When did the Church of England become so tech-savvy? That was the headline in a national paper when the CofE unveiled its latest development in digital communications.

The Church won global coverage for equipping Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa, to answer key questions about Christian belief - and help people find their local church.

Its publicity showed Archbishop of York John Sentamu asking Alexa to speak out the Lord’s Prayer and Radio 2 presenter Kate Bottley calling for a morning prayer.

Weeks before, I’d joined around 40 people involved in churches across St Albans and beyond for a social media briefing.

What did I learn? That Facebook – and probably other social media channels – knows my parish far better than I do.

For clergy who have been in their parishes for many years, that will come as a bit of a shock. They pride themselves on knowing the people on their patch.

Yet in these digital days, the information that Facebook and others hold mean that they know each of their users in great detail.

It’s a brave new world for everyone who wants to increase the Church’s impact.

Social media offers massive opportunities for churches, and it’s vital that we are fully engaged. I take my hat off to the innovative CofE team that introduced Alexa to the Lord’s Prayer and much more.

But digital engagement has to go hand-in-hand with the Church’s traditional role of being involved where people are celebrating, mourning or hurting - whether online or on the street.

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