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A SOCIAL media-savvy priest says using Twitter is just the latest example of the Church using every means possible to engage with the public.
Fr Simon Rundell, team rector of the Roborough parish, was an early disciple of the micro-blogging website Twitter.
Counting Archbishop of York John Sentamu and Prime Minister David Cameron among his 2,100-plus followers, he believes using social media is not so different from when Christians took to the printing presses in the 15th century.
“It is about using every means necessary to communicate with people at home and abroad,” he said.
“I have always been interested in using social media and technology as a means of spreading the gospel.
“The very first thing that was ever published on the printing press was the holy scriptures. It has always been seen as so important that we share it in any way possible.
“It is about sharing it in places it might not be heard. I wouldn’t tweet anything I wasn’t prepared to preach from the pulpit.”
And Fr Rundell says it allows him to be far more responsive as a priest. He has been known to take prayer requests over Twitter while on the move serving his parishes in Bickleigh, Shaugh Prior, Glenholt and Woolwell.
“It is better than the answer-phone machine in the vicarage. In fact, I’ve stopped using the answer-phone,” he explained.
“The ‘vicarage study’ is an old concept. It all comes into me on my smartphone now. It allows parish ministry to be based in the community.
“I wouldn’t say I’m modern. I’m a man in my 40s but these are means by which human contact can be made.
“We shouldn’t forget that most people, including the elderly, have mobile phones and the internet. It is how they contact their grandchildren in Australia.”
The Teignmouth-born former intensive care nurse tweets under the name @frsimon, a unique user-name which is testament to how early he signed-up to the social media website.
“I haven’t got Stephen Fry’s numbers but a couple of thousand followers isn’t too bad,” he added.
And Fr Rundell has not restricted himself to the medium of social media. He appeared on the television quiz show Mastermind in January last year armed with his specialist subject – Monty Python.