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‘Alexa, Ask the Church of England’

Embrace of social media by the Church of England continues apace, with its Alexa Skill project fielding 75,000 questions in its first year of operation. Skills are Amazon’s name for voice-activated service.

The C of E skill can help people with prayers, and provide answers to questions about the Christian faith and local church events and services. Data shows that peak use of Alexa happens in the evening, so the Church’s Digital and Church House Publishing team has boosted the range of content of mealtime, family, evening, and night prayers for use throughout the year.

To connect to the C of E skill users simply say, “Alexa, open the Church of England.” Since the introduction of the program a year ago, improvements have been made to the device’s links to the A Church Near You website.

Data from the C of E showed 40 percent users are most likely to ask Alexa to say a prayer; 31 percent asked questions about the Christian faith; and 16 percent asked for the device’s daily reflection during the Easter season. Popular too were information about local churches (7%) and requests to say grace at a meal (6%). Users rated Alexa 4.2 out of 5 stars in the Alexa store.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, is a keen supporter of the Alexa project. “My hope and prayer is that this will encourage many more people to make a pattern of daily prayer and Bible reading the foundation of their lives as disciples of Jesus Christ,” he said. He believes it has an important role to play in “Thy Kingdom Come,” a global ecumenical initiative that began in 2016 as an appeal from the Sentamu and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Adrian Harris, leader of digital projects for the C of E, said plans are underway to make Alexa available on other platforms.

John Martin

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