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Social Media Doubles UK Churchgoers

Published: 13/11/2012 05:18:29 PM GMT
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WESTON-SUPER-MARE, Britain - Seeking to counter the falling numbers of churchgoers, a church in north-western Britain is turning to social media to help lure followers and face the growing disaffection among Christians.“Yo (more)

WESTON-SUPER-MARE, Britain - Seeking to counter the falling numbers of churchgoers, a church in north-western Britain is turning to social media to help lure followers and face the growing disaffection among Christians.

“Young adults are increasingly spare in the church in our nation,” Andrew Alden, the vicar of St Paul's Church, told Agencies France-Presse (AFP) on Tuesday, November 13.“So using social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is a way we felt that we could engage with that missing generation.”

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Alden introduced Twitter Sundays at the start of the year and they now take place about once a month.

The 47-year-old says he is following in the footsteps of Christians from the past two millennia.

“The Romans had roads and that enabled them to travel and take the message out; in the medieval period they had printing presses and that enabled them to print and get the message out.

“Today we have Twitter and the Internet, YouTube, we have Facebook, these are the tools that God has given us to get the message out.

“The message is the same, the medium is different,” he added.

While using smartphones or laptops during the Sunday service in other churches would be upsetting, the case is much different here.

On Twitter Sunday, many members of the congregation are logged on with some teenagers updating their Facebook profiles or even looking up recipes.

“Today is a Twitter Sunday so it's time to get your Twitter on,” intones Brian Champness, the children's pastor of the Anglican Church in the southwestern seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare.

“If you have a question, tweet it and will see if we can get some questions answered,” he tells the congregation.

Six flatscreen televisions hang from the pillars of the 100-year-old church showing the tweets of the faithful as Champness delivers his sermon.

The church also has a wi-fi network with the password: “Abraham 123.”

Mixed Views

The parishioners expressed mixed views about allowing tweets during the sermon time.

“Tweeting during sermons helps me concentrate,” Carmen Rogers, a 21-year-old teaching assistant, told AFP.

“Otherwise you can kind of drift off and its like being at a lecture.

“If you are not taking notes, it does not really sink in. If I take notes during the talks, it helps me to concentrate on the talk better.”

Penny Hynds, 48, opened a Twitter account especially for the church services.

“I find it makes me consolidate what is being said into little snappy comments, so it makes me learn better,” she said.

Yet, some of elders were not ready yet for the technology finding it “distracting”.

“I want to listen, so I would do a small comment and stop,” Adrian Stone, 50, said.

“I'm not that good with technology,” he said, adding that by the time he had thought about something to tweet, then typed it out and edited, “the service is over.”

Naomi Dunn, 44, said she hadn't even tried.

“I talk a lot and I would not be able to make sense in 140 something characters!” she said of the social networking site's limit for individual postings.

Alden, the vicar of the church, praised the method, saying that the congregation at St Paul's has doubled in five years.

But he admits that many older constituents are reluctant to take part.

“There is a major hurdle here in terms of getting a mobile phone out in a public setting, they feel it's rude,” he said.

There are more than 47,000 churches in Britain, and 42 million Britons, more than 70 percent of the population, consider themselves to be Christian.

In a study released in 2005, the British-based association Christian Research expected the number of Christians attending Sunday service to fall by two thirds over the next three decades.

The study, The Future of The Church, predicted that the total membership of all the Christian denominations to fall from 9.4 percent of the population to only five percent by 2040.The study also expected that the poor attendance will force some 18,000 churches to close.

Reproduced with permission from