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Text Me to Church: How SMS Helps Religion

We don't too often think of technological development in the realm of religion, a word that calls to mind community gatherings and places of worship that long predate modern technology. But the fact of the matter is, when it comes to SMS technology, everyone is finding ways to advance the things that are important to them, and religion makes no exception. By embracing text messaging, some religions and religious organizations have found ways to make practice more convenient and accessible to all.

One church in Illinois is notably using text messaging to resolve a problem. St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, located in Crystal Lake near Chicago, has noticed a sharp increase in the number of attendants only during major Christian holidays, and hopes to retain those who come only on days like Christmas and Easter. The church has adopted texting as a means of encouraging these followers to come to other services.

St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church is using a subscription service to improve retention rates; at the end of major holiday services, the Reverend encourages attendants to text "Saint Thomas" to a certain number, giving them the option to sign up for updates from the church by text, email, or phone call. The church hopes that these text message updates pique the interest of attendants and inspire them to visit the church more often.

Churches are also using text messaging not only to widen their reach, but to make sure church remains accessible for regular followers when attending church is not always possible. Several churches are introducing "text a prayer" options, allowing people to text a cause, wish, or prayer to their church that will then be prayed for during the daily prayer. This new implementation of SMS makes religion more accessible and convenient for people with busy lives, giving them a means to contribute remotely to the daily prayer, and offers a way for regular church-goers to stay connected if something comes up and they need to do things like travel, work extra hours, or stay with a sick relative during church time.

Texting is also making remote access to worship possible in a big way for Judaism. An old and significant Jewish tradition entails placing a note with a prayer or request in Jerusalem's Western Wall, yet it is a tradition impossible or rarely possible for those living far from the city, or across seas. The solution to this problem came in the form of texting: a service called SMS2Wall now allows those who cannot place notes in the Wall to text in their prayer or request, which will then be placed in the Wall. SMS2Wall is a welcome, more convenient makeover of older services that allow people to send prayers via email, which a Rabbi would then print and place in the Wall.

Another way SMS is being used to a similar end is by letting followers receive prayers rather than send them. Daily prayer subscription services that allow followers of a religion to receive a text message each day featuring a new prayer are emerging. These daily prayer text services take advantage of the power of texting to make religious practice more accessible and convenient for busy followers on the go, and can expand followers' religious horizons by introducing them to new prayers and ideas while sparing them the work of it.

Text messaging has also been used to keep Christians updated on important news. In 2013, briefly before the appointment of Pope Francis, a service called PopeAlarm garnered more than 35,000 subscribers. PopeAlarm, created by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) gives subscribers the option to receive either a text or an email as soon as a new Pope is elected. FOCUS uses SMS to update followers as rapidly as possible, and to expand and speed up the broader reach of major news.

Turns out, texting and religious practice work quite well together, and will surely expand their relationship as we become more and more high-tech as a society. The possibilities with SMS seem just about endless.

About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage, Inc. a software company for communication software solutions. http://www.notepage.net

 


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