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At United Churches in Olympia, a volunteer updates the church's website regularly

Pat Sonnenstuhl, a retired nurse-midwife and hypnotherapist, took over a nurse-midwife website when the colleague doing it became ill.  She learned basics and also did her own websites and one for the Presbytery of Olympia.

Pat Sonnenstuhl
Pat Sonnenstuhl keeps website current and involves others.

Self-taught in web design, she has volunteered as webmaster of the United Churches of Olympia website since 1998.

“Website work is easy, once you understand the concepts,” she commented.  “I seem to have a good eye for balance, color and simplicity.  Gradually, I learned to do more and more.”

At first, she used FrontPage and then Expression Web, gaining skills as the church wanted changes.

Web design is more of a hobby than a career for me,” said Sonnenstuhl, who grew up in Palo Alto and Orinda, Calif. 

She was a Methodist before moving to Colville in 1983 after her husband Walt retired.  In 1986, she moved to Tacoma and then Olympia to work with Group Health. She worked 25 years in nurse-midwifery before retiring in 1998.  Now she teaches medical hypnosis for birth, weight loss and other health benefits.

Because the church is now in a pastoral search process, members wanted a major revision to add new features to move the website from being static to interactive with blog capabilities, a new look and a way to involve staff and the congregation.

They formed a task force last summer and by December had the new website online.

Because Sonnenstuhl was a volunteer, the church had paid for only its domain name and internet hosting. 

There was no money to pay a web designer, but seeing that the website was a way to reach the wider community to promote the church, the United Churches’ UCC congregation gave a donation to cover the web designer’s fees and enhancements.

We now also have a budget line item for the website and communications,” said Sonnenstuhl, “so we can make changes in the future as we want to.”

The designer, Christi McGinley of Beau Designs, suggested using WordPress, which has both static and interactive elements, is free and is an accepted standard for web design.

“We transferred the site to a WordPress-friendly environment, installed the program and selected a theme,” she said.  “The theme provides the basic structure for the site, along with options for change and enhancement.”

The church used a stained glass window in the church for its color selection, which can change for the church seasons.

The web designer encouraged me to learn the design program, and now I update and add things,” Sonnenstuhl said.  “Staff can also do updates.”

She worked with the web designer through the development process, accepting input from several others in the congregation.

The web designer continues to be available to the church for consultation.

In addition to pictures and highlighting what is happening in the congregation, the website uses the blog feature of WordPress as the way the congregation updates and receives information on activities.  Members are encouraged to check the news and events page for updates on activities and upcoming events.  It’s at

The church’s printed newsletter is now once a month rather than weekly and is always available online.

Often church websites are static and out of date,” she said.  “For people under 40, and increasingly for those over 40, the web is the main way of communicating.  People want current information.

“It’s intended to be a resource for people.  Many people in Olympia use computers often,” she said. “My son gave me an iPad, and more people are using iPads to visit websites.  We want to be attractive to young families,” she said.  “They want blogs and discussion on issues.”

The page includes posts and RSS streams from the national United Church of Christ and Presbyterian Church (USA).  Members can register and comment on posts.

A search feature helps people find articles on different topics on the website.

A secure member section has the church directory online and meeting minutes.

Staff are trained to post information.  They can interact with youth and others.

“Changes are made instantly,” Sonnenstuhl said.  “This makes it a work in progress.”

Features include a gallery of photos collected over the church’s nearly 100 years—of buildings, members and pastors.

“The gallery page will grow as we add more through the year,” she said.

The church keeps track of traffic behind the scenes, so they know how the site is being used and by how many people.

For information, call 360-943-8933, email or visit

Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © April-May 2012





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