Tap And God: Churches Are Trying To Move With The Times

They might be accused of having archaic attitudes about certain things, but some churches are trying to modernise at least part of their services.

St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney sparked a minor social media storm this past week by announcing it was trialing a 'tap and go' card payment service for its collection plate.

Instead of the traditional tithing donations of cash or coins, the cathedral asked parishioners to use their cards to make a contactless payment on a small plate that could be passed around.

St Mary's also has small tap and go payment points around the church, asking visitors to donate $5 to "support St Mary's".

"This weekend we will be the first cathedral/church in NSW to trial this new technology," read a now-deleted post on the cathedral's Facebook page on September 20.

"Multiple payments of $10 can be made by tapping your card once with several seconds in between each transaction."

The cathedral deleted that particular post after criticism online -- some of which remains visible on the Facebook page -- but another earlier post gave the reasoning behind the decision.

"To keep up with the growth of technology in the 21st century, the Cathedral will be trialling the use of 'tap and go' collection plates during the collection at the Offertory," the cathedral said.

(Getty Images)

The tap and go plate is far from the only way the religious world is at least trying to keep up with a changing society.

St Mary's and many others live stream their services or sermons on social media, allowing those absent from the church to still participate with the rest of the congregation.

Various churches have also installed wi-fi and other technology in an attempt to keep services interesting and engaging for a modern audience. The likes of some modern "mega-churches" install high-tech audio-visual equipment to spice up their services.

Some congregations have also embraced gluten-free communion wafers for services, to cater to a growing slice of the community who do not consume gluten for medical reasons or simple dietary preferences.

No less than the Vatican itself last year issued a reminder that Catholic communion bread must contain gluten -- "Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist", a note said -- but Protestant churches have offered gluten-free substitutes.

Some also offer simple grape juice instead of wine, for those who prefer not to drink alcohol.


On more substantive areas, though, Pope Francis has moved to modernise the Catholic church's stance on some social issues.

"We have to realise that, in order to stand by your side, we need to change many situations that, in the end, put you off," the Pope said this week, in making the case for the church to reform in the wake of ongoing sex abuse scandals.

Francis also softened the church's stance on exclusion of the LGBT community.

However, the Pope has also stuck true to the church's opposition to abortion and other conservative issues.