The Church of England goes viral Article icon

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More than five million people tuned in for a virtual service from Lambeth Palace on Sunday, helping the Church of England attract its largest ever ‘congregation’ despite the suspension of public worship in a church.


Led by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the Mothering Sunday Service, broadcast from the crypt of the palace, was watched by one million worshippers streaming on Facebook while a further two million are estimated to have tuned into 39 BBC local radio stations and Radio 4 Sunday Worship.


The Facebook post also reached an additional two million followers, of whom nearly 30 per cent were aged 30 or under. 


The five million figure represents a massive increase on the weekly average of just 871,000 people who attended services in 2018, the most recent figures available, but is also not the whole story.


More than 800 local churches live streamed services on Sunday through the Church of England’s AChurchNearYou.com while others recorded sermons which were uploaded to YouTube after the Archbishop said that the church would have to ‘be reimagined’.


This surge in streaming followed a series of webinars, attended by more than 200 churches, last week hosted by the Amaris Cole, senior digital communications manager at the Church of England.


Head of digital Adrian Harris has led the Church on its digital journey, since his arrival more than three years ago. It has an active presence on most social platforms, including Instagram and Twitter. Harris has also held Digital Labs Live events to crowdsource ideas with Christian ‘techies and creatives’, which led to the launch of an Alexa skill. 


The app provides a range of prayers and other resources to help Christians in their daily worship. Over the past 30 days, the number of people using this app has risen 70 per cent.