Burnley Bishop's Israel 'Virtual Pilgrimage' shortlisted for PR award

The Bishop of Burnley's 'Virtual Pilgrimage' around Israel, which was filmed last November and since viewed more than 10,000 times, has been shortlisted for a North West PRide award for best 'Not For Profit Campaign'.
Bishop of Burnley, Philip North, on the pilgrimage.Bishop of Burnley, Philip North, on the pilgrimage.
Bishop of Burnley, Philip North, on the pilgrimage.

The Rt Rev. Philip North's daily vlogs were made on location in Israel across the 10-day pilgrimage, in which 40 people from parishes across Lancashire took part, with the digitally-led campaign by The Church of England's Blackburn Diocese up for an award at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)'s North West PRide Awards.

The vlogs - conceived and coordinated by Ronnie Semley, Diocesan Communications Manager - are available on the Diocesan YouTube channel and on the Diocesan website and have been shortlisted alongside campaigns by big-name PR agencies such as Weber Shandwick, with the CIPR PRide Awards covering the cream of the crop in the UK's world of PR.

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"It was terrific to find a way of including so many others in the amazing experience of pilgrimage to the Holy Land," said Bishop Philip of the VR pilgrimage. "The pressures of a pilgrimage timetable meant we had to think quickly and there was no real time to plan or prepare the vlogs – it was literally point, film, and run.

Rev. Alice Whalley filming one of the vlogs.Rev. Alice Whalley filming one of the vlogs.
Rev. Alice Whalley filming one of the vlogs.

"That spontaneity brings a sense of authenticity to the vlogs and I suspect it is part of what has made them so popular," he added. “I am amazed by the reach of the project and the impact the videos have had, given the simplicity of the initial concept; and especially pleased at the way they have been picked up by schools. It is amazing what a bit of raw imagination can do!”

From the Sea of Galilee to an ancient water tunnel deep under Jerusalem, the vlogs were around two minutes each and were filmed by Rev. Alice Whalley, one of the pilgrims, as well as featuring interviews with some of the pilgrims and, on one occasion, The Dean of St George's Cathedral in Jerusalem, The Very Rev. Hosam Naoum.

"I am delighted 'Virtual Pilgrimage' has been shortlisted for this award by the CIPR in this, its 70th anniversary year," said Ronnie. "This was a hugely enjoyable campaign which had God at its heart, as we had limited resources (and limited wifi!) but it all came together so well.

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"Watched together, the vlogs give you a tangible sense of what being on a pilgrimage would be like," he added, with the content having been viewed in parished and schools as part of RE lessons in East Lancashire. “The impact of the vlogs has also stretched far beyond the initial period of the pilgrimage in so many different ways and this has only added to the sense of excitement about the success of the project.”

Rev. Alice added: “This was a great initiative to be involved in and the vlogs also provide a fantastic resource for parishes as well as schools,” while her sentiments were echoed by Adrian Harris, Church of England Head of Digital based at Church House in Westminster, who said: "This shows how digital communications can be used to bring the Christian faith to life.

“It also demonstrates the opportunity to take user-generated content and make it available across a range of mediums to further increase engagement and reach," he added. “Congratulations to colleagues in Blackburn Diocese on this achievement!"