Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

What is RSS?

The United Church is the largest Protestant denomination in Canada offering not only a rich history, but one of the easiest to understand answers to the question: “What is RSS?

I gotta tell ya folks, there are nominal denominational websites and then there are definitive denominational websites. United-Church.ca falls into the latter category. Accessible, informative, internationalized, usable, easy-to-navigate. Good stuff, and worth exploring in greater details (hint, hint).

But for today, let’s just look at their not-so-geek description of RSS … and how they are consumed:

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a format for delivering summaries of frequently updated website material such as news releases and other announcements, forthcoming events and programs, etc.

Many news and advocacy sites syndicate their content as RSS feeds in a data format known as XML that a RSS reader (also known as “news aggregator”) interprets and displays.

An aggregator is a software program similar to a web browser that lets you read the headlines from many sites at one time. You simply plug in the web address (URL) of the RSS file you want, such as one of the United Church of Canada feeds …

For many of you into blogging the above definition is nothing new, but for those of you whose church website development comes along more traditional lines, what this all means more and more individuals are not visiting your website to see what is new, but are instead using aggregators to inform them when a site is updated and with what. If it helps, you can think of RSS aggregators in the same way described by Jonathan Dube of Poynter Online: “Your own personal Web butler.”

If you’re still not convinced that your church website needs to syndicate then my suggestion is that you take advantage of any one of a number of client-based aggregators such as FeedDeamon and NewsGator, or equally useful web-based aggregators such as BlogLines.

What you’ll see is that without actually visiting the site, you can keep track of literally hundreds of sites simultaneously. Hopefully once you see how this can and is changing the face of how we track online information, want to do is figure out how to syndicate your pastor’s sermons, the weekly newsletter and/or your events calendar.

When that happens, hopefully by then I’ll have an article on how to do this. In the meantime, if you’ve got some ideas or questions along these lines, leave a not in love. And please, no wise-cracks about me acknowledging the fact that there are Canadian Christians – with good websites even!


  1. I’ve tried some RSS clients, but none of them come close to Bloglines. It’s especially nice if you use more than one computer.

  2. Danny, try Feed Demon. It’s the most powerful aggregator I’ve seen, and it will synchronize with bloglines too if you want.

  3. I’ve been using Jetbrains Omea reader lately. It’s very nice so far.


  4. I am looking for a simple newsfeed tool to suggest to other interested web sites within our area and denomination to syndicate our newsfeeds. Suggestions?


  5. Dean…

    Many, many, many thanks for your support of the UCCan website!

    Blessings and peace – Richard B.

  6. It’s sad, I know… but I still don’t “get” RSS, though I’ve tried reading several articles explaining it. Sometimes I do better if I can just get something going, then build on the basics. So I’m unwilling to pay for it at present; I’ve gone to several sites, and just can’t seem to get past the front door.

    I’ll accept any well-deserved derision, if you could just also give me a degeekified pointer or two.


    PS — do you know your process rejected my email address as “spam-like” because it was Yahoo!? Yikes!

  7. And sorry, I realize I should have been more specific: I’m particularly thinking about adding it to my Blogspot blog, http://www.bibchr.blogspot.com.


  8. I used NewsReader for a long time but just switched over to the SAGE extension for Firefox. It’s wonderful.

    Along the same lines of RSS is podcasting your sermons and/or any online worship music you may have. it uses the same type of XML framework but is not nessearily a RSS feed. We are implemting both into a redesign of our church website.

  9. I’m not sure about the site being great, it is usable but it’s not that great visually.

    Visual Navigation (What am I looking at?).

    The site is colourful, great! Colour is good, it’s exciting it promotes dynamism. However, when I look at a page with so many colours clashing, green, yellow, blue, red, black and white in large chunks, I can’t work out what I am supposed to be looking at. I can’t work it out because there is nothing dominant. The red and the blue are quite strong, but I think I’m supposed to be looking at the white bit with the content in it.

    The site needs to train my eye to look at what it wants me to look at. It doesn’t do that when I get there. What it does is it presents me with a plethora of colourful choices and says, we are all here we are all equal, click all of us! So I don’t click anything, I leave the page. Don’t make me think.

    When I happen to click on something I go to a new page. Good stuff, all the navigation stays similar. BUT WAIT! There’s more, when I get to a new page I’m presented with a title of the area I am in eg. “Justice, Global & Ecumenical Relations”
    wow, now I know what’s going on a bit more. Oh and look, there’s another navigation style… the breadcrumbs. I wonder why they put that there. Not that I need it, that section is highlighted already on the menu button I just clicked.

    Now, I’m looking to go further within the subcategory, so I look on the blue “quick links” area… which has changed into a submenu, a red submenu. Wait, it didn’t do that before, again I have to think.

    Forgetting the submenu, I look to the right to find out the content of the page. So I see that the sections on the submenu relate to the content in the white area 🙂 great. But they don’t seem to relate in heirachy.

    I have made a little image, or re-design of what the site could do to make the heirachy a little different. I haven’t included everything on the site in the image but it gives you a view of what you CAN achieve, and what could make an average site with good content, a GOOD site with good content.


    as for RSS…. well I forget. 🙂