Rasmus is an integrated information management system to streamline communications between the National Office, the Synod Offices and congregations and members.
Its purpose is to make it easier for the people of the ELCIC to work together no matter where they are located.
Rasmus will contain whatever we as a church want to keep track of and share with each other. For national and synodical offices, this means beginning with lists of all the pastors and congregations of the ELCIC. For congregations, it will be records of congregation members. For those organizing church events, it will be registration forms for those attending.
In the future, it might contain calendars of national, synodical and conference events. Church musicians might exchange notes on choir management or good pieces for Lent in a discussion database. Church council members might discuss and annotate proposed policy statements in preparation for their meetings. Confirmation classes might meet in virtual classrooms to serve the needs of those students who don't have agemates to be confirmed with. The possibilities become exponentially more interesting, the more people that participate.
Use of the database will be required for synod and national offices. The rollout will take some time as equipment needs to be ordered and installed and staff trained on the new system. Rasmus will improve the timeliness and accuracy of information that is shared by synod and national offices.
Congregations are encouraged to consider using Rasmus. We expect as more congregations take part that the system will become a way for congregations to communicate more easily not only with synod and national offices but also with other congregations across Canada.
Congregations that are not able for financial or technological reasons to participate in Rasmus will be able to continue to use the traditional ways of sharing information with the synodical and national offices.
As a church, we have had a great deal to say about the design of these databases. Just ask the patient developers who have had to listen and try to synthesize apparent the contradictions.
It is also clear that in computing, it is important to keep changing to keep pace with what is needed. Our intent is to provide a strong base upon which we can build for the future. We will start with version 1.0. Together as a church we will decide what improvements are needed in the future.
The short answer is no.
The long answer is there will be a wide variety of information stored in Rasmus. Most of it will be available to most of the users. Just like a library, the more books you have, the more interesting and useful the library is.
Some of the information stored in Rasmus will be confidential. Rasmus enables those who need to share this confidential information with others at a distance to do so in a secure environment. Lotus Notes includes the ability to encrypt email so that only the intended recipient can read it. The databases are configured in such a way that certain areas are not readable unless you have the correct security certification. The server installations at national and synodical offices will be protected by properly maintained firewalls.
IBM has determined the hardware specifications required to operate the Lotus Notes based custom applications at an acceptable speed. Users with computers having less than these specifications may still be able to run the program, but may be frustrated by the slower response time.
The specification list is as follows:
- Pentium class processor, 400 MHz or faster processor speed
- Windows 95 or newer
- Floppy drive
- CD Rom
- Video/Monitor capable of at least 800 x 600 resolution
- Minimum 64 Mb RAM
- Minimum 4 Gb free disk space after all other applications are installed
- Internet connectivity (at least 56Kb modem but cable modem or ADSL would be preferred)
The platform that we have chosen to base our system on is known for its adaptability to multiple platforms. Lotus Notes was developed in an environment that included a wider variety of machines than we expect to be dealing with in the church, from large mainframes to laptops. It is not perfect but it has some excellent qualities.
The applications were developed to operate in a PC environment, however, the tests performed to date have indicated that most of the applications can also operate on a Macintosh platform. Testing continues and further information will be available soon.
Lotus Notes will be available for purchase from the National Office in the coming months and the cost will include a subscription fee for the custom applications. Further information regarding cost will be available in the next issue of Communique but we expect the price to be similar to the retail price for Lotus Notes software but with the included value of the subscription to the ELCIC custom applications.
The cost for Internet connectivity will vary depending on a number of factors:
Cable or DSL connections can cost about $40/month. Dial up plans vary widely depending on the exact amount of services offered but are generally less costly than cable or DSL. If there is no local Internet Service Provider (ISP) then there may also be long distance charges each time you dial in.
- What internet service is available in your local community
- How many computer workstations need to be online simultaneously
- How fast a connection you prefer
It will be possible to work out import protocols. We are presently doing this for our own data. As more congregations begin to use Rasmus and convert their records, we, as a church, will gain experience and knowledge in helping each other through the conversion process.
Lotus Notes databases can read data that is held in spreadsheets ie Lotus 123, Excel or Quattro Pro and from tab delimited files. If your chruch record program can export data to any of these formats, the process of importing is straightforward though picky.
Rasmus is not a replacement for your church accounting system whether paper or computer based. The Congregational Membership list includes a donation component. This provides a way for congregations to record donations. This component is intended to ease preparation of charitable receipts, deposit summaries and ledger entries to divide offerings among specific directed gifts and undesignated giving. There will be merge files that allow export of the data for import into the major accounting packages.
Our first task is to bring the national and synodical offices into the new system. The shared databases for rostered personnel and mailing lists provide a great deal of value for collaboarative work and reduce the amount of effort required to keep stuff up to date.
Next is to bring in the congregations and rostered personnel. These partners will gain from the connections with national and synodical offices especially in relation to compiling parochial reports and when they are involved in the call process. As rostered personnel are employed at the seminaries and colleges this provides an informal link to these institutions. This will probably take some time. As it is not compulsory, it is likely that some people and places will not join in. Not joining now does not mean one can't join in the future.
As opportunity and resources offer, the church can then explore formal and informal liaisons with other entities with close relationships to the church like the seminaries and colleges.
There is no exact timetable at this time but several approaches in the air. As more individuals and groups join, more initiatives will likely be suggested. What actually happens depends on the resources and enthusiasms of the various bodies.
Rasmus Jensen was the first Lutheran pastor in North America. Pastor Jensen was the chaplain of an expedition sent in the spring of 1619 by King Christian IV of Norway to search for the Northwest Passage to India. The expedition landed on the shore of Hudson Bay at the present day site of Churchill, Manitoba in the fall of 1619. His commemoration date is February 20.