In what may be a first in Britain, a Church of Scotland congregation in Bo’ness has screened its Sunday services live onto iPhones and iPads, so that people can join in wherever they are.
Members of Bo’ness St Andrew’s Church have welcomed the 'interactive service', which allows people to follow worship real-time in nursing homes, public transport and in some pretty unexpected locations too - up a mountain, on a train, or even on the beach.
The latter is thought less likely in Scotland, other than for a few days in summer. But as a commentator told Ekklesia this morning: "You never know... God moves in mysterious ways and places."
The pioneering "iGod" venture, as it has already been branded by some newspapers, was set in digital motion by minister the Rev Albert Bogle and congregation member Neil MacLennan.
Mr MacLennan explained: “We’ve been webcasting our services for a number of years now, but with the recent iPad launch in Britain we felt now was the time to test out the Apple applications for our own purposes."
He continued: “We tried the technology just over a fortnight ago, and I was able to sit in my car on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and watch the morning service live."
“Essentially you could watch the service anywhere which had a 3G network," said MacLennan.
Albert Bogle added that the initiative could open up a whole new world for the housebound: “The Apple technology is so simple that your granny could use it."
One granny added that it was also so simple that the average Kirk minister could use it - with a bit of help from a silver surfer.
“Although it is feasible for an old folk’s home to set up a projector with a laptop and speakers to watch one of our services online, it’s not very practical to do that every week," said Mr Bogle. “But with us streaming live onto the iPad everything is available at the click of a button."
“Maybe we will need to start fundraising for our local nursing home and other elderly members who cannot make it out to church, but if a successful entrepreneur wants to step in and donate 10 iPads we’d be delighted to hear from them!” he said.
It's not known whether Apple CEO Steve Jobs or any of his chief assistants will be dropping in to Bo’ness St Andrew’s any time soon. But the digital door is wide open to them.
The congregation, which has a growing reputation for embracing cutting edge technology, also plans to try streaming services live onto BlackBerrys, Google Android-based phones and Nokia phones in the near future. So there will be some healthy commercial competition, too.
Mr MacLennan concluded: “What we’ve developed is not some big secret to be kept in Bo’ness – we want other churches to try this and we’ll be happy to help them on their way.”