Digital prayer project connects churches in Cumbria and London

Fri 03 Jul 2015
By Sam Hailes

A Lake District church is partnering with a London congregation as part of a pioneering digital prayer project.

Specialist equipment installed at St Michael's and All Angels in Hawkshead, Cumbria will allow people to type in prayers which are then projected onto the church's interior wall.

The digital installation includes four votive candles which light up when a prayer is registered on a touch screen device near the church's entrance.

In coming weeks the prayers from Hawkshead will be displayed on a screen at the Church of St Peter de Beauvoir in Hackney, London. Both churches will be able to see each other's prayers, as well as their own.

Each prayer that is projected onto the wall of the Hawkshead church is framed within special artwork which has been designed to mirror existing pictures in St Michael's. The prayers continue to cycle through as new ones are added.

Revd John Dixon, vicar of Hawkshead with Low Wray and Sawrey, said it was "wonderful" to see young people already engaging in prayer through the "simple and intriguing" project.

"People have come to this church to pray for centuries but never before has it been connected digitally with another church. It will be interesting to see how people respond to that; that the things they pray for here are also being prayed for in Hackney."

"We live in a media age and anybody coming to this church under a certain age is very familiar with new media. People communicate all the time in this way and there's no reason why the church should be any different."

The initiative was started by Project CEDE (Creating and Exploring Digital Empathy), with input from the University of Lancaster, Sheffield University and the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis from University College London.

CEDE aims to explore ways of making digital communication more empathetic. They also want to reduce isolation across communities.

Prof Paul Coulton from the University of Lancaster and a member of CEDE said: "This is part of a large project which looks at empathy through the use of digital communications.

“Some digital communication can be quite brutal and people don't take the time to understand someone.  Empathy is missing from that type of communication at the moment.

"We were looking to link churches up around the country and thought it would be nice to link up with a rural church which would provide a contrast with the church in Hackney.”

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