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HEART newspaper: Heart Publications | October 15, 2018

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Young people find church online

Teens with questions about faith discover divinity has gone digital 

Hard at work: Sam Phillipson did video production

Teens confused about Christianity have been finding help from a new virtual youth church.

Student Emily Burlington-Horton challenges young people in an online video

Up to 150 young people a week have been watching videos about the Christian faith or posting prayer requests on the WOWChurch (Without Walls Church) website. Teens feeling lonely or angry with God can have their questions answered in real time by specially trained ‘chat hosts’.

“Watching and inter-acting with the same people gives them a sense of community,” says Leander Garner, Centre Manager at St Mildred’s Church, Croydon, the physical ‘base’ of WOWChurch. “We’ve recently chatted with a wheelchair user who felt they were a burden when they attended services and a young person who wanted to stop going to church with their parents.”

The creative forces behind the site, aimed at ages 13 to 25, are other young people who understand how to harness the power of social media to get the Gospel onto the smartphones and iPads of their peers.

These include student Emily Burlington-Horton, who presented a video called ‘Who is Church?’, Sam Phillipson, who did video production, and Reese Richards and Kaiden Holly, who worked on the web design and content.

Since its launch on 23 May, the website has received hits from as far as Peru, India and Alaska. “We’ve also been surprised at how many housebound and disabled people have been attracted to the site,” says Leander.

“Wherever possible we encourage people to attend a local ‘bricks and mortar’ church too, but an online church can provide a bridge to the wider Christian community.”