'Twitter Vicar': Reverend Spices Up Sermons

Britain's first 'Twitter vicar' is harnessing the power of social media to spice up sermons in his church, in an attempt reach out to a younger audience.

Leading the service at St Paul's church in jeans, casual shirt and hooded top, the Rev Andrew Alden ( @andalden ) urges the Somerset congregation to log on to the church internet, and tweet comments about the sermon, on what he calls 'Twitter Sunday'.

Large screens display the congregation's tweets, using the hash tag #stpwsm (St Paul's church, Weston-super-Mare).

Pinned to the pillars of the century-old church, posters read 'Abraham123' - not today's bible reading, but the password to the church wifi.

Rev Alden told Sky News: "I think it was the approach that Jesus took. He was creative, he was contemporary, he spoke to people in a way that they understood at that time.

"For us the way to speak to people is through the media they use - which is Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube."

Inspired by his own teenage sons, the reverend said the church needed to speak to young people in their own language.

He said: "I think churches across the nation struggle to reach particularly young adults in the 18-30 age range.

"Social media - that's their normal form of communication and so I think to use those forms as a way of targeting our audience."

The interactive Twitter sermons at this church reflect the change in our attitudes to media more broadly.

In the same way that many people now 'tweet' or use instant messaging while watching TV, so the congregation at St Paul's felt the notion of the traditional sermon, with one person standing at the front preaching, was rather outdated.

They decided they wanted something more interactive, a bit more '21st century'.

Nineteen-year-old church intern, George Lightwood, showed Sky News the Twitter stream from the service on his iPad.

He explained: "My generation doesn't come to church because they think it's just old-fashioned and outdated, and that's what they think of God.

"They think 'oh church is really boring,' so they think God's boring. So obviously if they see a church that's more with the times, where we've got Twitter so it's a bit more interactive - people will be encouraged to think church is more relevant for me."

The advent of Twitter is not limited to the Church of England - the Pope has his own Twitter feed, although he does not seem to be a frequent tweeter.

The Dalai Lama has almost four million followers. Proof, perhaps, that Twitter transcends religious boundaries - and generations.

Retired vicar John Simons, 78, told Sky News he had tweeted on Sunday, having failed to craft his 140-character message before the end of the service last week.

He said: "Well, last week I got in a bit of a muddle with it, so this week I said: 'I came, I saw, I tweeted, and how wonderful it is that we can use modern technology to tell of the gospel."

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