Online 'Interview with God' draws large following
12/23/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
A UMTV report is also available
By Nancye Willis*TUSCALOOSA,
Ala. (UMNS) - A Web site called "Interview with God," created by a
United Methodist Sunday school teacher, is sweeping the Internet,
attracting millions of visitors.
Created by Reata (pronounced
"Rita") Strickland, the imaginary conversation with the Almighty uses a
combination of landscape photographs, inspirational text and Shockwave
animation. Strickland belongs to Romulus United Methodist Church,
located in a rural area near Tuscaloosa.
The message of the
"interview" is a simple one, touching on such subjects as love,
self-worth, relationships and forgiveness, and including God's hopes for
his children. An example: "That they live as if they'll never die and
die as if they've never lived."
A Web site designer at the
University of Alabama, Strickland originally set out in the spring of
2001 to develop a site for the United Methodist Church's Tuscaloosa
District offices. "I was working on the site, and I said, 'This needs
She had seen a PowerPoint presentation of
"Interview with God" and had been struck by it. "The words to 'Interview
with God' are very simple," Strickland says, "and yet they have such a
power to them. When I first read them, they really touched me deeply. I
wanted to do something with these words."
When the opportunity presented itself, she knew what to do. "I'll put the 'Interview with God' on here," she recalls thinking.
she could improve the visual presentation she'd seen, she developed her
own slide show. Pleased with the result, she was not prepared for the
reaction. "I expected maybe 20, 25 people in our little town to see
this," she says.
The district site was quickly overwhelmed with
traffic. "Within a week, the site had crashed," she recalls. "I called
the people who maintain the site, and they said, 'We've had over 500,000
hits within the last week.'"
Strickland moved the animation to
her personal site, www.reata.org. Word spread by e-mail lists, and the
number of visits continued to build. Within a month, 2.4 million people
had seen it, and two and half years later, more than 20 million people
have found their way to her online devotion. Volunteers have translated
the text into 13 languages.
Strickland still marvels at the
15,000 hits the site receives each day. It draws "people from all over
the world - from China, Japan, Russian, Europe, everywhere," she says.
"I want to talk to them and ask, 'Where do you live?' 'How did you find this?' 'What do you think?'"
reactions of Web visitors are gratifying, she says. "A 94-year-old man
e-mailed me, and he said that he did not believe in God until he viewed
Keeping up with the demand requires 40 gigabytes of
bandwidth daily, putting a strain on the Strickland budget. To help
cover costs of roughly $400 a month, Strickland is selling "Interview
with God" screensavers, posters and T-shirts.
She and her
husband, Steve, a part-time local pastor serving the Romulus and
Pleasant Grove United Methodist churches, believe the Web site's
popularity is the result of a higher power. " I cannot explain it any
other way," she says.
"I did my part and God did the rest," she says of the phenomenon. "This speaks to
power - the power of words, the power of the Internet and the power of God."
# # #
*Willis is editor for the Public Information Team at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tenn.
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