canticle Communications. During that time it has been sustained by a dedicated team of volunteer newsbloggers, essay writers, authors of spiritual reflections, artists, and art curators.
The newsbloggers are the heart of the Café’s operation. The current team comprises Jim, the Rev. Ann Fontaine, the Rev. Torey Lightcap, the Rev. Kurt C. Wiesner, the Rev. Andrew Gerns and the Very Rev. Nick Knisely. Ann, Nick and Andrew have been involved in the Café from the outset, and deserve special thanks. Newsblogger-on leave-John Chilton, was also among the first people Jim recruited to work on the Café.
Former newsbloggers include Charles Blanchard, who left to take a lesser position: General Counsel to the United States Air Force, Helen Mosher, who is still active with in the Café’s social media and the Rev. Peter Carey.
The Rev. Deacon Vicki Black sustained our Speaking to the Soul blog for years, and even published a book of reflections culled from the blog. The Rev. Lowell Grisham does most of the heavy lifting on the Soul blog these days with help from the Rev. Bill Carroll, Maria Evans and Linda Ryan.
Mel Ahlborn was first editor of our Art Blog, which gives the Café its distinctive look. Mel provided us with the one thing to which none of the rest of us had access: beautiful images. C. Robin Janning succeeded Mel and continues to keep our homepage and Art Blog looking both bright and soulful.
Ann Fontaine took over the chores of maintaining the Daily Episcopalian blog from Jim Naughton about a year ago. We’ve had too many significant contributions from too many people to name, but we invite you to mention your favorite DE writers in the comments.
The Café had two forebears, The Blog of Daniel, which Jim created in January 2006 to follow the fortunes of the short-lived NBC series, The Book of Daniel, whose main character was an Episcopal priest, and Daily Episcopalian, Jim’s running commentary on the issues facing The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, which he launched when The Book of Daniel died.
While maintaining this second blog, Jim realized that you couldn’t convince people that Episcopalians did more than argue about sexual morality by maintaining a blog devoted to arguments about human sexuality. On that blindingly obvious premise, the Café was founded.
Those of us who work at the Café know it is in need of technological and aesthetic refreshment. We haven’t had a fiscal agent since Jim left the Diocese of Washington, so we have been unable to make the changes know are necessary. Still, we like to think we provide a service by aggregating news about the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion and those places where Christian faith intersects with our politics, culture and society; featuring the essays and reflections of some of the more insightful and graceful writers in our church; displaying some gorgeous religious artwork that you won’t find in many other places; and giving people a place to talk over what is going on.
And every now and then it seems to fall to us to say things that other people won’t say, but that sure need saying.
We hope, at some point in the near future, to figure out a way to allow you to support us while receiving a tax deduction. But this has been a difficult problem to solve. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who visits the Café and makes doing this work worthwhile. We especially appreciate the 24 percent of our audience that our analytics tell us have visited the Café more than 200 times! We would love to hear your suggestions as we consider the Café’s future, so chime in in the comments.