75,000 people asked the Church of England for help on Alexa, data shows

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The Church of England on Alexa has been asked 75,000 questions by users of the Amazon device in its first year, new data has shown.

The Church of England's Alexa "skill" - an app-like tool on Amazon's voice-activated service - was launched last year to help people with prayers, answer questions about the Christian faith, and point them to their local church events and services.

The data from the Church of England found that people were more likely to seek out the Church of England on Alexa in the evening. 

This prompted the Church's Digital and Church House Publishing teams to increase the range of mealtime, family, evening and night prayers over the course of the year.

They have also worked to improve the device's integration with the A Church Near You website that helps people find their local church.

Data from the Church of England showed that users were most likely to ask its Alexa tool to say a prayer (40 per cent), followed by people using the device to explore the Christian faith (31 per cent), and asking it to read the Church of England's daily reflection during Easter (16 per cent). 

Other people used the Church of England on Alexa to ask where their local church was (7 per cent) and say grace before a meal (6 per cent). 

The Church of England skill has also been rated highly by users, scoring an average of 4.2 out of five stars in the Alexa store. 

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.

"The skill will soon be updated with Daily Prayer for Thy Kingdom Come, allowing people to take part in daily services."

Adrian Harris, Head of Digital at the Church of England, said there were plans in the pipeline to make the content on Alexa available on other platforms.

"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," he said. 

"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."

To activate the Church of England skill, users can give the simple instruction: "Alexa, open the Church of England." 

Rev Katherine Hedderly, Vicar of All Hallows by the Tower and a contributor to the Alexa project, said the Church of England skill had enabled people to go deeper in their faith. 

"It's been wonderful for me to see the impact the Alexa skill has had in giving people extra opportunities to pause and pray throughout the week, especially given changing life patterns," she said. 

"I can see how the skill enables members of the congregation to reflect more deeply at key moments like Lent and Christmas. It also helps people who are new to faith explore the deep questions they have and to find a local church to take the next step."