The Church of England has today launched its own Alexa 'skill', allowing millions of users of the voice-controlled virtual assistant to pose to it their questions about the Christian faith, prayer and where to find the nearest church events.
Enabled by saying 'Alexa, open the Church of England', the skill – essentially an app integrated into the smart device – offers daily prayer resources, including grace before meals and morning, evening and night-time prayers. It is connected with A Church Near You, the CofE's popular online church finder service, which currently gets 13 million page views a year. The skill means that Alexa can also field questions about Christian belief such as 'Who is God?' and 'What is the Bible?'
'We're thrilled to be launching the Alexa skill today, to enable regular churchgoers and those exploring faith to connect with God in another way at a time that's right for them,' said the archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.
'A quarter of UK households now own a smart device and, after transforming the Church of England's and Archbishops' national websites last year, this fast-growing area was identified as a priority for development.'
He added: 'More broadly, this work is part of our wider Renewal and Reform programme, which seeks to ensure the Church of England is a growing Church for all people and in all places.'
The CofE's head of digital, Adrian Harris, said: 'Platforms such as Alexa give the Church the ability to connect people with God and to weave faith into daily lives, whether for daily prayers or exploring Christianity. We also see this as a fantastic opportunity to encourage people into their local church, which is why the link to A Church Near You is so important, particularly at key moments in the Christian year such as Easter and Christmas.'
The skill's launch is phase one of the digital project, which has been led by the CofE's digital department and its official publisher, Church House Publishing. The skill, engineered by app designer Aimer Media, will continue to be updated, with new options and answers to questions enabled by the device.
Currently 28 questions, largely designed for non-believers new to the faith, are integrated into the skill, according to The Economist.
Alexa is run by Amazon, but similar CofE software is hoped to launch on Apple and Google devices 'in due course', Harris said.