“Alexa, does God exist?” Tens of thousands of Britons have asked questions about the Christian faith through a Church of England voice-controlled app and Amazon’s Alexa.
The Church of England announced this week that more than 75,000 people have engaged with its app (or skill), “Alexa Skill”, since its launch last year.
People with a smart speaker, such as an Echo, or with Alexa on their phones can access the skill by saying “Alexa, open the Church of England”. They can then ask theological questions or request prayers or information. Responses have been pre-recorded by a mixture of male and female clergy and lay people.
In a typical week, 40 per cent of users requested a prayer, while 31 per cent used the skill to ask questions such as “what is faith?” Seven per cent asked about church locations and six per cent asked Alexa to share a grace before a meal.
The skill is soon to be updated with a daily prayer for Thy Kingdom Come, a global movement of prayer between Ascension and Pentecost launched four years ago by Justin Welby and John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York.
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said: "The aim of the Alexa skill is to help users to know more of the love of Jesus Christ, to enable regular churchgoers and those exploring faith to connect with God in another way and at a time that’s right for them.
"My hope and prayer is that this will encourage many more people to make a pattern of daily prayer and Bible reading the foundation of their lives as disciples of Jesus Christ."
Adrian Harris, Head of Digital at the Church of England, said: “We are pleased with the levels of engagement in the first year of launching the skill, which was built in just three months in 2018. Working in close partnership with Church House Publishing, we have responded to feedback from users by adding more family prayers and content at Advent and Christmas 2018 and Lent 2019.
“In the months to come, we hope to make the content developed available on other platforms. UK smart speaker usage doubled in 2018 to more than 9.5 million monthly active users so we’re excited about the opportunities to use the technology to help people grow in their Christian faith, to bring people to faith and to connect them with a local church.”