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18 December 2013

Church and the digital age

Church and the digital age

by Graeme Stevenson.

Traditionally the Church may not be known for reacting well to change or for forward-thinking. Turning this perception on its head, the Church is embracing the digital age wholeheartedly.

Amid a contemporary Church culture that is increasingly made up of tech-savvy individuals and pastors who use tablets and phones to display notes, read the Bible or tweet, the Church of England have released three mobile apps in an effort to increase their online presence and encourage worshippers.

The Sunday Worship app follows Reflections for Daily Prayer and the Common Worship Lectionary as new apps for iPads and iPhones.

All three apps, by Church House Publishing, are designed to support congregations in their daily devotional lives and are made as simple as possible. Church House is among the first Christian publishers to embrace digital publishing and is working with Aimer Media, an acclaimed Brighton-based developer that has previously developed apps for a number of other religious publishers.

Sunday Worship was released on December 3 and presents the Bible readings for Sunday services together with the Collect and post-Communion prayers for the week. Focusing more on the day-by-day schedule of a typical Christian, Reflections for Daily Prayer offers a pattern of Bible readings and prayer points, along with inspiration on a daily basis. Launched on 28 November, it is now available for Android devices after over 50,000 downloads for Apple users. 

The Church of England's Lectionary is also now available digitally for the first time as an app and an ebook for the Kindle. Reaction from churches has been overwhelmingly positive. Commercial director of Aimer Media, Adrian Driscoll, said: "We've had great feedback from ministers about how our apps make Bible reading and service planning that bit easier".

It's not only worship leaders and pastors who are able to take advantage of this new technology, but ordinary members of the congregation too.

One Wolverhampton church is telling the Christmas story for smartphone users using QR codes which enable community members to snap the image and access a specially created blog. Talented members of Vitalise church have expressed the narrative using dance, drumming, rap and art on the blog.

Less than one week after launch, the Bible App for Kids saw more than one million installs around the world. The name speaks for itself - an app designed to help children (roughly between the ages of four and ten) connect with the Bible in a way that is interesting to them. It was developed by OneHope, an international ministry that sees digital engagement as essential in its vision to reach every young person in every nation with a relevant Gospel message by the year 2030. It is proving extremely popular with parents and children alike.

The digital world is constantly evolving. One can only imagine the potential that it offers the Church in the future.