Computer-less churches:
New ministry brings pastors up to speed

By Kathy Barnes-Hemsworth

A new Holston Conference ministry is helping churches "Get Connected." Millie Meese, print media specialist, works with churches all across the conference.

"I noticed that many of our churches and pastors had no e-mail, and began looking into the cause. I discovered that they did not have computers. Amazing as that seems in this day and age, it is not uncommon," said Meese.

She said the original idea to distribute computers to churches came from Information Technology Manager Brent Sharp. Five months ago, Meese asked Bishop James Swanson and the Rev. Gordon Ridenour, director of communications, if she could get usable computers donated to distribute to churches in need.

"The goal, obviously, is to get everyone "connected" to the conference," Meese said.

"It is my intention to give each church that needs a computer a good functional computer — therefore, the newer the computer the better," said Sharp. "I want the recipients to have a good experience with the technology so as to encourage its use. A slow and old computer may do more harm than good.

However, these are free computers and no church is under any obligation to accept one."

The minimum requirements for donated computers are Pentium 1 or later and Windows 95 or later. Damaged or non-functional computers are acceptable as long as they meet these requirements. Macintosh computers will not be accepted because they are expensive to repair, Sharp said. Monitors, mice, keyboards, and USB devices can be donated, but must be in working condition.

"If a computer is donated and meets all the requirements, I remove all personal data from the hard disk and wipe the free space to ensure no personal data is recoverable," Sharp added.

"If a church accepts a computer, they are then responsible for the maintenance of the computer and any software purchases from that point forward," Sharp said. "Also, we cannot really guarantee that the most up-to-date software will be available"î

In February, the first "Get Connected" computer was distributed to the Rev. Sharon Bowers of Woodlawn United Methodist Church in Morristown District.

"I think this ministry was the best thing that could possibly happen. It was a rags to riches story for us," she said. "It is great to be able to have a computer at the church to access e-mail. We actually have a Web site now, and I can access prayer requests and messages using the computer at the church," Bowers said. "I will be using the computer to stay connected to the conference and the congregation."

To donate a computer, e-mail Brent Sharp at To request a computer, contact Millie Meese at You may also call the conference office toll-free at (866) 690-4080.

Barnes-Hemsworth attends Bewley's Chapel UMC in Morristown District.


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