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PlusGrace, a social network

for praying


Jamie Coughlin believes in the power of prayer. So much so that he's built a website called PlusGrace that lets people pledge to pray for others online or donate money electronically to those requesting prayers. The website gets a small slice of the collection plate.


"A lot of people say, man, there's so much negativity in the news, and I can't do anything about it," he says. "Well, you know the one thing you can do to be proactive and affect the outcome? Pray."


The for-profit business, designed and built by the 32-year-old Coughlin and his younger brother, was incorporated last November on All Souls Day and opened to the public in mid-January. It has a clean, user-friendly design and facilitates two types of faith-based campaigns: People can either ask others to pledge prayers only, or they can ask for prayers and cash. The campaigns are then featured under category headings such as "Recent" and "Random." Slogans such as "Social for the Soul" and "Pray It Forward" flash on the home page, which also features popular users and latest tweets.


To post a campaign, users simply create an account, upload a few photos, and provide a title and a short description of the cause they believe merits spiritual or monetary support. Requests for prayer and donations can be made anonymously, and, though the Coughlins are Catholic, PlusGrace is open to all faiths. Early adaptors include a New Hampshire food bank and a spiritual boot camp in Tennessee.


Pledging prayers is free, but PlusGrace charges a 2-5 % transaction fee on monetary donations. "Think of it as a Kickstarter for faith," explains Coughlin, who says the lower rate is for institutions that want to use PlusGrace in place of weekly collections or tithing. Those types of cases, he says, "obviously warrant lower transaction fees, because probably the dollars flowing through that will be higher."


Coughlin, a Princeton graduate who currently runs a New Hampshire startup incubator, says transaction fees are what makes PlusGrace possible, but he emphasises that prayer is the major focus. "The goal [is] to build the world's biggest online prayer network," he says. In many cases, he says, people "don't have dollars to contribute, and we're basically saying to the world, look, your prayers are just as important. If you don't have a dollar, you can still affect the outcome by praying. That's powerful."


Coughlin has also reached out to the Vatican to let them know about PlusGrace. It is even hosting a campaign to pray for Pope Benedict and to pray that the Church's Cardinals elect "a natural communicator, a charismatic leader and someone who can evangelise the Catholic faith throughout the world." So far, that campaign has received seven online prayers.

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