Twitter: The latest tool for Christianity
Reverend Andrew Alden has become the first Vicar to make use of social media before, during and after his sermons. He openly encourages the congregation to contribute and connect through twitter during his Sunday services, with a message inspiring people to tweet displayed on the computer screens attached to the pillars in St Paul’s church in Weston-super-Mare.
Throughout the service selected tweets are displayed on the many screens located around the church, allowing the congregation to interact with the sermon as well as to discuss some of the issues which circulate their community and to highlight the good work being done by members. Mr Alden described how the congregation includes people who are recovering from addiction, former prostitutes and drug dealers. He went on to explain how the reality of the situation for some people in the community is far from easy. He suggested that helping people can also make the person who is providing the help feel better.
Despite the younger target audience of social media, Reverend Andrew is certainly not alienating some of the older members of the church by using Twitter. John Simons, the 78 year old ex-vicar demonstrated this with his perfectly worded tweet regarding the possibility for constant change within people.
The local GP Mike Pimm sits behind the scenes, filtering the tweets to display a selection of some of the jokey ones, but also the ones that will contribute to the discussion and engage the entire congregation. The members’ reasons for taking part in the tweeting vary, with some, like Amanda Thomas, saying that tweeting is like taking notes for her, helping her to confirm her feelings on the service. Whereas Rob Cromwell says that tweeting allows him to feel connected throughout the sermon.
Reverend Alden is not only tapping the increasingly popular social networking trend, but is also using technology to enhance other aspects of the service, such as Powerpoint presentations and interview footage to help the church members connect to the sermon on a personal level. Alden hopes to use these tools to broaden the congregation, his target is to triple its size. Using the draw of technology he also wants to encourage an increase in the number of younger church-goers, including 16% under 15 years old, 25% under 30 and 17% from non-British backgrounds.