In an effort to help those looking for spiritual guidance but unwilling to come to church on a Sunday, the Church of Scotland wants to launch a webchat service .

The initiative will go live in the new year and is the Kirk’s latest effort to reach beyond its traditional audience as figures show a continued trend away from organised religion.

The digital congregation will be able to book an online chat with a minister but may have to wait up to three hours for a reply. A separate 24-hour chatline to discuss religious questions has also been set up.

The idea came after Very Rev Albert Bogle began Sanctuary First which is a purely online congregation with no physical meeting place. The website and app began when the former moderator started streaming his services from St Andrew’s Church in Bo’ness while minister there.

More than 2,000 have already downloaded the app and around 300 receive daily Bible readings and prayers, said Bogle.

“I don’t want it to feel like a ‘dead’ website, I don’t want Sanctuary First to be just an online congregation with no ‘touching places’.
Church of Scotland membership figures show the decline.

“I want it to have the human touch. So we’re going to have a live chatline open anytime for people to talk. I’m going to try to get that manned [by volunteers] — for example, people could say they could man it for an hour.

“I also want to set up another line just to me, for anyone who wants to talk about something spiritual or personal, like a private chat, a bit like a confessional. All of us ministers, whether we are Anglican, Presbyterian or any other religion, [know that] people come to us with issues because they know we will not judge them. They are looking for advice and I think there could be a real need for this. I hope to guarantee that I would get back to someone within three hours.”

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