Faith Matters

Alexa update for these 'pray as you stay' days

CHURCHES everywhere have been admirably quick to adopt the latest online tools to keep congregations connected during the coronavirus crisis, writes William Scholes.

The Jesuits were already well prepared for the digital age, with their pioneering 'Pray As You Go' service.

It started operating in 2006 as a podcast and website, and has morphed into an app for Apple and Android devices that receives more than 30 million visits a year.

Each day it offers a mix of prayer, music, meditation and scripture reading in a short, easily digestible package.

The material is written by Jesuits and other experts in the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola.

Pray As You Go, which comes from the Jesuits in Britan, was originally conceived as a means by which people with busy lives - commuters, for example - could enjoy an oasis of calm for 10-minutes or so.

But while life in lockdown can still be very busy, it obviously isn't quite as mobile as it was until around six weeks ago.

That makes the latest Pray As You Go digital innovation particularly timely.

It can now be had as an 'Alexa skill', which means it works with Amazon's Echo devices.

Once the 'skill' has been added to your Echo device, all a user has to do to get their session on the app going is to say: "Alexa, open Pray As You Go."

Emma Holland, who produces the app, said that the Alexa skill had been introduced in response to feedback from blind and visually impaired users.

"The great thing about Alexa is that it does not require prior knowledge or familiarity of the operating system," she said.

"At the moment, Alexa users can access our daily prayers, and we are looking to expand this in time to allow for our extra resources to be used."

Ms Holland said that visits to the Pray As You Go app and website had almost doubled since Covid-19 lockdown started.

"We are more 'pray as you stay' at the moment and have an extra daily prayer series with that title to help users cope better with this difficult time," she said.

"We also have focused prayers for children and families, and we hope to provide something similar for health workers very soon."

The Pray As You Go website is here and the free app can be found in the Apple and Google Play app stores.

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