By Christopher Hall
Special to The Courier-Journal
With the success of social-networking Web sites like MySpace and Facebook, sites like MyChristianNation, YourChristianSpace and MuslimSpace promote themselves as theology-oriented alternatives.
And a Louisville pastor has started her own Web site, www.DivasforChrist.org, focused on women in Christian ministry, whether it's from the pulpit or singing in the choir.
The Rev. Altonnette Hawkins, pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, started a face-to-face networking group called Divas for Christ in Washington, D.C., when she was ordained there in 2002.
Hawkins said she launched the Web site in mid-September as an outgrowth of her doctoral work at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and it's already had more than 4,500 hits.
The Divas for Christ ministry is centered on self-care, awareness and support for women in ministry to help them from becoming overcommitted and overwhelmed, Hawkins said.
"So this focuses on, 'How do we take care of ourselves so that we can be effective caregivers?' " she said. "It's like what the airlines tell us when we get on the plane, 'Put on your own oxygen mask first before you try to assist others.'… So that's what we're trying to do, make sure that we are taking care of our temple. It's being good stewards of our mind, body and spirit."
The Divas for Christ site has members from across the country, and is getting ready to go international, she said. The site allows members to blog, post links to their own Web sites and chat online with one another.
The group also holds teleconferences every Tuesday except the first Tuesday of the month. The teleconferences usually average about 10 participants, Hawkins said.
The Rev. Shawnna Anderson, on staff at Hawkins' church, said the site and the network that's grown out of it are uplifting to women. It addresses the issues women in ministry face: juggling work, home, family and church, in addition to taking care of their own spiritual and personal needs, she said.
"It is very forward-thinking for today's society, as a support to women in ministry," Anderson said. "I think it's definitely addressing a need that women in ministry have and that is to get connected to one another for support … It really touches on a variety of the facets of a woman's life."
So far the site's membership is predominantly African American, but it is open to all women, Hawkins said. The site has members from Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ and African Methodist Episcopal denominations, among others, she said.
"It is important for us to be one, and we're called to be one," Hawkins said. "Christ wanted us to be one -- in John 17:21 he prayed that we would be one -- and so what we're trying to do is cross the bridge of divisions that sometimes denominations bring, because sometimes we may believe differently but our common denominator is Jesus Christ."
What: Divas for Christ, an Internet-based women's ministry network.
Who: Started by the Rev. Altonnette Hawkins, pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Louisville. Open to all women.