Dream in the desert

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The desert emirate of Dubai might seem like an odd location for a meeting of the technology, communications and media leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. 

It is, after all, not exactly a place overflowing with Adventists. And it’s a very long way, both physically and culturally, from the world headquarters of the Church on the outskirts of Washington, DC. But, it turns out, it has its advantages when you are literally trying to bring the world together.

The new SPD site is designed to show what value we provide to people in the community, not what departments have.

The most obvious advantage is that it’s very easy to get to from all over Africa, Europe, the Asia/Pacific region and even the Americas. But there is something else. Here, in one of the hottest, driest climates on earth, a world-class metropolitan centre has grown up in, by city standards, the blink of an eye. The sheer audacity behind the vision of creating modern Dubai—filled with companies and people from across the globe, breathtaking buildings, man-made islands and world leading infrastructure—has a tendency to challenge minds to embrace a larger, more ambitious vision.

And on the table of the Global Adventist Internet Network meetings was just such an ambitious vision. Specifically, perfecting and integrating the way the Adventist Church presents its identity to the world on the web. 

Klaus Popa, of the Adventist Media Center in Germany, gave an overview of the way the Adventist Church around the world currently represents itself on the web. He demonstrated that, in stark contrast to many major entities, the Church lacks a coherent global look, feel and functionality on the web. The discussion among the 240 representatives generally supported moving towards a globally coordinated look. However, how to get there remains the question.

A first draft of a global Adventist web style was presented by the General Conference (GC) communications team to a mixed reception. 

“We are very supportive of a move towards global excellence, but obviously less so if the design presents global mediocrity,” said James Standish, communications director of the South Pacific Division (SPD). “The draft design at this stage is, to be candid, somewhat cold and corporate. So, in principle, we like the idea of a global look and feel. In practice, we have some work to do before we have a global web product that communicates the warmth and values of the Adventist message.”

Fortunately, there is time. The model is not slated for release until later this year and Williams Costa, communications director for the GC, assured delegates their input would be very much appreciated as they work towards finalising the site. 

John Becket, also from the GC, noted that whatever form the final product takes, it will permeate through the Adventist world over a period of time as current websites end their life cycle and entities then choose to move to the new model.

“When the SPD presented the current iteration of its website at the conference,” said Andrew Hunt of Wahroonga Adventist Television, “the whole room went ‘wow’—it is so fresh and engaging. I hope the GC will incorporate some of the SPD look and feel into their global model before it’s finalised.” 

“The new SPD site is designed to show what value we provide to people in the community, not what departments have,” said Jared Madden, digital director at the Adventist Media Network. “This is why we have developed the Live More, Love More, Learn More theme which presents Adventism in a new relational human way.”

The South American Division also presented its impressive new website; representatives credited the SPD site for its inspiration.

Also representing the SPD was Luke Pannekoek, who received an award for “outstanding leadership in Information Technology Ministry in the SPD”. Mr Pannekoek, the SPD’s IT manager, said, “The conference was humbling for me—it was inspiring to meet so many talented people who are making a difference in our Church. It helped me appreciate the privilege of working for the SPD and being a member of a global church family.”

Three Australian expats also made contributions to the conference: Darryl Thompson of the White Estate in Silver Spring, Maryland, Warren Judd from the Adventist Media Center in California, and Daryl Gungadoo, who currently serves at Adventist World Radio, also in Silver Spring.