I think that the meeting went quite well yesterday.
The main topic of conversation, of course, was how to get the work done with the amount of budget that we have. We did get a fair amount of funding—enough for two face-to-face meetings—but we’re a product-oriented group rather than just being policy-oriented. That is, we produce things (our liturgical stuff) rather than just making decisions that others will then implement. A lot of what we hoped to do with meetings and consultants will either have to be done by and in the Commission or not at all. Web meetings and conference calls will be our main methods of communicating together.
That all sounds fine to me—I’m used to working that way.
There was some vigorous discussion around my proposal for HWHM. Overall, most of the people who expressed an opinion about it were positive. There were some questions about its scope and whether it was doable. I expected that and feel that concern as well—it’s a lot of work, but I think is necessary work. The chief reservations around the idea focused on concern about a two-tiered system. That is, are we setting up the Calendar as an “upper” tier and the Almanac as a “lower” tier? This seems to be the main hurdle to overcome. Sandye and I have been directed to put together a structure for the work to present at our June meeting to give people a hands-on feel of what this would really look like.
On the Electronic Publication front, it appears that Church Publishing already maintains a database of liturgical material that it uses to produce the material that it prints. That database would not provide exactly what we’re talking about for a device/platform independent means of communicating the material. However, they already have a system of tagging in place that could be adopted in an XML format. I found that quite interesting on the technical level.
As you can imagine, the main debate here was around copyright and cost. The first discussion was around what exactly the General Convention resolutions were asking: does “freely available” mean that they should be” easily accessible” (for purchase) or does it mean that they should be provided electronically “without cost”? Several people who had been on the liturgical/prayer book committee at GC indicated that they had intended it to mean “without cost.” My sense is that this is the will of the Commission—to figure out a way to provide these materials for free on the internet. But what would that do to Church Publishing and the Church Pension Group? I noted that, particularly with prayer/spiritual materials, a digital and a physical copy are not mutually exclusive; people will often buy and use in hardback what they already have electronically. We shouldn’t paint it as a zero-sum game. Nancy from Church Publishing agreed and said that they did have some material showing that to be the case as well. The main deliverable here for our next meeting, then, is for the Church Publishing folks to take a look at what it would do to their costs and how feasible free electronic dissemination is based on their current business model.
So—I’d say that some progress is being made. However, nothing has been made official at this point; no final decisions have been made. It’s progress, but still tentative progress that may yet be overturned.