The Methodist Church has launched an interactive web map of its churches in Britain, combining Methodist data with information from the Office of National Statistics, the Church of England, and Action for Children.
The launch of the web map coincides with the launch of the new and improved Methodist Church website where the map can be viewed, says a Church representative.
The map has been designed to enable people to view and explore churches, fellowship groups, projects, schools, and much more within their local contexts. As well as displaying a range of data about these places, groups and activities, the map allows users to find out what their communities are like.
It also shows land use, wealth, poverty and wellbeing in any given area, incorporating the latest available statistics from the Office of National Statistics and the Church’s partner organisations. The tool even enables people to create their own maps, displaying the pieces of information they want to see at the scale they want to see it.
Church leaders hope that the data will improve people’s understanding of local and national demographics, helping them to reach out to their local communities more effectively.
Dr Christopher Stephens, Connexional Research and Statistics Coordinator, said: “This is a fantastic tool for the mission and ministry of the Church, both locally and nationally. The web map emerges from a strong demand from Methodists to see the data we collect about the Church reported in useful and flexible new ways. Maps provide a tool for presenting key information for mission planning in a clear and easy way. The new web map empowers Methodists to create, for the first time, their own maps based on their own questions and needs.”
This first phase of a project which will evolve in coming months and years. There are plans to expand functions, such as printing facilities and search tools, as well as to invite people in local churches and partner organisations to provide new data for addition to the map.
Then 2011 census data will be added when it becomes available. One key development will be to encourage Methodist members participating in church activities to upload photos, videos and text and begin online discussions attached to items featured on the map.
The map was designed in partnership with Groundwork – a community charity.
The Methodist Church remains a major Christian denomination in Britain, though it continues to suffer from a decline in members - down by nearly half since 1983 - experienced by most other 'mainline churches', with the exception of Baptists.
The advanced version of the Methodist online web map can be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/d2tphkk