Populate this virtual church

I’m going to install ChurchInfo, a branch of the popular InfoCentral project and I welcome my readers to try it out.

Why? Because one possible future of software is to run it all though a web browser. This way your office volunteers — and I know some of you pastors out there don’t have adequate office staff — small group organizers and canvass/stewardship people can work from a secure browser at home rather than hunch over the church office computer where the database is kept. It really makes more sense.

First, does this interest anyone?

Second, this kind of software works better if there’s a sample church to work with. This is where you come in. Leave church members in the comments. Name them, identify them by sex, age, mutual relationships, their giving (amount and frequency), and their committee and group memberships. “Create” people of different generations, please, but make them fictional or historic. And please try to come up with software-breaking senarios.

Leave your contributions all in the comments, and ask for the password. (I’ll email it to you when we get a critical mass.)

If you like this software — it is free and open-source — I can help you install it for your church.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. After getting props from ChaliceChick, I though I’d start off —

    Beatrice Axon, 75, has been attending First Church, Lower Middleport, Mass., for as long as anyone can remember, but (for important reasons long forgotten) never joined. She lives at Apt. 6, Portview Manor with another widow — what was Mr. Axon’s first name? — Eleanor Hammond (age unknown and member of First Baptist) to share living expenses. Despite her modest means, Beatrice gives $100 a month to the general fund, and another $100 to the Thanksgiving Appeal. Eleanor enjoys reading the First Church newsletter, attends daylight off-Sunday events at First Church when Bea goes, and gives $50 a year to the music fund.

    Neither one drives at night any more, and need to be offered a ride to attend night-time events because they wouldn’t dream of bothering anyone by asking. This is a great disappointment to the other members of the Spiritualist Alliance, because Bea’s mother was a well-known medium and active in the town’s Spiritualist Church when it was still open.

    Though Bea is very fit, she can’t manage the stairs to the Longfellow Room, where many social events are held. The church board did establish a plan to raise funds through special offerings to make the space accessible.

  2. So, like there’s this Pagan babe named Rebecca Moon. She’s thirty-two, and she’s totally in to the drumming circle and the social action committee. She brings her two children, Transcendence, 7, and Ralph, 2. She’s has an off-again, on-again relationship with her children’s father, the president of a local bank who doesn’t want to divorce his wife but can’t quite completely let go of Rebecca either. She’s a sometimes legal secretary, sometimes vegetarian cookbook author who still has her massage license for when times really get tough. Mostly her finances go off and on with the relationship to the bank president. She always pledges $1000 per year. Sometimes, she doesn’t totally pay it, though. But sometimes, bank president is feeling really generous, and she once dropped a check for $1000 into the building fund.

    It even cleared.

    She’s happy to give Beatrice a ride when her car isn’t in the shop, which it usually is.

  3. Transcendence’s best friend Molly, 6, is the daughter of Rob and Elizabeth Barker, who always feel a little bit guilty pulling up to the church in their SUV. It’s a staple of modern life, though, born of the fact that after emissions standards were raised, light trucks were the only things big enough for their family of five. They are new to UUism, not from a religious background, but wanted to give their kids something to believe in. Rob is a sales guy for the local soap company and Liz is a first grade teacher. Rob is a great believer in sports as an activity for youth and has been trying to organize an interfaith softball league for years, but right now contents himself with volunteering on the building planning crew and organizing cleanup days at the church. Liz teaches RE and accidentally stumbled into a meeting of the Environmental Concerns Committee and has been on ever since because she’s afraid of the Chair. Molly’s kind of quiet, but their other two children, Emily, 9, and Steve, 5, are staples of the Church’s holiday pageants.

    Rob (35) and Liz (34) give $1700 per year like clockwork, with an additional $300 to social justice.

  4. Amelia Bower (53) is the doyenne of the church’s environmental concerns committee. She hasn’t been a UU for long. She sought meaning after 9-11 and found UUism, which gave her the spiritual justification for the things she believed anyway. Her husband followed meekly afterward.

    She’s the head of the local social work agency, which has the best recycling program of any city department. She’s known for her zeal on the subject and for quizzing people seen to be throwing things away.

    Her husband Evan (50) is a long time middle manager at the soap factory. They give $4,000 per year, plus another thousand to the social justice fund, and Amelia tells people all the time.

  5. Evan Bower’s tennis partner Jim Morgan (48) and his wife Shelly (45) have been at the church most of their lives. Jim’s a local attorney and Shelley is a secretary at the soap factory. They’ve been pretty decent givers for most of their lives, but it’s looking like their daughter Jenny (16) might get in to Bennington, so they are starting to worry about their finances. Jim and Evan are part of the men’s group, while Shelly teaches RE and Shelly works with the membership committee and organizes the greeters.

    Jenny Morgan is the center of everything the youth group does. She’s recently gotten interested Buddhism and has organized a bunch of Buddhism-related activites, including a carwash where mindful high school girls in bikini tops raised $500 for Tsunami victims. No one knows what will happen to the youth group when she graduates.

  6. Bank president Hugh Geoffrey (57) is a very busy man, but his wife Geraldine (43) doesn’t mind. She is often busy herself with all the golf tournaments she plays in. Geraldine is a semi-professional golfer, but even with her busy tour schedule, she makes time to sing in the choir and do a lot of work on the social action committee, where she frequently starts minor arguments with Rebecca for no apparent reason.

    Mostly, though, Geraldine shops and golfs and enjoys her position as the most expensively-dressed woman at the church.

    They are fixtures of the humanist discussion group, where they gently make the point that Republicans are not, actually, all evil. Their daughter Taylor (14), disagrees, however. She participates in the youth group, raises money for liberal groups, and does pretty much anything else that might make Jenny Morgan think Taylor is cool.

    The Geoffreys give $2000 per year to social action and $10,000 per year to the general fund. Sometimes more if Geraldine wins a tournament and feels generous, or if Hugh has had several weeks of late nights at work and feels guilty.

  7. (Can anybody tell that my allergies are acting up and I had a CSI marathon saved on the Tivo?)

    Rosalie Easton, (73), knows the value of a dollar. That’s why she had been saying for years that the church really doesn’t need a full-time minister. Her long-dead husband Harold agreed. That’s why she has given ten dollars a week to the church ever since she was a young lady and doesn’t see any reason to give any more. She doesn’t get out much anymore, but tries to make it to Spiritualist Alliance meetings on Wednesday nights.

  8. Dean Williams, 16, is supposed to be attending the church down the street.. But ever since he saw Casper Duffy knock a half-dissected frog into Jenny Morgan’s lap in Mr. Beasley’s Bio class and watched her laugh it off, he’s been in love. The girls in his church aren’t nearly so laid back. He doesn’t pledge, but he knows from church as a kid that he’s supposed to tithe and he makes $200 a week at the ice cream parlor. Twenty dollars goes into the collection plate every Sunday. Dean is in the youth group and really thinks he’s starting to get his head around the four noble truths.

  9. Conrad Beasly, 45, is the biology teacher at Lower Middleport High. He’s a member of the men’s group and the building planning group. He’s five years divorced and has a son, Reggie 10. Truth be told, even he enjoys the days when Jenny Morgan wears her cheerleader uniform to her classes, but he figures that’s between him and God.

  10. Sam (35) and Ruby (34) Washington sort of enjoy the attention they get at the church, but they try not to show it. Finally Ruby joined the worship committee to make Kwanzaa and Black history month easier on their well-meaning fellow congregants. Sam sometimes attends men’s group meetings and Jeanette teaches RE and sings in the choir. Their children Andrew (12) and Diane (8) are in RE classes. They donate $1,500 per year.

  11. Everyone angreed that it was terrible what had happened to little Timmy Anderson. As a four year old, he’d chased a ball into the street and was seconds later a parapelegic for life. His parents, Nick (36) and June (39) had been devestated and took their upset out on each other.

    The divorced and got joint custody, which left them with an unusual problem. Little Timmy (now 10) needed a very specially equipped home. Nick, a safety inspector at the Soap Plant and June, a dancing instructor with Arthur Murray, couldn’t afford two specially-equipped homes. So now Nick shares an apartment with his girlfrend Ashley (27), an EMT, Monday through Friday. And June stays with her tango partner Enrique (30) on the weekends. Thus both parents move in and out of the family home every week so little Timmy always has an accessible home.

    Naturally, everybody is a member of the church.

    Little Timmy is in RE.

    Nick frequently tells the mens group that if he legally has no wife, practically he has two. That doesn’t leave him a lot of money, so he pledges $700 per year.

    June and Enrique sing with the choir and occaisionallly perform interpretive dance and donate dancing lessons to the service auction. They donate $500 apeice and their dancing lessons typically raise about $200.

    Ashley wants to show what a good mother she would be in case Nick wants to know, so she coordinates the nursery. She’s also a member of the spiritualist group. But she’s pretty broke, so she doesn’t pledge.


  12. Ambrose Fisk, 47, and his (unmarried) partner Delia Patterson, 49, turn heads with their flashy cars, preppy-shabby-chic clothes, permanent tans, and abrasive behaviors. The fact they’re responsible for redeveloping the Middleport Wharves into high-end condos — and the fact they’re new to the area — has been lost on nobody. They’re regulars in the pews (outside of summer) and obviously quite rich but most members would be shocked to learn that they only give $500 — in a lump sum — once a year.

  13. Joao da Silva, 32, and Gary Lang, 29, aren’t the first gay couple at First Church — Bea’s neighbors Les Cooper, 71 and Jerry Hammond, 80, surely qualify, even if they referred to each other for thirty years as “friends” until their wedding last November — but they sure are the busiest.

    Joao is a greeter, a member of the building committee, a canvasser, and plays guitar when the Christian Fellowship meets for communion. Gary helps edit the newsletter, organizes the church directory, and keeps the lay readers in line (as a member of the worship committee.) They do this — self-consciously — knowing that their joint contribution of $70 a month to the general fund isn’t as big as they’d like, because they just bought their new loft at the Village on Middleport Wharves. Les and Jerry are in a tighter position, and give $10 a week, and an extra $30 for the Thanksgiving Appeal.

  14. Jody Moon (a distant cousin of Rebecca’s), 44, Tom Sanford, 37, Eve Haviland, 58, Jerry Klein, 29, and Trish and Toby Stevens, both 30, are all members of First Church but outside of Christmas and Easter you’ll never see them. Coincidentally, each gives $150 once a year.

  15. After a messy explosion in the local neopagan community John “StormWolf” Robertson, 37, joined the church at the urging of Rebecca Moon. John sees the church as a good place to re-build a community for his co-religionists. He has joined the worship comittee, and is working to start a local CUUPs chapter in the church. He often attends service with one of two women. Joy Robertson, 34, who is his wife, and a younger girl known only as “Sprite”, 22. Rumors have spread that the three are in a polyamorous relationship (but hasn’t been confirmed). John and Joy each pay $70 per year each and drop a few bucks in the collection plate when they attend service.

  16. Chris Hochiman, 28, has been a member for three years. After much consideration, Chris would now like to be known as Christina. Saving for the operation means she is not sure whether she and Barry (her formerly supportive, but now not so sure where they stand partner) will be able to make their pledge of $100 per month. Both have “signed the book”.

    During coffee hour in February, Amelia Bower made a joke about being upset that Chris looks better in a dress than she does! She thought no one was around, but word got back to Christina and Barry, who were insulted, and are still simmering over the matter. Other than the occasional hello, and good to see you this morning, they are not on speaking terms.

    Christina submitted an application to volunteer in religious education three months ago, but no one has contacted her yet. She is not sure whether it’s because she makes people uncomfortable or whether the church administration is ineffective.

    Both Barry and Christina have attended Interweave meetings, but they wouldn’t necessarily call themselves a member.

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