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New head of digital communications to ‘take risks’

25 November 2016

CHURCH OF ENGLAND

Specialist: Adrian Harris, the Church’s first Deputy Director of Communications (Digital)

Specialist: Adrian Harris, the Church’s first Deputy Director of Communications (Digital)

THE opportunity presented by social media far outweighs the risks, the Church’s new head of digital has said.

Adrian Harris was appointed as the Church’s first digital com­mun­ica­tions specialist in September. The appointment comes under the um­­brella of the Renewal and Reform programme; the job descrip­tion referred to “taking risks for the gospel in exploring how digital engagement can lead to spiritual and numerical growth”.

Speaking this month, Mr Harris said that, “by nature”, social and digital media entailed taking risks. “Some things will go well and some will need finessing. . . The advantage with social and digital is that you can put small amounts of money into things and see where they go.”

“Everyone can make mistakes with what they post,” he said. In 2014, the diocese of Bath & Wells issued nine “commandments” on social media; and the revised guidelines for the professional conduct of the clergy warned that “the power of the internet for doing harm as well as good must always be borne carefully in mind”.

Mr Harris spoke of the potential to spread stories from across the Church, and described digital evan­gel­ism as a way of enabling the “three per cent” [the percentage of the population that is in regular contact with the Church] to share what is happening in the parishes, empowering them to share the good news. An advantage enjoyed by the Church, he said, was its presence across the country, while “lots of brands are driving people towards an online-only offering” and “people feel more isolated”.

Next year, the Church’s website will be overhauled to “pivot” to­­wards the 97 per cent of those not in regular contact with the Church. While it will still serve the clergy and members, it will be designed
to reach out to the unchurched to “promote the fact we have a presence in every community, and showcase what we do at different life stages”.

Before his appointment, Mr Harris was head of digital com­munications at BUPA, Tesco, and the Conservative Party. It was while studying computer science at university that he became a Christian. He funded his study­ing by running his own web-development business, and brings technical expertise that, he believes, will ensure that the Church gets value for money from agencies.

Since April, he has been a church­warden at St Martin-in-the-Fields, in London, where his faith had grown, he said, partly as a result of its work with the homeless and refugees. He regards his new job as a “calling” that “puts my skills at the service of God and the Church”.

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