Siân Lawton has been appointed to oversee Ripon Cathedral’s online ministries as Nick Morgan, who has developed the ministry in recent years, prepares to move on to become curate in the Masham benefice next month. Siân says, “Having recently finished my degree in Theology Mission and Ministry at Cranmer Hall in Durham, it will be exciting to see how I can use all the things I have learnt in a practical way.  I am really delighted to be taking on this role at an exciting time in the Cathedral’s life”. Throughout June, Nick and Siân will be collaborating on the Cathedral website, Facebook page and Twitter account in a handover period.

Nick says,”Cathedrals are very visible signs of the Gospel. Pretty much everyone recognises them as being something to do with the Christian faith, even if they are not exactly sure what it is they do. We’ve tried to use this visibility and recognition to make the Church more accessible. It’s not just about what we do here in Ripon, we also try to support the wider church by sharing news from parishes around the region. We use our visibility to point people towards what God is doing in their local communities through their churches. It’s all about using new media to be alongside people as they go about their everyday socialising online as a visible Christian presence. It hopefully leads people to see the Church in a positive light and start conversations with their own local church.”

Dean John comments, “Our online ministry has grown enormously over the past few years and we are grateful to Nick for his time at the helm. By getting Ripon Cathedral out there on the internet, conversations with our local community, people throughout the region and indeed around the world have been made possible. It has also meant that members of our own congregations can keep in touch throughout the week and keep conversations going between Sunday services. We have been able to promote and support the work of churches around the Ripon Area, collaborate with other tourist attractions in Yorkshire and we are even used by Welcome to Yorkshire as an example to businesses for our use of social media.”

Ripon Cathedral was founded in the 7th century and has a long history of being at the cutting edge of communications technology. Canon Precentor Paul Greenwell comments, “St Wilfrid’s monks would, of course, have been pioneers of calligraphy when writing was the new technology. We forget sometimes that even writing was cutting edge social media once – there really is nothing new under the sun: here we are in cyberspace, bringing the Word of God to people wherever they are. I’m sure Wilfrid would approve!”

Ripon Cathedral’s Facebook page is ‘liked’ by around 2,700 people and regularly reaches more than 10,000 people each week and its Twitter account is followed by more than 3,400 people. One of the most popular aspects of this ministry is the use of prayer on Twitter. Each night at around 11pm, an excerpt from the service of Compline (or Night Prayer) is Tweeted with the hashtag #compline. Research conducted by Morgan and presented in a paper at a conference on Mystical Theology at St John’s College, Durham, indicated that many people paused to reflect or pray in response to these tweets, whether they identified themselves as Christian or not, and that about half of people had a physical or emotional response such as smiling as a result of reading them. Siân Lawton comments, “Online prayer is an area we’re looking to develop, so keep an eye out by following @riponcathedral on Twitter to see what happens!”