Headed to church? Don't forget your iPad

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By Travis Mayfield

Over the last year we’ve seen iPads appear in restaurants, during meetings at work and even on-air on TV news anchor’s desks.

But what if they start appearing in church?
Kerry Allman is the Internet Strategist for the Diocese of Olympia, the Episcopal Church in Western Washington.
 
This week Allman took to his blog ‘Putting the I-T in Spirit’ and proposed just such an idea:
 
I may be going out on a bit of a limb here, but I would like to talk about using technology as part of the liturgical service.  What I mean by this is the idea of using smartphones/iPads/Kindles for following along in the service.

With most churches already blogging, on Facebook and Twitter, as Allman sees it this would be the next logical step in spiritual digital communications.

Allman writes about one of the complaints he hears most often regarding his denomination’s worship practices and it is that there are so many books to juggle:

Now for us “cradle Episcopalians”, being able to navigate around a prayer book, hymnal and lectionary insert is  part of the right of passage and joy (if I may be so bold) of being Episcopalian. But the reality is that cradle Episcopalians are a distinct minority.  Many people are coming to the church later in life and many times from either another faith tradition or no tradition at all.  So when a visitor with no background in the church suddenly has to wend their way through bulletin inserts, prayer books, hymnals (sometimes more than one) and anything else….well, the experience could be overwhelming and not in a necessarily good way.

It turns out Allman isn’t alone in envisioning a wired sanctuary experience.  He cites a recent story from jconline.com which notes:

The growing number of American adults who own smartphones today -- more than one-third, according to the Pew Internet Project -- is fueling the trend of mobile technology infiltrating churches. While more members of contemporary churches are reading and studying Scripture on their smartphones and other devices, traditional houses of worship have been slow to accept the technological evolution.

For the early adopters, the change is simple, convenient and happening organically. They already have a smartphone, which can access multiple translations of the Bible in real time -- so they don't see a need to tote around the good book.

But Allman pitches something even more comprehensive than just downloading a digital copy of the Bible and totting your iPad along to the sanctuary:

I would like to propose that maybe we look into using smartphones as a medium for the service information.  One could create a PDF file with all of the information laid out in the appropriate order.  A person could then either download the file from a website, or cooler yet, use the smartphone to scan a QR barcode linked to the PDF file.  You wouldn’t need to change the barcode that would be scanned since you would be able to create a new PDF every week and associate it with the code.  You would certainly be more eco-friendly since no paper would be needed for printing.

Could churches be the next to jump headlong into the mobile app creation business? 

Could there be a day in the near future when the same app delivers your service material on Sunday, your Bible study notes on Wednesday and allows the prayer chain a seamless way to pass requests along via Twitter, Facebook and email all through the week?  Maybe the choir director could use push notification to alert singers of last minute rehearsal changes and days you are too sick to leave your house you could just stream the priest’s homily live on your iPhone.

Still of course for the unwired parishioner, there could always remain a (much smaller) stack of church bulletins in the atrium for old time sake.

Frankly, I'm surprised Mars Hill isn't already doing it.

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