22 Nov The Church of England Goes Digital
“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative,” the writer HG Wells once said.
It seems that the Church of England – for so long derided by some for its dwindling congregations and for its analogue attitude in a digital age – is now taking a series of positive measures to deliver its message in the 21st century.
Figures released last month in the Daily Telegraph showed that the C of E now reaches more people on social media than in services.
About one million people attend services at least once a month, while the church estimates 1.2m people engage every month through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
The church is now adjusting to the new reality. It has recruited a dynamic new communications head in the form of Tashi Lassalle and has just launched a colourful new millennium-friendly website after consulting 1,800 Christians and non-Christians across the country.
The new site – built in just seven months – is designed to be more mobile and picture-friendly, with less emphasis on text and more on images and video.
A total of 32 new videos and 250 photos run through the site, and more are in the pipeline, Adrian Harris, the Church’s head of digital communications, told MediaNet.
“We aim through them to explain what we do and bring life to the Christian faith,” Mr Harris said.
The upgrade to the site – the first in seven years – is in part designed to build on the church’s digital presence to develop a stronger physical presence in communities, which is part of the Church of England’s Renewal & Reform programme.
The new site has a streamlined Prayer and worship section, including liturgical and prayer resources, and has transformed its Our Faith and Faith in Action areas “to explain Christianity in an engaging way”.
The long-term aim is to establish a greater degree of uniformity of across the four national Church websites. By the end of January 2018, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York websites will go live. Also planned is a relaunch of the popular church-finding website, A Church Near you, which receives 13 million page views a year.
“We are aiming to reach out not just to regular church-goers but also to irregular attenders – those people wanting advice on Christening their child, getting married or attending a service at a special time of year, such as Christmas or Easter,” Mr Harris said.
While the numerous videos on the site contain information about baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals, they are also designed to reflect the C of E’s diversity and can be embedded in local church websites.
Users are encouraged to interact with the site with many pages exhorting readers to “bring some joy to your inbox”. Those who respond can if they want receive texts and information – and possibly even an invitation to a church nearby.
“We realise that today most people are not interested in reading endless streams of text on websites,” Mr Harris said, “so we have striven to make sure that what they do read is engaging and written in plain, easily-understandable English.”