At this past weekend’s Masses at the Catholic Community of Christ Our Light in Cherry Hill, worshippers heard something from their pastor, Father Tom Newton, that they probably never expected to hear in church:
“Take out your cell phones.”
Father Newton, alongside parish Finance Council member Matthew Riggins, unveiled the Christ Our Light mobile phone app, available now at the iTunes or Google Play Store.
“The church needs to meet people where they are at, and, right now, they are on their phones,” said Riggins, addressing a culture that seems to perpetually have one eye on their mobile screens, whether at home, out to dinner, walking on the street or riding a bus.
“Mobile technology, today, has become a way in which people engage and feel a part of things,” he said, noting the prevalence of apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
“The Catholic Church should be at the forefront of this, it should be on the forefront of people’s lives, everyday,” he added.
A few years ago, Riggins brought up the idea of the app to Father Newton, who persuaded him to join Christ Our Light’s Finance Council and propose it to fellow members.
“Father Tom was a strong advocate” of the app, Riggins said. “He was very receptive.”
Riggins and Cort Hrivnak, the parish’s Assistant for Communications and Internet Technologies, developed the app with Parish Solutions Company, which assists Catholic parishes in creating websites and apps to connect with the faithful.
“Cort took the ball and ran with it,” Riggins said.
When people download the app and access it with one touch, they can find the parish Mass schedule, news, upcoming events, homilies and prayer resources. They can even make donations. And visitors can also listen and download recordings from the parish’s music ministry.
Hrivnak manages the day-to-day operation of Christ Our Light’s website and app, and says that a test version sent to Finance Council Members in January received “very positive reactions.”
“The app is a way to become more a part of people’s lives, make them feel engaged and build community.”
The decision to introduce the app during Easter services this past weekend was made in part to attract “the largest group possible,” Riggins said, and he is excited to expand the reach of the faith and of Christ Our Light.
“This is just another tool in our toolbox,” he said.
“In our world today, we need to be creative in welcoming and inviting people to be a part of our parish communities,” said Father Newton.
“One way we can do this is to meet people where they are. And where they are so often today is on their phones or tablets,” he said. “If we can be a presence on those devices we may be able to reach some people that are more difficult to reach in more traditional ways. The message of the Gospel does not change but how we transmit that Gospel to all people needs to grow and develop, so that we continue to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that all people, especially young people, can be informed and transformed.”