Monday, May 19, 2008

Church 2.0

One afternoon some 7 years ago, I was casually going over the notice boards in the main building at MA College of Engg in Kothamangalam. It must have been my third year at MACE. My attention was drawn to a small notice about a mailing list on yahoogroups. So out of curiosity and a desire to know what going on in the community, I subscribed to from the college internet centre. Over the years ICON, as it later came to be known, has grown to over 6000 members from around the world (including a few bishops and many priests) and matured into a forum for serious discussion.

In grad school (yes, at CUSAT we call them schools), I started playing around with social networks. The following year I got an invite to Orkut from one of my fellow trainees at Motorola, where I was doing a rather long internship. Someone had just started an Indian Orthodox community in Orkut and I too joined in, though I rarely went through any of the posts. Recently, somewhat to my surprise, the community crossed the 10,000 member mark to be one of the largest communities of its kind on any social networking site. Although there is no way to know for sure, the vast majority of members must be in their teens or twenties.

A couple of months back I moved to Hyderabad and it was the week before Pasha. The move happened a few weeks earlier than I had planned and in the rush of things I didn’t get the chance to ask anyone for the address of an Orthodox church in Hyderabad. So now I was in a city that I barely knew, I need to find a church and I didn’t have the faintest clue whom to ask. So I turned to the internet, which had over the years gone from mailing lists to Web 2.0 - clouds, SNS, wikis et al. I started with a search on Live which gave me a rough idea of what I was looking for. I grabbed whatever info I could find and switched over to Orkut where I found three Orthodox churches with full addresses and alternate names of localities, but unfortunately there was no data on service timings. So now I had the address of 3 churches in Hyderabad, I had to figure out which was nearest and how to get there. So I go to Wikimapia, zoom in to Hyderabad, and search for the street or locality of each of the three churches. A few minutes of zooming and panning later, I locate the nearest church on a map of Hyderabad superimposed on a composite high resolution satellite image of the city. Someone I will probably never know had taken the time and effort to locate and mark the small church on the outskirts if the city. I then do my bit by adding some more details to the wiki tag. I then take a print out of the map, mark the location with an X and hand it over to my cab driver. Next morning, I reach St. Mary’s Orthodox Church at Ramachandrapuram just in time for the Hosanna service.