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With the Lord, a thousand years is but a day – which means that the past 10 years have burnt up 14 minutes 24 seconds of His time. It's gone quite quickly for us, too. Click your way through the highlights of our first online decade at sea.
ship of fools edition 1
Coming soon
Ship of Fools has been online for 10 years, but started life as a print magazine back in 1977. We'll soon be publishing the best of the print years of Ship of Fools in a downloadable booklet... watch this space.
1998 homepage

talking tombstone


Launch – Ship of Fools sets sail online with an exclusive report of the Beta Course, a spoof downmarket version of Alpha. It is especially designed for the working class – "a super bunch of chaps", according to pioneer Rev Nicky Gumbel.

Gadgets for God – Our launch gadget is the talking tombstone, allowing even those who disapprove of spiritualism to speak from beyond the grave.

Fruitcake Zone – The first slice of godly fruitcake is provided by Rapture Ready, where world events are monitored daily for signs of the Second Coming. It's still going strong, and the world is still on the brink.

Mystery Worshipper – In our first report, Nick O'Demus gives Kensington Temple, London 2 out of 10. Later mystery worshippers give it 2 out of 10 again, and 1 out of 10. Someone's not paying attention.


All that Glitters – Star letter of the month informs us: "The Lord is not pleased with your website." In it, Dave Parsons, webmaster of The Magazine Rack, suggests we change our name to All That Glitters. So we put it to a vote...

Ship of Fools Live – We moor in London for our first live gig, celebrating patron saint St Simeon, with readings, sea shanties and everyone huddling round a computer because the projector breaks.

Shiptalk – On the same night, we launch the first incarnation of our bulletin board, Shiptalk. A few dozen people join. Today 13,945 shoot the breeze on everything from "Did Jesus have erections?" to "The churchmanship of the Vicar of Dibley".
ship of fools awards

punching amish


Hurricane Joanne – An extremely angry individual joins the board, demanding we all spam a website she has just fallen out with. When board members, now dubbed "shipmates", decline she deluges the board with spam by the hundred. We are forced to shut down and reopen with new software and rules. Joanne finds a new home and tells her new friends to spam Ship of Fools. Ah, happy days.


Our first healing – Rev Sherrie Elijah of Wheatfield, Illinois tells us: "I found Ship of Fools and laughed so hard my migraine went straight back to hell, where it belonged!" Amen to that.


The Ship of Fools Awards – Our first (and, so far, last) annual awards, include Most Unfortunate Worship Lyric, Strangest Church Name, and Spiritual Leader Least Likely to be Mistaken for Christ.


12 Days of Kitschmas – Our first round of stocking-filling turkeys kicks off with the archbishop of teddies, the Carey Bear, putting the Ship on the front page of the Daily Telegraph.

First-time shipmeets of 1999 – The first official meet of shipmates is held in the Museum Tavern, London in February. Other shipmeet firsts were (all UK): Horsham, Crewe, Warrington, Brighton and Manchester.
canterbury suspects

last supper musical pillow


Caption competition – We kick off a now much-loved feature with a pic of the Bishop of Southwark wearing an outsized trainer. It's what he does – but not what he does best.


Welcome to Hell, Heaven and Purgatory – A new look for the ever-expanding discussion forum, now divided into different boards for the first time, including Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. November

The Next Archbishop – Journalist Andrew Brown speculates on whose ample bottom might warm the throne of Canterbury, post-Carey. On Rowan Williams: "He probably has little appetite for the job." Nothing's changed there then.


12 Days of Kitschmas – This year's Kitschmas tree is topped by the Last Supper Musical Pillow. Three guesses which tune it played. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Shipmeet firsts
UK: Cambridge, Rhossili (Wales), Derbyshire, (a weekend to celebrate St Simeon's Day), Exeter USA: Washington DC
R father   2001


The Door – In a major interview, Simon Jenkins, editor of Ship of Fools, is interviewed by the US-based Door Magazine, discussing innuendo in hymns and the First Church of Jesus, Stand-Up Comic.


R father – Up-to-the-minute as ever, we run a competition to translate the Lord's Prayer into txt, 160 characters max. Read the winners here.


Ned Flanders Night – Our live tribute to America's top God boy in The Simpsons includes a sing-a-ding-a-ling-along, a Ned-alike competition and music from Ned Zeppelin.

Shipmeet firsts
UK: Oxford, Scarborough (St Simeon's weekend), Edinburgh
Australia: Sydney
ned lookalikes

nativity play


Ship of Fools TV – We are asked to make a pilot for a TV series, featuring comedy actress Sally Phillips, journalist Roger Cook, TV presenter Chris Rogers and musicians Rick Wakeman and Paul Field. But the Lord has alternative plans. They aren't as good as ours, but what can you do?


The one-million mark – For the first time, we record 1,000,000 page requests in one month. Olé.


Ned's Second Coming – You can't keep a good nerd down – and this time BBC TV bring their camera-roonies to record the event.

September to December

Fields of Gold – Knowing she has just months to live, Miss Molly discusses life, death, cats and much more with fellow shippies on a special thread. Still revered on all decks, the Miss Molly chapel in the Ship's chat café is a permanent reminder of her brilliant wit, quiet wisdom and immense courage.


Nativity Play – Unscripted, unrehearsed and unbearable, the Ship of Fools nativity play lasts 14 days, with 35,000 lines of dialogue and a cast of 82, including seven wise men, a fairy godmother and Jesus' evil twin.

12 Days of Kitschmas – The icing on this year's cake is Bobblehead Jesus, sent to proclaim the ways of God to the motorist behind.

Shipmeet firsts
Australia: Hobart, Brisbane
USA: SW Florida
UK: Betws-y-Coed, Looe
the rowan bear

eve and peter

the ark's hold


Rowan's Baptism of Fur – The Carey Bear is succeeded by the instantly recognisable Rowan Bear. Press him, and hear him say, "We're stuffed, you know that?"


The Ark – Big Brother meets the Bible in the world's first internet reality gameshow. Twelve Bible characters, each played at their computers by Ship of Fools readers, spend 40 days (and indeed nights) on board a 3D ark. Jezebel and Job, Simon Peter and Samson – the whole merry gang fight it out (in love) in front of a live internet audience. Who will walk the plank and who will step out on Mount Ararat and take top prize of £666? Ironically, water-loving John the Baptist (played by Rev Jeremy "Jem" Clines from York, UK) collars the cash.


Inflatable Church – Our own Rev Gerald Ambulance leads the first-ever service in an inflatable church at the Christian Resources Exhibition. We really feel the Spirit moving, but it turns out to be a leak.


Organists Behaving Badly – When we hear that an organist near Glasgow has played "Send in the Clowns" during a processional entry of church elders, we decide to chart a growing phenomenon worldwide. The story bags another front page – this time on The Times of London.

12 Days of Kitschmas – It's JC/DC as the Jesus Tree Topper Fairy hits the heights.

Shipmeet firsts
UK: Winchester, Isle of Wight, St Albans, 1st Artists' Meet, Gloucester, Basingstoke
USA: St Louis, Chicago, San Francisco
Australia: Canberra
NZ: Wellington
Canada: Ottawa
having a moses moment

campolo preaches in church of fools


11th Commandment Competition – With the Methodist Church of Great Britain as partners, we set out to expand that rather outdated ten, and receive 2,000 entries. Click to see the best Moses moments.


Church of Fools – In another ground-breaker, we create the world's first 3D online church, with an opening sermon from the Bishop of London – or at least his equally-handsome cartoon double.


Halloween Songs of Praise – They said it could never happen. They said he prefers South Park. But we saw Big J on Songs of Praise, and we have the pictures to prove it.


Blessed Sacrament Webcam – It's now sadly defunct, but for three years we followed the very minimal goings on in the 24/7 broadcast of an altar – where Jesus was always about to appear "live on line" in Florida. When? Every minute. Why? If you have to ask, you ain't ever going to know.

Shipmeet firsts
Australia: Mildura, Byron Bay
UK: Bath, Newport (Wales)
USA: First Writers' Meet, Indiana
mystery worshipper sunday

the laugh judgment


Mystery Worshipper hits 1000 reports – The very first Mystery Worshipper goes back to the very first church, which he had awarded two out of 10. Could it maintain this heady score? No. Read the report here.


Mystery Worshipper Sunday – To celebrate the big 1-O-O-O, we send 70 Mystery Worshippers into Greater London on one Sunday. Gongs were awarded for friendliest church, best-written report and most intrepid mystery worshipper.

June to September

The Laugh Judgment – With the UK government hoping to outlaw "incitement to religious hatred", we run a competition to find the best and most offensive religious jokes in all eternity – while we still have the chance.

12 Days of Kitschmas – No. 1 on our Kitschmas list is the Gibsonesque Jesus Rooftop Lights, depicting that well-known Christmas story of our Lord being flogged by the Romans.

Shipmeet firsts
USA: Salem, Oregon, Houston, Roanoke. Washington
UK: Milton Keynes, Buxton, Norwich
st pixels logo

st pixels avatars


Alternative Lent – Something more creative than giving up chocolate – 40 ideas from readers for living differently including prayer, thought, action and... er... Green & Blacks.


St Pixels – From the faithful remnant who remained after the Church of Fools pilot finished in Sept 04, we launch St Pixels, the permanent online church for worship, prayer, debate and discussion. Supported by the Methodist Church of Great Britain, St Pixels is more than Ship of Fools at prayer. For a third of its 2000+ members St Pixels is their main or only contact with traditional Christianity. "I have a special needs child who consumes most of my time and being able to come to church after he is in bed is a boon," says Elora, a member of St Pixels in the USA. "It is absolutely an authentic community. You can't hug a friend or deliver food/flowers to a grieving member, but this family is for real!"

Shipmeet firsts
UK: First bell-ringing meet, for St Simeon's Day in Bedfordshire
Australia: Moree, NSW, Australia
by the mercedes

st sebastian pin cushion


Readership survey – Our first attempt to find out just who is clicking their way round the decks reveals that a quarter of Ship of Fools readers are aged 18-30, while a further third are aged 31-45. The vast majority are unsurprisingly Christians (92 per cent), while a heartening 6 per cent say they are atheist, agnostic or "searching". The survey confirms what we've always suspected, that Ship of Fools is a rather Anglican site: 51 per cent of readers owning up to the Episcopalian brand. Three-quarters of shipmates go to church at least once a week; 12 per cent of them have to, as they are church ministers.


Thurifers behaving badly – We report on the alarming trend of high church high jinx – thurifers competing to swing burning incense as close as possible to chalices, heads and in 360 degree circles.


Southwark Pilgrimage – Like the Trinity, what happened to Bishop Tom when he stepped out of a Christmas bash at the Irish Embassy in London and was found in a limo in Southwark (claiming to be the Bishop of Woolwich) remains a profound mystery. But one year after, the faithful walk in his footsteps.

12 Days of Kitschmas – This year, we find the Kitschmas spirit most perfectly embodied by St Sebastian, left for dead by archers in 287, and coming among us again in the form of a pin cushion.

Shipmeet firsts
NZ: Auckland
France: Paris
USA: Charlottesville, Baltimore
UK: First carol-singing meet, Brockenhurst, Hants
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