Amazon Alexa skill
Church of England
It is just over two years ago since the Church of England established a digital team to harness the opportunities presented by social and digital media. Since then the team has revamped the Church’s national website, with a 20 per cent uplift in page views; relaunched an online church finder and held several successful campaigns. These initiatives mean the Church now connects to around 1.5 million people every month through digital platforms.
But there is more to do, and the growth of smart devices presented the Church of England with a new opportunity. About one in four (23 per cent) UK households currently own a smart device, but the number is expected to grow.
The Church has a huge library of content, from a range of prayers to information about local churches and services to answers to questions on the Christian faith. Much of this content is held in book format, but a smart device offered the chance to share it in a different format but also to deliver a personalised service. It also opened up a potential new audience to the Church.
An Alexa skill provided the perfect platform. (There are also plans to launch on Google Home and Apple’s HomePod.) But the robotic voice was not right. Instead, the Church used the voices of members of its congregation to record prayers and answers to questions. This meant the prayers weren’t simply being repeated, they were being prayed.
The Alexa skill has three core elements. It is a daily prayer resource, offering a prayer for the day, morning, evening and nighttime prayers and a grace before meals. It has been integrated with the online A Church Near You, which helps people to find churches across the country, simply by entering their postcode. And finally, it provides a deeper understanding of the Christian faith by answering questions such as What is the Bible? Who is God? or What is a Christian?The latter feature is particularly important, as research by the Church found that it was not seen to serve the needs of those exploring their faith.
The Alexa skill is also easy to use, making it accessible for those with disabilities who simply have to say Alexa, ask the Church of England for....
The app was built by an external agency, and launched in May 2018 at an event for church leaders, industry experts, digital influencers and the media. Its launch was covered extensively in the media, including The Economist, Wired, Daily Telegraph and Reuters. It has since been scored 4.8 out of five by users.
One in two users ask Alexa to read prayers or a grace before meal, 20 per cent use it to find a church while the remaining 30 per cent are using the skill to explore their faith. ‘This is a lovely example of the modernity of Godliness,’ said the judges. ‘It is clever, interesting and a surprising initiative from the Church of England. Well executed with good results.’