The Twurch of England

Posted Dec 28, 2012 | New Media Project

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By Lerone A. Martin


The Twurch of England is contributing to a revitalization of The Church of England (CoE). The Twurch, a Twitter aggregator for the Church of England, presents a live feed of Tweets and podcasts from people and organizations that officially represent the CoE. The CoE maintains that The Twurch is the only web community of its kind in the UK.

The CoE is somewhat late to the social media party. Vicky Beeching, director of the social media consulting firm CyberSoul and visiting research fellow in Internet ethics at England’s Durham University, believes that UK Christians could learn a lot from Christians across the pond. In America, she stated, “many Churches are extremely cutting-edge when it comes to technology - with purpose built facilities and concert level lighting, sound and video capabilities - and they've followed suit with online engagement.” UK Christians, she concluded, need to follow suit. Indeed, in America, religious social media gurus such as Joyce Meyer and Max Lucado usually get re-Tweeted approximately thirty times more than pop icons like Lady Gaga. The possibilities are far ranging.

The CoE is taking heed. The Right Reverend Nick Baines told the BBC that the CoE is trying to move away from simply broadcasting religious messages to engaging in public dialogue. He stated, “The Church is not always good at responding to a changing communications or media world. Social media means that we have to move from 'getting our message out there' to interactivity, interconnectivity and engaging in a conversation.”

The approach is calculated. A church spokesman stated, “We encourage parishes to get involved online and hold training courses to facilitate that. We are committed to engaging with users of social and digital media, including those whose view of the Church is critical.”

Many church representatives are practicing what they preach. Sister Elizabeth Pio, an Anglican nun, created her own Twitter account: @bethanysister. Pio, who took vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and daily prayer, uses Twitter to post and respond to prayer requests. The sister is not limited to sacred Tweets. Indeed, between her moments of solitude, she provides social commentary on issues ranging from England’s soccer team to politics. She has already amassed 1300 followers. @thechurchmouse, the most popular CoE tweeter and anonymous brain child of The Twurch, does not believe that The Twurch or social media in general will significantly aid the CoE’s dwindling church roles or attendance. However, he is convinced that it can encourage Christian vitality by providing spaces for Christian fellowship, exchange, and piety. In all, almost five hundred CoE clergy, some twenty-five bishops, and one archbishop are Tweeting and amassing followers at The Twurch.

To be sure, everyone in the church is not thrilled about The Twurch. To such detractors, Sister Elizabeth simply responds, “At the end of the day Jesus would be on Twitter. He'd be on Facebook, he'd be engaging with people where they are.”

Lerone A. Martin, a research fellow for the New Media Project, is Assistant Professor of American Religious History and Culture at Eden Theological Seminary in Saint Louis, MO.

The New Media Project is a research project helping religious leaders become theologically savvy about technology. To request permission to repost this content, please contact newmediaproject@cts.edu.

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