Cell-phone apps are everywhere, even in the realm of faith. Want to find a nearby church, synagogue, mosque or temple? There's an app for it — software for smart phones that not only can find the closest house of worship but also its schedule, according to an article from Reuters news agency ("Faith and smart phones commune in religion apps").
One app lets smart-phone users read and search the Bible in a variety of translations and languages, while the BibleReader app adds study tools to the Scripture text.
While many apps provide general information such as full texts of the Bible and the Koran, others get specific: there's an app for the sound of church bells ringing, another for allowing Muslims to schedule their five daily prayers, and yet another offering virtual incense and coconut for Hindus to present to one of their deities, Ganesh, according to Reuters.
Apps lead Roman Catholics through the rosary, light menorah candles for Jews at Hanukkah, and let Buddhists shake the phone to spin a prayer wheel.
Websites offer ideas for apps that churches can use, including Causes by Project Agape to find or start causes; Chipin, which enables fundraisers via Facebook; DivShare, a file-sharing app that stores MP3s, videos and photos online; and Poll, which creates polls for Facebook pages.
The United Church of Christ, an ELCA full communion partner, offers a version of its website as an app, allowing users to find a congregation, get news or daily devotions, donate, connect to social media and more. Mars Hill Church in Seattle, known for being tech-savvy, offers an iPhone app that lets people donate money, access news and announcements, and listen to sermons, prayers and songs. Odyssey Networks, an ELCA partner, offers a "Call on Faith" app that is a fresh source of ecumenical and interfaith prayers, stories of compassionate acts, wise words and other spiritual encouragement.
Lutherans use apps too. There are apps for the New Revised Standard Version Bible and German-language Bibles, as well as Augsburg Fortress' "Little Red Book" appointment calendar. In June, Concordia Publishing House, the publishing arm of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, released a "PrayNow" daily prayer app for the iPhone.
As far as ELCA-related apps, there's a growing demand, said Kristin Koskinen, ELCA Web manager. From March to September 2010, there were more than 28,000 smart-phone visits to the ELCA website, with visits increasing from about 1,000 to more than 4,000 during that period. "We're not far from releasing an ELCA news app for iPhone," Koskinen said. "We're just waiting on approval from Apple to be an iPhones app developer."
Further out on the horizon, the ELCA Web team hopes to release an app for the Revised Common Lectionary and "the most popular feature on the ELCA website, the ‘find a congregation,' " she said.
In January 2011, Women of the ELCA plans to release an app with "some kind of daily message ... a tip or reflection ... that fits the secular or religious calendar," said Linda Post Bushkofsky, the organization's executive director. "It will be a free app, modeled on something that Harvard Business Review does. It draws from content that we own and are repurposing from [Lutheran Woman Today] and other resources. For those in our audience who don't have smart phones, we'll offer the messages as a daily e-mail feed."
While they haven't yet settled on a name for it, Post Bushkofsky allowed that the app-to be pitched to an ecumenical audience-will clearly say "that it's powered by the Women of the ELCA. It's our gift to the Christian community."
It's difficult to say just how many religious-affiliated apps exist, given that new ones appear every day. Smart phones running Google's Android operating system claim 80,000 apps, while the iPhone has more than 250,000 available for download. Indeed, Apple customers are expected to have downloaded more apps than iTunes by the end of 2010, according to Asymco, an app production studio and an industry analysis firm based in Helsinki, Finland.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers