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Digital Technology: New Congregations

Volume 667: debated on Thursday 31 October 2019

12. What assessment the Church of England has made of the effectiveness of the use of digital technologies to reach new congregations. (900280)

During my time as Second Church Estates Commissioner, I have seen the Church of England transform its digital communications. Its annual mission statistics show, for example, that the Daily Prayer app has been downloaded more than 5 million times and is used on average for eight minutes per user per day; our social media now reaches 3.6 million people; the A Church Near You website allows people to google their nearest church and the times of the services there; and an Alexa skill set up by the Church has had more than 100,000 inquiries.

I thank my right hon. Friend for her answer and for the incredible job she has done as the Second Church Estates Commissioner. She has been truly amazing and a great friend to many of us. I have fond memories of her not only in her current role but on many occasions in Switzerland on the annual skiing visit. I would like to thank her for her friendship.

The Church is central to all our communities, and engaging with the wider public is ever more important. Will my right hon. Friend tell us more about what the Church intends to do to ensure that wider engagement through the use of social media and digital is rolled out more widely across the whole country?

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. For the record, I must say that being Second Church Estates Commissioner has been a great blessing. When I was invited to do the job, David Cameron said to me, “The thing about this role, Caroline, is that you are answerable only to the Queen and God.” What a privilege that is!

It so happens that I met the diocesan directors of communication yesterday at Canterbury cathedral, and they are all really aware of the transition that the Church needs to make into a fully digital version of what it does today. I have given the House an indication of that, but for those of us who still like a hard copy of things to inspire us, I draw hon. Members’ attention to the fact that the forthcoming busy time will at some point be coterminous with Advent, for which the Church has published a “Follow the Star” booklet, which hon. Members are welcome to avail themselves of.

That was magnificently done. I hope that I can be forgiven for saying to the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell), and more widely to the House, that as the hon. Gentleman referenced Switzerland, and I am on my last day, he has given me my cue to say that the best thing about Switzerland is not its skiing, its chocolate, its watches or its financial services; the best thing about Switzerland is Roger Federer.

Mr Speaker, I should like to pass on my thanks to you, on behalf of Scottish Conservative MPs. You have given us the opportunity to speak so that our constituents know that the Scottish National party is not the only voice for Scotland in this place. It is good for our Parliament, our country and our democracy that all the voices are heard, so I thank you for that.

What conversations have been had with the Department, and indeed the estates in Scotland, to ensure that the Government’s new initiatives on the shared rural network for mobile coverage and the exciting new developments on broadband will mean that the estates in Scotland can be used and leveraged so that my constituents can benefit as much as constituents elsewhere in the UK?

I am delighted to say that my responsibility covers only the Church of England, but obviously the Church in Scotland is part of the Anglican communion, and the opportunity to use church buildings, spires, towers and the ridges and hills on land that the Church owns is an obvious way to ensure that there are no more notspots in Scotland.