When a twitter account turns into a ministry – reflections on an interview with @unvirtuousabbey

I’ve been a long time fan of comedy twitter feed @unvirtuousabbey. Yesterday an interview was broadcast with the founder of the twitter account who (slightly to my disappointment) turns out to be not a monk but Rev Aaron C Billard, a pastor in the United Church of Canada.


I was struck, when listening, by what Rev Aaron said that although the account is there largely to make self-deprecating fun of church ‘first world problems’ it has also created both community and a safe place for people who are really seeking God. Here is an extract from the radio interview:

Interviewer: Aaron created Unvirtuous Abbey as a way of letting off steam, as a venue for the funny thoughts that often pop into his head between meetings and hospital visits. What’s grown around it, is a very real community of people who interact with the ‘monks’ and with each other. Sometimes some of those people  believe these monks are real. Aaron started finding messages from people with real problems: people dying of disease, people in bad relationships. They were reaching out to the ‘monks’ for prayer.

Rev Aaron: Those are the private messages you get that are so devastatingly heartbreaking that you want to say ‘wait, this is about humour and being funny, and then you realise that it’s become more than just a twitter account: it’s become something for people and so a friend challenged me when I said ‘it’s just a twitter account’ and they said ‘no, it’s actually a ministry now’ and when that happened to me I started taking it a little more seriously because you’re dealing with people’s emotions and faith and feelings and it’s not funny when you poke fun at those things (which I don’t do) but now I’m conscious to never do and so when people message you with their serious prayer requests – not the funny ones or the political ones but the ones that are closest to their heart I always write back and say ‘of course we’ll pray for you tonight’.

I’ve often found that things that I have started (such as my blog) for my own personal reasons have ended up being used by God for things I never thought they would. What here started as a bit of fun for a pastor to let off some steam online has gone on to bring laughter and hope to many. It reminds me of Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God – what starts off as something small and insignificant like a mustard seed can grow into something that becomes a place for everyone to roost.

How is God using what you post online to reach others? Have you seen this phenomenon at play?

You can listen to the full interview here:

About Bryony Taylor

Enthusiast for learning, technology, Christian faith and life! Ordinand in the Church of England - training at Cranmer Hall, Durham.