REV MARK JAMES: Helping churches deal with sensitive data

Rev Mark James, right, with the Bishop of Portsmouth
Rev Mark James, right, with the Bishop of Portsmouth
Pupils, parents and teachers celebrate the new England manager Gareth Southgate attended Padnell Infant School. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Cowplain school celebrates finding out England manager Gareth Southgate attended

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The curate of Christ Church, Portsdown talks about important changes to the law and what it means for the church

I’m one of those unpaid Church of England ministers, who has a bit of a double life.

I have a regular job during the week, and then in the evenings and at weekends, I put on my dog collar and visit parishioners, lead services and preach.

You might wonder why I do it? Well, I genuinely believe that God has called me to be a minister, and I also enjoy being involved in the world of work, which gives me a different perspective to many clergy.

Recently there’s actually been a bit of a crossover between these two parts of my life, which has been fascinating.

My paid employment is running a firm called MoJoU, a data consultancy which I started in 2015.

I advise people about how to handle and store sensitive data, and the software they might use to do so.

Churches are interested in finding out about this too, as they also hold data about congregation members and others – contact details for those who get married or have their children baptised, for instance.

In May, a new law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is coming into force, which will make a massive difference in this area.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently travelling around the country talking to clergy and church officers about what those changes will mean. I believe we have a calling to look after and to love people, and the data we hold about them should be no different.

For instance, if you bring your child to our Sunday School and you tell us their name, age and some contact details, we need to be careful about how we store that information.

We can use it with your permission to contact you about Sunday School, but it would be wrong to be texting you 10 years later about our Harvest Supper.

People will also have the right to be forgotten, so if your child has grown up and isn’t coming to our Sunday School any longer, those contact details can be erased.

Being careful about these things is actually part of our welcome to you. We should be able to guarantee that we value you as a person, and also the information we hold about you.

Christ Church is in London Road, Widley. Contact the church on (023) 9237 5360 or visit christchurchportsdown.org.