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WEST GROVE -- At the West Grove Presbyterian Church, it’s not your dad’s ordinary Sunday service. The church has moved into the digital age, led by its pastor, Charlie Gross, who is Internet-savvy and is making the most of what his computer has to offer.
Most recently he has formed an alliance with the organizer of an evangelical internet site in Austria called Trans World Radio that is accessible throughout the world. That man, Bernhard Schraut is married to a missionary who formerly lived in West Grove, and therein lies the connection to the West Grove Church.
On Jan. 6, Gross hooked up a Skype connection on a screen in his church so the whole congregation could see and hear Schraut, who issued a greeting to them and wished them well. In the future, Gross said, there will be an interactive session between Schraut and the members of the church, talking about general religious issues in the world.
This kind of communication would not have been possible a decade or so ago, but through advances in technology, the nature of even church services will change. Gross said he believes when the speaker can see the listeners, he or she responds to them and can act differently.
When asked what Schraut has to offer the congregation of West Grove Presbyterian, Gross said the Austrian native is not a clergyman and does not give sermons, although he is a supporter of the Christian message. Rather, he is more of an informant about what is going on with evangelical causes internationally.
Gross, however, is passionately fascinated with the possibilities of digital communication, and his involvement with his computer and his vocation goes beyond communicating with Schraut.
For one thing, Gross has taken on a project of contacting widely known and respected theologians, contacted them and recorded interviews with them. He has them made them available for the world to hear on the iTunes website.
He also has his own little program of theological wisdom which he produced with an opening theme of polka music. People who access his site can hear his advice on a variety of topics, to which he adds his own biblical perspective.
Gross, who has also written books on religion, said he is in the process of establishing a relationship with a group in Japan that is interested in planting church is secular cultures. “We can learn much form them. Why not have them do a video. I can use that as a teaching tool,” he said.
Gross is a member of the clergy of the Presbyterian Church USA, the more liberal wing of the Presbyterian Church. His church serves about 120 people and is growing, he said.
Those who want to hear his pod casts can go to iTunes and type in Charlie Gross in the search engine.