UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Moncton minister's Twitter following grows to 30,000

By Rhonda Herrington Bulmer

For social media enthusiast Rev. Aaron Billard, the religious content he read online was always either too liturgical or too evangelical.

“The only prayers I ever saw going up on Twitter were people posting things from their prayer book,” Billard says. “‘Have mercy on us this night as we go to our slumbers’ and whatnot. I thought, ‘I just wish my kids would go to bed!’”

This United Church minister from Moncton, N.B., preferred something simpler. “‘Lord, for those children who would rather watch Caillou than go to sleep, we pray’ — that’s the kind of prayer that I could honestly offer up.”

So in 2010, Billard created Unvirtuous Abbey, the Twitter account of a fictional group of monks who are more approachable than pious as they tweet about first-world problems. But what began as an in-joke for his friends has attracted more than 30,000 followers in North America, England, Scotland and Ireland and has received international media attention. (As a comparison, The United Church of Canada and The Observer have about 4,000 followers each.)

Most of the time, this husband and father of two writes posts that serve as mini-bursts of stress relief in the bustle of daily life. But they can also be heartwarming. Billard once used a picture of someone dressed up as a Star Wars stormtrooper, visiting a children’s hospital. “For Storm Troopers who hold hands with little kids on their way for cancer treatments, we give thanks,” he tweeted. That post was retweeted over 3,400 times.

Sometimes, the monks also provide commentary on topics of social justice. “Lord, you who told Lazarus to ‘Come out!’, we pray for Christians who say it’s wrong to do that.”

Billard believes Unvirtuous Abbey has tapped into a much-ignored group: those on the fringes of church, along with atheists and secularists. He stresses that if church people want to be part of those communities, they have to connect with them in their own space.

“People are fed [at Unvirtuous Abbey]. They find something of value — something intelligent and faithful. You don’t have to check your brain at the door.”




Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

A perfect send-off

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: My Year of Living Spiritually

by Observer Staff

Anne Bokma left the Dutch Reformed Church as a young adult and eventually became a member of the United Church and then the Unitarian Universalists. Having long explored the "spiritual but not religious" demographic as a writer, she decided to immerse herself in practices — like hiring a soul coach, secular choir-singing and forest bathing — for 12 months to find both enlightenment and entertainment.

Promotional Image

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

November 2017

Grey matter

by Trisha Elliott

Is consciousness just a function of the brain — or something more?

Promotional Image