Texas: ‘Please use your cell phone,’ says rector in service

By Luke Blount
Posted Mar 7, 2013

ens_030713_cellPhone[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] Upon entering a church, we are all accustomed to the signs asking us to turn our cell phones off or on silent, but one church turned that conventional wisdom on its head. On Sunday, leaders at St. Andrew’s, Pearland, asked congregants to “Please use your cell phone.”

For weeks leading up to the event, dubbed “Bring Your Cell Phone to Church Sunday,” St. Andrew’s leaders encouraged everyone to bring their cell phones and take photos of the service. Their e-mail newsletter read, “Take at least one photo of our worship and post it on Twitter and/or Facebook and/or your Pinterest account.”

“We are just trying to find ways where people are comfortable inviting friends, and so we thought this would be a good way of doing it,” said rector, the Rev. Jim Liberatore.

Liberatore encouraged the congregation to post photos or status updates that referred back to the church’s Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest account. Liberatore said it was hard to tell exactly how many people mentioned St. Andrew’s in social media on Sunday, but the parishioners were excited, including those who attend the more traditional 8 a.m. service.

The movement is part of a larger re-branding effort from St. Andrew’s. Earlier this year, the church unveiled a new logo featuring a pumpkin, which references their wildly successful pumpkin patch, which earned them the nickname “pumpkin church” within the community. Underneath the church name is the slogan “people … in progress.”

“It’s meant to mean more than one thing,” Liberatore said. “Basically, we are progressing as individuals, but we are also works in progress. So, it’s OK to be you.”

The church’s new mission focuses on growing the church at a rate of 10 percent per year for the next five years. In order to accomplish this, the members of the church will need to be open and welcoming to their friends and acquaintances, even those known through social media.

Liberatore hopes that his members will now feel free to share their church experiences more freely through social media, although there won’t always be time set aside to promote the use of cell phones.

“We’re not going to advertise it every Sunday, but we hope people will use it in church,” he said.


Comments (11)

  1. walter combs says:

    The idea that as long as we sling the doors open each Sunday people are going to flood into our churches needs to die. I’m afraid many people within a five block radius of our church could not tell you where to find the Episcopal Church. We Episcopalians are not known for a ‘knock on doors’ approach to evangelization. This seems like a good alternative!

  2. Susan Kleinwechter says:

    People are most likely to attend church when invited by a friend. Good job! Carry on!

  3. Joyce Ann Edmondson says:

    It’s very interesting how many “doctrines” the Episcopal church turns on its head! At least it makes people think out of the box!

  4. Sue Daniels says:

    The Episcopal Church – the best kept secret in town! [sigh]

  5. Alysha Collins says:

    Don’t have a cell phone so no thanks. I also am in church to Pray, Meditate and worship not Tweet Post on Facebook or Google+.

  6. Jeremy Mauldin says:

    By promoting use of cell phones and photography during a so-called worship service, St. Andrews confuses a welcome focus on acceptance of others with an activity that encourages more self centered spectacle (“look at me. I’m at church. Look at me” they, essentially, tweet). Notions of attending to, oh, who was it,… some embodied form of God and neighbor, aren’t affirmed by narcissistic attention-seeking from “friends” on a disembodied web site. Maybe they exchanged their commitment to following Jesus for a dream of easy money. Just entertainment, I guess.

  7. John D. Andrews says:

    Some of these comments remind me that we must do a better job of getting across the point that at our very core, our reason for being is mission. Consequently, it is not just about us, but it is also about those who our outside our church doors. This strategy seems like one of many good steps we can take.

  8. David Starr says:

    Great idea! Using social media to make people aware of a church makes sense!

  9. Doug Desper says:

    Let’s see: one priest here exclaims “OMG” (which sorta goes against taking the Name in vain- but for a good reason I suppose),others encourage parishioners to become detached bystanders during a holy moment to create photos of the Service during the Service. Very trendy. Very gimmicky. Therefore, it will probably work for those who want that.

  10. Jon Davidson says:

    Great idea that now needs to go a step further: On a “Bring your Cell Phones” sunday, arrange for everyone at once to call or send a message to promote a social or economic justice issue. Be ready to project the number and eMail address on the screen, and dedicate a part of the worship to have some VERY soft music in the b.g for about 5 minutes while everyone takes some social action. Perhaps the best time in the liturgy is at the end (so those who object can just leave) but be sure the deacon uses some strong words of dismissal — like one I use often: “Go out and touch lives. Bring God’s healing love to a hurting world. Go in peace to love…. and serve the Lord.” –

    (If you need resources, contact EPPD-Episcopal Public Policy Network

  11. I’m intrigued by this idea. It will be upsetting to some folks in my circles who believe that “doing church” is about a worship service held on Sunday mornings in a building that has been set apart for that specific type of ritualistic gathering. However, from my Dakota heritage, I know that God is not bound by our own inventions and intentions: God especially exists in and permeates the very relationships that are between we members of God’s creation. So, this idea is a new way to celebrate that very idea of the holy connection between us. It cannot replace the idea of the holy silence and ritual that we need, but neither should the idea be kept out of the buildings which we have come to call “church.” God is alive and moving and perhaps most alive in new ways of our often limited and pitiful ways of trying to connect with God’s divinity.

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