Now, when I hear about an “online church,” I immediately assume it’s something of the Landover Baptist (“Where the worthwhile worship. Unsaved unwelcome.”) ilk, a hilarious parody of some Christian churches. But the Church of Fools appears to be different. In its own words:
“Welcome to Church of Fools, the UK’s first web-based, 3D church, which opened as a three-month experiment on May 11th. Church of Fools is an attempt to create holy ground on the net, where people can worship, pray and talk about faith.”
Is this just a 3D-ified (haha) message board or chat network? or is this something else? And if this really starts getting serious, is it a good thing? Is the virtual gathering of believers enough, or does gathering need to be physical? Isn’t it weird how we face these kinds of questions now in the twenty-first century, questions that would have been totally unthinkable at the end of the first?
The article, as you may have guessed, is not just about the church’s existence, but also the problems it has had with people disrupting with blasphemous outbursts and such. As the intro to the site says, “Church of Fools is currently not suitable for children.”
It seems to me to be, at this stage, primarily a vehicle for reaching people who just wouldn’t normally be inclined to visit a church. For that, it has my support. It’s funny, there has been talk about how a lot of people are becoming anti-social because of the internet, but our innate desire for connectedness continues to manifest itself in electronic forms, especially at this point, I think, among my generation, the first to really “grow up” with the internet, as it begins to age and realize that computer games, surfing the web, email, and porn aren’t everything, that there’s something more that we may be missing.
There are a lot of people my age (I know several myself) who do not see the need for church, people who believe in God and even call themselves Christian, content to try to fill their innate communal needs via their computers and the internet. The internet has indeed proven to be a very robust venue for “connecting”; it now even has “churches.” A virtual church, I think, could actually be a great way to reach these kinds of people, but is it a tool, or is it a goal? Is an electronic church (let’s imagine that it’s legit: liturgies, prayers, sermons, etc.) a tool that we can use to bring people into the Church, or is it an end itself? I guess what I’m asking is, is an electronic church a church? Is it an assembly of the faithful? I would say in some sense that it is, but does that work?
Interesting things to think about.
It’s put on by Ship of Fools, a Christian online magazine, which, according to the BBC, “takes a light-hearted approach to religion.”
Sponsored by the Methodist Church.