Worlds first virtual church to be launched - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
April 13, 2004

Worlds first virtual church to be launched

-13/4/04

The world's first virtual church is due to be launched next month as part of a scheme to reach people who would not normally step inside an actual church building.

The rafters, pulpit, altar and pews will look real enough in a cartoon-ish way and the preacher and members of the congregation will actually be real, connecting via the web to each other to take part in real services.

The church, to be known as the Church of Fools, is being created for the Christian website Ship of Fools, which last year ran a virtual reality gameshow based on Noah's Ark.

The 3D online church service will take place on the opening day of the 20th National Christian Resources Exhibition on Tue 11 May.

"While some websites help people meditate and pray, no-one has built an interactive 3D church environment before - complete with gothic arches and hard wooden pews," explained Simon Jenkins, editor of shipoffools.com.

From a remote location, a real-life priest will log on and appear on screen as a cartoon character. Using a keyboard and connected via the internet, he or she will move around the church, welcome the congregation, lead the service from a lectern, introduce hymns, then preach from a pulpit to people sitting in rows of pew.

"In different parts of the world, the congregation, too, will log on and become cartoon characters - and see each other on-screen," said Jenkins. "Theyíll choose a pew to sit in, introduce themselves to other worshippers through speech bubbles, ìsingî a hymn, listen to the sermon, chat to each other afterwards, perhaps pray together. Theyíll even be invited to put something in the collection plate - via SMS on mobile phones!"

Hundreds of invisible ëlurkersí will be able to watch the service as well - and participate in a chat room discussion afterwards.

The idea came out of the web magazineís successful internet game show, The Ark during which 12 Bible heroes and villains were successively voted off Noahís famous floating zoo - Big Brother-style. More sailings are planned.

The church is being constructed by London-based Specialmoves who create cutting-edge interactive sites for the likes of Vivendi Universal and MTV.

"When Future Church was chosen as the main focus for this year's National Christian Resources Exhibition we considered it an ideal place to unveil this pilot project," said Steve Goddard, co-editor of shipoffools.com. "It picks up the challenge of Archbishop Rowan Williamsí ìmission-shapedî initiative - to create new church expressions for Generation X-Box."

Now established as one of the most popular religious sites on the web, shipoffools.com, the self-styled magazine of Christian unrest, attracts more than two million page requests each month from more than 80,000 people. It recently concluded a hugely-successful campaign with the Methodist Church encouraging 20 and 30-year-olds to offer suggestions for an 11th Commandment.

The online church will run as a pilot from May to July 2004.

"The full costs of creating the environment have still to be met," said Steve Goddard. "So the projectís future depends on finding enthusiastic sponsors. Long term, we hope to work with the established church in creating a structure that reflects the type of person attracted to the environment."

Worlds first virtual church to be launched

-13/4/04

The world's first virtual church is due to be launched next month as part of a scheme to reach people who would not normally step inside an actual church building.

The rafters, pulpit, altar and pews will look real enough in a cartoon-ish way and the preacher and members of the congregation will actually be real, connecting via the web to each other to take part in real services.

The church, to be known as the Church of Fools, is being created for the Christian website Ship of Fools, which last year ran a virtual reality gameshow based on Noah's Ark.

The 3D online church service will take place on the opening day of the 20th National Christian Resources Exhibition on Tue 11 May.

"While some websites help people meditate and pray, no-one has built an interactive 3D church environment before - complete with gothic arches and hard wooden pews," explained Simon Jenkins, editor of shipoffools.com.

From a remote location, a real-life priest will log on and appear on screen as a cartoon character. Using a keyboard and connected via the internet, he or she will move around the church, welcome the congregation, lead the service from a lectern, introduce hymns, then preach from a pulpit to people sitting in rows of pew.

"In different parts of the world, the congregation, too, will log on and become cartoon characters - and see each other on-screen," said Jenkins. "Theyíll choose a pew to sit in, introduce themselves to other worshippers through speech bubbles, ìsingî a hymn, listen to the sermon, chat to each other afterwards, perhaps pray together. Theyíll even be invited to put something in the collection plate - via SMS on mobile phones!"

Hundreds of invisible ëlurkersí will be able to watch the service as well - and participate in a chat room discussion afterwards.

The idea came out of the web magazineís successful internet game show, The Ark during which 12 Bible heroes and villains were successively voted off Noahís famous floating zoo - Big Brother-style. More sailings are planned.

The church is being constructed by London-based Specialmoves who create cutting-edge interactive sites for the likes of Vivendi Universal and MTV.

"When Future Church was chosen as the main focus for this year's National Christian Resources Exhibition we considered it an ideal place to unveil this pilot project," said Steve Goddard, co-editor of shipoffools.com. "It picks up the challenge of Archbishop Rowan Williamsí ìmission-shapedî initiative - to create new church expressions for Generation X-Box."

Now established as one of the most popular religious sites on the web, shipoffools.com, the self-styled magazine of Christian unrest, attracts more than two million page requests each month from more than 80,000 people. It recently concluded a hugely-successful campaign with the Methodist Church encouraging 20 and 30-year-olds to offer suggestions for an 11th Commandment.

The online church will run as a pilot from May to July 2004.

"The full costs of creating the environment have still to be met," said Steve Goddard. "So the projectís future depends on finding enthusiastic sponsors. Long term, we hope to work with the established church in creating a structure that reflects the type of person attracted to the environment."

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