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New Addington vicar starts text service to help people pray

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TECHNOLOGY may sometimes be blamed for shortening attention spans, but one vicar is hoping it can help people focus on their faith.

Father Martin Powell at St Edward, King and Confessor Church in New Addington has started a text service to help people on the go find the time to pray via their smartphones.

Congregants who sign up to his "I-pray" service will receive three messages containing prayer pointers and ideas from the priest each week.

"I have promised them no more than three times a week," said Father Powell, who started the service last October after seeing a counterpart in Exeter reach his teenage flock via text.

"I started doing it just because I was aware that people found it hard to fit prayer into life," he added.

"This was really something just to give them a few words and some inspiration.

"We have busy lives – work and family and also leisure time. We want to find time for all these things and somehow prayer often gets squeezed out.

"This is just a chance for people to rediscover that time."

Messages typically include a scripture passage followed by a suggestion for related prayer.

A recent missive read: "Remember that u are dust & to dust u shall return. How is God challenging u to walk with him this Lent? Pray for strength 2 follow."

Father Powell, who also tweets the messages via his account @ipraytweet, added: "It focuses my prayer as well. If it is a saint's day I will try and make it fit with the saint, or last Wednesday was Ember Day so tried to make it fit around that.

"There is no particular time, just whenever the wind or spirit takes me."

The service has about 80 followers so far, Father Powell said, a mix of young and old from St Edward's and further afield.

"Some have been coming for years and others are fairly new and want to find out a little bit more," he said. "I think it naturally applies to younger folk – about 30 per cent of those who receive the texts are under 30."

Father Powell also has his own active Twitter account and says it fits in with a wider church strategy to "engage people where they are".

"The way things are going, a number of people are relying on mobile technology to help them in their daily lives, so it is a good thing the Church is going along with that.

"I am hopeful that it will encourage people to think about coming to church.

"It is about trying to make the Church more relevant for people and accommodating of their lives.

"So often there are expectations of people they cannot possibly achieve. It is a more realistic way of being a Christian."

New Addington vicar starts text service to help people pray


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