Faith in a dig­i­tal age

Sal­va­tion Army in Lower Is­land Cove at­tract­ing new community of faith on­line

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TO­BIAS RO­MA­NIUK SPE­CIAL TO THE COM­PASS

Mem­bers of Sal­va­tion Army in Lower Is­land Cove got to­gether and asked them­selves what the church of the fu­ture would look like. Their an­swer, it turns out, looks like a web­site and sounds like a place to hang out.

They called it TheSpir­i­tu­alCafe.ca, and af­ter just a few weeks the site has at­tracted more vis­i­tors than any­one in­volved had an­tic­i­pated, said project leader Richard Knap­man, who built the web­site af­ter teach­ing him­self how.

The re­tired school prin­ci­pal, sit­ting in front of his com­puter at his home in Lower Is­land Cove, tells a story of the web­site project mem­bers guess­ing how many daily vis­i­tors the site would have af­ter six months. Some­body guessed 20, one said 40, an­other 60. Only one per­son ven­tured a guess of 200.

“Ex­cept for one or two days since we started, 200 daily vis­its was the low­est,” said Knap­man, who reg­u­larly looks at the sta­tis­tics of who has vis­ited the site.

The site launched on Oct. 21, and in the first nine days 4,000 dif­fer­ent peo­ple vis­ited the site.

While those num­bers may not seem high to some, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber the town of Lower Is­land Cove has only a few hun­dred peo­ple, and the Sal­va­tion Army ser­vices usu­ally at­tract about 50 or so peo­ple.

The suc­cess of the site has been en­cour­ag­ing, and the church is find­ing a new community of the faith­ful on­line.

“The community now is who­ever you are con­nected to through so­cial me­dia, for the most part,” said Knap­man, who points out that while the con­cept of faith re­mains the same, peo­ple are chang­ing how they show their faith.

“Yes, faith is still as rel­e­vant as it ever was, but it man­i­fests it­self in a dif­fer­ent form,” he said.

Knap­man re­al­ized the church must adapt and change with the times if they were to re­main rel­e­vant as a church, and if they wanted to at­tract youth, many of whom Knap­man said have stopped go­ing to church.

“If you stay to the old ways of wor­ship, you’re go­ing to lose gen­er­a­tion af­ter gen­er­a­tion,” he said.

But get­ting new fol­low­ers wasn’t the goal of the Spir­i­tual Cafe. It was es­tab­lished as a way to serve the community, and to of­fer views on re­li­gion and faith to peo­ple in an eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble way.

“The pur­pose is to just in­crease the sphere of influence for reli­gious think­ing,” said Knap­man.

When it comes to think­ing about the church, Knap­man re­al­izes re­li­gion tran­scends phys­i­cal struc­tures.

“The church is not a build­ing. The church is peo­ple,” he said.

On the web: www.thespir­i­tu­alcafe.ca

to­bias.ro­ma­niuk@gmail.com

LAUNCH­ING A WOR­THY CAUSE — Or­ga­niz­ers of the an­nual KIXX Coun­try Toy Tree at the TC Square Mall in Car­bon­ear de­scribed last week’s launch of the 2012 cam­paign as an “over­whelm­ing suc­cess,” with some 1,400 gifts dropped off and an en­cour­ag­ing amount of cash also do­nated. Some 500 peo­ple flocked to the mall’s cen­tre court to take part in this up­beat and heart­en­ing event, which kicks off a benev­o­lent undertaking to en­sure less for­tu­nate chil­dren in this re­gion re­ceive toys this Christ­mas, while cash from the cam­paign is used by the Sal­va­tion Army to fund the pur­chase of food ham­pers. Those wish­ing to sup­port the Toy Tree are en­cour­aged to do­nate money, or pro­vide a gift that is clearly marked for a boy or a girl. The Toy Tree is a joint ef­fort of the VOCM Cares Foun­da­tion, Sal­va­tion Army, Car­bon­ear; T.C. Square and The Com­pass. On hand for the of­fi­cial launch of the Toy Tree cam­paign were, from left, T.C. Square man­ager Wally Snow; Daisy Dawe, Jes­sica Drover and Judy Legge of KIXX Coun­try; TC Square prop­erty ad­min­is­tra­tor Jac­que­line Reynolds; Terri Green, pres­i­dent the mall mer­chants as­so­ci­a­tion; Sal­va­tion Army Capt. Darin Boone; Mickey T and Den­nis Dillon (sta­tion man­ager) of KIXX Coun­try; and Kevin His­cock, gen­eral man­ager of TC Me­dia NL Week­lies.

Photo by To­bias Ro­ma­niuk/spe­cial to The Com­pass

Richard Knap­man sits at the com­puter in his Lower Is­land Cove home. Knap­man took on the chal­lenge of build­ing thespir­i­tu­alcafe.ca web­site af­ter teach­ing him­self about web de­sign.

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