A church on the corner of London’s tech hub is starting to build links with the industry. St John’s, Hoxton, is close to Old Street roundabout, often nicknamed Silicon Roundabout because of the proliferation of start-ups and technology firms in the area.
The Vicar, the Revd Graham Hunter, said that he had begun to try to bring Christian technologists together two years ago. “Being in Hoxton, and having Silicon Roundabout and Shoreditch right on the doorstep, I had this sense we needed to engage with that sector,” Mr Hunter said on Wednesday.
In 2013, he met two Christians who worked in the industry, and they began using St John’s to host a fortnightly gathering, Tech City Christians. “They wanted to network, and also pray for each other, and support one another in living out their faith in this sector; getting people to share their stories about what’s going well, and what their struggles are.”
On Wednesday, however, he said that he was not sure if either the diocese or the wider Church had a “joined-up strategy” for reaching those in the tech industry. “We need to redeem tech in the sense of using it for social good . . . to help churches respond to poverty with new resources.”
Part of the reason why the Church had often been slow to respond to the technological revolution was the ageing demographics in the pews, Mr Hunter suggested. But another factor was the “false or phoney battle between science and faith. I think maybe the Church has the same reticence to embrace tech [as science].”
But he was trying to counter this, he said, by pointing out that the Bible calls God an “architect”, a word that has the same Greek root as “technology”. “So there is no antipathy with tech and building new apps, because God is creative and a technologist and a designer.”
A theologian at Durham University who specialises in “digital theology”, Dr Pete Phillips, said that the Church’s engagement with technology was increasing. “Religion and the Christian faith are making inroads into digital technology and culture,” he said on Tuesday, citing the popularity of Bible-reading and devotional apps, as well as Christian pages on Facebook.
This digital surge could change the faith, he said, in the same way that the printing revolution, 500 years ago, transformed biblical literacy. “It’s really important to speak the same language as those people who you want to invite into the Church. Because young people are so engaged in digital culture, the Church must speak that language, too.”