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Story Magazine

Fall 2011 Sharing faith resources with the world

by Tracy Behrendt, Correspondent

Liturgical music for the small, rural church. Good Friday monologues. And a young-adult study that involves "Battlestar Galactica?"

These church resources may not seem to have much in common. And, up until a few years ago, they would have never been available to churches in one place—or for free.

But, thanks to Mary Hess, associate professor of educational leadership, that's no longer the case. For years, Hess knew churches were struggling to create their own comprehensive confirmation curricula. After she attended a World Council of Churches consultation in 2005 and discovered there was also a worldwide need for a place to share worship music, Hess found a solution.

Hess and several colleagues soon began planning a website where people could publish and share their own resources. With the help of a grant, debuted in 2008.

"Most of us don't have the kind of time or even expertise necessary to start from scratch," Hess said. "Instead we might start with something developed for one setting and adapt it for ours. That's where comes in."

The website, whose name loosely means "faith author" in Spanish, now offers more than 1,000 resources in five languages. While individuals and congregations use the site to share materials, several larger groups, such as the ELCA Regional Resource Directors, also use it to share unpublished resources, which they review and edit. All resources carry licenses that allow people to download the material for free, noncommercial use.

And people are noticing. Since 2008, the volunteer-run website has averaged 5,000 views per month from nearly 50 countries.

"It's kind of the 'little engine that could,'" Hess said.

Hess isn't sure what the future holds for, as the funding to host the website runs out this year. But she is confident that the website will continue to be a resource for all Christian churches.

"The whole project has been an exercise in responding to the Holy Spirit," she said. "I hope that it keeps growing in ways that contribute to sharing, openness and creativity."

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