Special software for churches has been developed only in the last four years.

Deliberate error was unthinkable. Even the concealment of the truth filled him with a sense of imperfection, of wrongness—of what, in a human being, would have been called guilt. For like his makers, Hal had been created innocent; but, all too soon, a snake had entered his electronic Eden.—from 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke.

In Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction classic, Hal is an unwittingly menacing computer which (who?) takes over a spaceship and suffocates several astronauts.

In the years since 1968—when Hal and company occupied motion picture screens and the nation’s thoughts—Americans have grown more comfortable with computers. Computers are now involved in issuing social security checks, calculating bank accounts, and addressing magazines. Americans use computers at work, at play (with video games), and finally, irresistibly, at church.

In the church? Very much so, according to Jack Gunther, vice-president of Church Growth Data Services, one of the many rapidly proliferating firms that provide computer hardware and software (programs) for churches.

“The computer in the church is an idea whose time has come,” said Gunther, who formerly worked for IBM. “Five years from now virtually every church is going to have a computer.” The machine, Gunther and others predict, will soon be as commonplace in churches as typewriters and telephones.

Gunther believes as many as 1,000 churches may already have computers in their offices. Curtis Maybee, who manages Church Systems Incorporated, thinks the number is closer to 250. Executives at other church computer services are reluctant to hazard estimates. Either way, the vast majority of the nations’s ...

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