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Bridging the Gap Between Faith and Technology

December 11, 2018

By: Dennis Ensing

Despite the season's first significant snowfall and very difficult driving conditions, about 100 people gathered on a wintery Thursday evening to hear from James Kelly, founder of FaithTech. His talk "Bridging the Gap Between Faith and Technology" was held at Voices.com, one of London's companies on this year's Deloitte Canadian Technology Fast 50 list. Deloitte also listed the London-based companies Diply and Arcane Digital and SWO Angels' investee Race Roster.

 The event was hosted by the Christian Churches Network of London (CCNL). 

 FaithTech is a growing movement of Christians interested in all things faith and technology. Founded in nearby Waterloo, Canada, they now also have chapters in Toronto, Vancouver, Chicago, and Silicon Valley.

 Their vision is to become a global hub for FaithTech conversations, integrations, and innovations. James described an early event to illustrate what this means. One of their first initiatives was a suicide prevention hackathon. Their goal was to provide a solution for the 8,000 people who search Google every month asking “how to kill themselves”. The winner built a website, which at the time had just three words on it - "You're not alone." howtokillyourself.org/ has since evolved to include resources and contact information for local facilities that can help with mental illness.

 His story about this web site however went a big step further. One of the developers working on the project was out for a coffee with a friend one day, describing some of the design elements of the project she was working on, without naming it. Her friend was immediately very deeply moved and asked whether it was howtokillyourself.org. She answered yes, and asked how she could have guessed. Her friend tearfully explained that only the night before she had landed there after searching for ways to end her life.

 FaithTech accepts that technology has inalterably changed our culture. They also realize shifting society may cause people to wonder about their place in the church and how to exercise their faith in this modern world; especially when many of those in the church, including pastors, seem so hesitant to embrace the change. James believes "we must stop thinking about what is not good [with change from technology] and instead recognize the enormous opportunity we have to impact the world."

 Those in attendance were from all walks of life, but many were highly motivated change agents from the tech and faith communities. Joining me from the business community were SWO Angels member Rodney Lover and Stephanie Ciccarelli (Voices.com), Kim Chesney (Prime Management), Wayne Lem (Trojan Technologies) and Paul Gowan.

 Like myself and those who joined me, I believe many of James' themes would resonate with SWO Angel’s members, who invest in early stage ventures not just for attractive financial returns. They enjoy participating with founders to see disruptive innovation make a real difference in society and help solve big problems. Their portfolios include investments in health-tech companies such as Sensory Technologies, TopSpin Technologies, Arbutus Medical, Triage Technologies, and VanRX (#1 on this year's Deloitte Canadian Technology Fast 50 list). Social impact is also a theme with Textbooks for Change and Innovation Works. Renix Technologies is transforming how resources are captured, separated and purified, a scientific innovation that will directly address resource shortages and reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing.

 James implored us to rid ourselves of any barriers that may prevent us from working together to ask what problem can we solve creatively with the right people. I sense many more conversations to come!