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Plans grow to put WiFi in every church

09 January 2015

keith blundy/aegies associates

Connection challenge: a church in County Durham shows how difficult it can be to install WiFi internet into historic buildings. St Michael and All Angels, in Witton Gilbert, has been trying to fit WiFi for more than a year, but has been hindered by a lack of postcode, no letterbox, and the £1500 cost of running wires from the road into the church. The Team Vicar, Canon Caroline Dick, seen here with the project officer, Gillie Boggon, said that her church would be first in the queue for any money from Lord Lloyd-Webber

Connection challenge: a church in County Durham shows how difficult it can be to install WiFi internet into historic buildings. St Michael and All A...

THE Church of England's Buildings Division has backed a plan to fit all of the C of E's 16,000 churches with WiFi internet access.

The director of the Cathedral and Churches Buildings Division, Janet Gough, said in a statement on Tuesday that the Church was ideally placed to build up a national network.

"We will be talking with those involved to explore how to build on the existing projects, such as the diocese of Norwich's WiSpire programme, and the provision of free WiFi for all visitors at individual cathedrals such as Chester, Canterbury, Ely, and Liverpool, to link up and expand WiFi coverage countrywide."

The idea was first floated by Lord Lloyd-Webber in an interview with The Mail on Sunday. He said that connecting churches to the internet would make them the centres of their communities once again.

His father, William Lloyd Webber, was an organist, composer, and choirmaster at All Saints', Margaret Street, in central London, before becoming musical director at Methodist Central Hall.

"They should go back to the medieval traditions, which is that the nave of the church is always used for local businesses," Lord Lloyd-Webber told the newspaper. He said he would help fund the plan himself, but also hoped that the Government would contribute as well.

Lord Lloyd-Webber, who sit as a Conservative peer in the House of Lords, said that he had already begun discussing the scheme with ministers.

One church in London has already embraced technology in an effort to reconnect with young people in its community. St Peter De Beauvoir, Hackney, has allowed a team of researchers from University College, London, to install a number of digital experiments inside the 170-year-old church.

A WiFi-enabled prayer candle system allows visitors and parishioners to type a prayer for someone and see a virtual candle lit for them on a screen. A motion-sensor-activated font lets people inscribe their worries or sins on to a touchscreen and see them symbolically disintegrate into the waters (photo, page 8).

Prayers can also be projected on to the floor, and the academics are looking into fitting interactive lighting or even talking pews.

The Vicar, the Revd Julia Porter-Pryce, said: "This is a unique opportunity for the congregation and the community to be involved in cutting-edge research and to consider questions about what it means to be human in a digital age.

"St Peter's hopes it will help the church to develop deeper ways of communicating digitally and that the project will engage many more people than those who take part in Sunday and weekday worship."

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