Find the best faith-based apps for smartphones and tablets
The telltale white light glows from a few cellphone screens down the pew. But don't assume your fellow congregants are texting friends or answering email. They just might be recording prayer requests or reading Scripture on their favorite faith-based apps for smartphones and tablets.
At certain tech-savvy houses of worship, leaders are embracing a modern reality: These devices can keep their flocks more connected than ever — to one another and to their faiths. Some even encourage congregants to follow along with Scripture readings and song lyrics on electronic devices during services.
Maybe not. Today's faith-based apps infuse ancient texts, prayers and music into modern technology to make them accessible wherever the faithful travel — to work, the school car rider line, the grocery store, a friend's house, you name it.
The options seem endless. Bookmark Scripture, follow religion news, read faith blogs, keep tabs on your penance, study verses, stream live sermons, time meditations, repent of your sins, keep in touch with spiritual friends and listen to Hindu, Jewish, Islamic or Christian music. And much more.
So many apps abound that The Post and Courier asked local folks from different faith backgrounds to recommend some favorites (most are free or close to it):
Chris Rollins, pastor, Coastal Community Church
Hands down, without question, YouVersion. I recommend it ALL the time. Best app for Bible reading, daily reading plans, devotionals, etc. Anyone with a smartphone or a computer should use it!
The Rev. Ernest Smith, pastor of family ministry, Seacoast Church
Parent Cue: This is an app that focuses on teaching biblical values to your kids. It gives you specific questions, stories, songs, etc., about specific core biblical values that we would want our kids to learn — values like love, honesty, joy and forgiveness.
ARC: This app helps me to find ARC (Association of Related Churches) churches. This app is great for finding a great church when I am traveling.
iTunesU: You can get a lot of sermons and messages from various Christian theologians, authors, etc. It is not a faith-based app but is one that you can use for faith.
Robin Shuler, youth adviser and song leader, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim
Jewish Rock Radio: Great listening, and they have a special Shabbat Block on Friday afternoons.
PocketTorah: An amazing free app with the entire Torah in Hebrew. Searchable and with Trope!
iParasha: Great app to find the Torah portion by name or date with English, Hebrew and Haftarah.
For the iPad:iT'fillah, the electronic version of the Reform Movements Siddur (prayer book). It's still developing, but even as is, it's a great resource.
Ringtone:Ahh The Shofar. During the Hebrew month of Elul, preceding Rosh Hashana and the High Holy days, we're told to listen to the sound of the Shofar every day. This ringtone allows you to use it as an alarm (a metaphorical purpose of the actual Shofar) to wake up to every day.
Valerie Soop, associate director of young adult ministry, Catholic Diocese of Charleston
Word on Fire: This is one of my favorite faith apps because of the quality of the content: information-packed video commentaries on current events, movies and more, plus thought-provoking blog articles and engaging sermons.
iBreviary:I use this app almost every day. If you want to pray the liturgy of the hours (the universal prayer of the Catholic Church prayed by all priests, monks and nuns, centered on the Psalms), this app makes it easy to follow along. It also has the daily Mass readings as well as a plethora of Catholic prayers.
iPieta: This app is a true gem and such a steal! For $2.99, you get the Bible, the complete Catechism of the Catholic Church, Thomas Aquinas' “Summa Theologica,” St. Augustine's complete works, complete documents from the Ecumenical Church Councils, writings of the early church fathers, complete papal encyclicals, spiritual works and much more.
The Rev. Jeremy Rutledge, senior pastor, Circular Congregational Church
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: One of my very favorites. You can enter “philosophy of religion” or “religious experience” or “feminist metaphysics” or “religion and science” and get very detailed and wonderful articles with key figures, themes, debates and so on (for the iPhone and iPod touch).
WordPress: This is a blogging app, but I use it to keep up with friends and colleagues who blog from their churches, divinity schools and other ministerial contexts around the country. The blogosphere has such a vibrant religious discussion, often far better than what is found in conventional media outlets.
Zazen Meditation Timer: There are various apps to use for timed meditation. Since I have been part of Buddhist-Christian dialogue, I prefer the Zen apps. It is also possible to simply use the timer or alarm on most smartphones. You can set it to go off after a 15- or 30-minute meditation.
The Huffington Post: This is one of the few media outlets that retains a religion section and publishes thoughtful pieces from scholars, clergy, laypeople and activists.
David McClelland, board member, Charleston Tibetan Society
Zazen Suite: This is a timer for meditation and also works as a mindfulness bell, ringing at preset intervals to remind the user to come back to the present moment. It is very simple to use.
I also use iDharma, Buddha Word and Access to Insight, all of which are various collections of the Buddha's teachings. I really enjoy the convenience of having sutras accessible at any time.
The Rev. Russ Miller, lead pastor, James Island Christian Church
The Gospel Coalition app: For those who are fans of the website, this app is a great tool to read a few of the latest blogs. The pieces are always thought-provoking and well-written. I use it all the time when I have a quick three or four minutes to read.
Pratik Yashvant Chhatbar, executive committee member, Sanatan Temple and Cultural Center of S.C.
Hindu Calendar: This app shows the lunar calendar and important festivals and can be customized based on beliefs about when the month starts (full moon or new moon).
eChoghadiya and Ace Auspicious Time: Day and night are divided into eight exact segments and are classified as good/neutral/bad based on the day of the week, day/night and segment number. It is believed that one should start good activity in a good (or at least neutral) choghadiyu (singular of choghadiya), as it brings luck and happiness.
Japa Mala (iMala, comes in many apps): The significance of muttering God's name or shlokas/verses while counting on beads of rosary is common across many religions and cultures, and Hinduism is no different.
Hindu Spiritual Radio: Offers many devotional songs.
Bhagavad Gita: (Comes in many apps and variants) This is the “bible” of Hindu faith, sung by Lord Krishna, eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, right before the start of Kali Yuga.
Ramayana: (This also comes in many apps.) An ancient epic poem that tells the trajectory (Ayana) of Lord Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It shares pearls of day-to-day life morals and is commonly offered to newly married girls because “Ramayana” describes Goddess Sita, wife of Lord Rama, who Hindus worship as an ideal wife.
Panchtantra: A collection of animal stories with deep messages and perfect for young kids fond of listening to or reading stores with wonderful lessons that are helpful for life. Almost every Hindu grows up reading or listening to these stories.
Andy Whitfield, youth group social media coordinator, the Church of the Holy Cross
Bible App: This is what I use to pull up different versions of the Bible on the go. I can quickly copy and paste verses into emails or blog posts I may be writing. The other two great features I love about this app are that you can download the specific version you would like to use so you can access it without Internet access as well as the reading plan it offers. Great app for people trying to dive deeper. It even will remind you daily to read the chapters on the plan that you pick out.
My Utmost for His Highest: This is an ebook I keep on my phone that acts like an app. Oswald Chambers was a fantastic writer, and I think this is a great app to be able to pull up daily reflections from his book. Many times I have been able to email these to friends on a daily basis to help encourage them.
John Pharis, pastor, City Church of Charleston
I really like the Blue Letter Bible app. I find it has an amazing amount of Bible content, including a concordance, commentaries and, of course, almost any version of the Bible you prefer.
Josh Ray, family minister, Seacoast Church
I like an app called Pray that allows you to organize prayer requests and such. It's also pretty easy to use.
Matt Stier, member, James Island Christian Church
With the YouVersion Bible app, you can download many different translations to see how they differ and choose to have them available when you are offline or online. Another cool feature is the Bible reading plans. You can sign up to, say, read the entire Bible in chronological order, by topic or even for a daily or weekly devotional. If you happen to miss a day, it will pop up a reminder for you next time you open the app. It is quite handy.
Jonny Sharp, administrative assistant, Seacoast Church, Mount Pleasant campus
Elevation Church and Mars Hill Church both have apps that provide their sermon videos and audios.
I also have the Crossway ESV Bible app. It's more specific than YouVersion, but it's good to get in quickly because it loads a lot faster than YouVersion since it's ... one version.
Reach Jennifer Berry Hawes at 937-5563.