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Bishop’s Sunday “selfie” posts aim to challenge popular image of empty churches

Posted on: October 17, 2019 1:28 PM
'Selfie Sunday'
Photo Credit: John Roundhill / Facebook

[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] Australian Bishop John Roundhill hopes to reshape the way people see churches through his Sunday “selfie” posts on social media. The bishop, who took up his role as Bishop of the Southern Region of the Anglican Church in Southern Queensland last year, has written about his popular posts and the thinking behind them.

“Sunday by Sunday, I hope I am helping to reimage the way people see our churches,” he said.

Using the hashtag #SundaySelfie, the bishop has been putting up regular images of himself with different congregations he visits each Sunday.

He wrote: “the other day I had the unexpected experience of someone asking me to get my phone out after a Sunday service so she could have a ‘selfie’ with the ‘selfie Bishop’! I was happy to oblige, but it rather begs the question, ‘why?’

“I have been posting a Facebook #sundayselfie at weekend church services since earlier this year.”

The idea of the #SundaySelfie came from another Anglican bishop from Northern Indiana who he met at a conference in Canterbury.

He said: “at the conference, Bishop Douglas Sparks told me how he was particularly using YouTube to communicate with his diocese. Returning to Australia I thought I would have a go at doing a selfie photo on Sundays at the end of each service and then posting these on Facebook with the hashtag #SundaySelfie.”

Bishop John said many church photos online were images of empty churches, which didn’t reflect the many churches where people are engaged and actively involved in worship.

He said: “the notion that churches are empty buildings is a deep misrepresentation of what is happening in day-to-day lived reality. . . I choose the selfie as a way of capturing a less formal and often more joyful photograph of our congregations, while also engaging young people in way that is common for them.

“Sunday by Sunday, I hope I am helping to reimage the way people see our churches.”

Along with changing perceptions about churches, the bishop said he also wanted to do something unexpected at Sunday services, that would break the formal view some people have about bishops.

He wrote: “that element of surprise has gone now, as I think most folk in the Southern Region now expect their bishop to come along with his selfie stick. In fact, If I forget to bring my phone to church, a parishioner will generally lend me one, so the church does not miss its #SundaySelfie opportunity.”

John Roundhill was ordained a deacon in 1993 and a priest in 1994 and has experience in parish, school and international ministry, having worked in a parish in England, as a school chaplain in Scotland, and as Sub-Dean of St John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong.

After starting out in parish ministry in Brisbane, he served as an archdeacon before becoming Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in the regional Diocese of Bendigo until he became a bishop in 2018.


Please note: This article was updated on 29 October 2019