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internet church

The Anglican Diocese of Waiapu in New Zealand may be one of the most recent to join the trend of exploring online church. OMGod Church has a webpage, a facebook page (267 people), and a youtube channel. Bishop David Rice, Bishop of Waiapu, officially opened OMGod Church on 29 July 2010. Since then there have been 18 reflections. That’s a reflection about every 4-5 days. I’m not quite convinced by its claim that it is the “first social networking cyber church in the entire Anglican Communion”. Others may wish to make this claim or suggest other cyber churches in the comments. Certainly the Anglican Church in Second Life springs to mind. This was presented at the Lambeth Conference in 2008. And I have been discussing here the possibility of cyber sacraments, and encouraging churches to go online more. OMGod so far appears to be limited to “reflections” – an important discussion is: what are all the elements needed in a church, and how much of that can be provided and/or complementary online.

wtfFacebook’s Bible page, created by now-in-Australia, ordained-in-New Zealand, Mark Brown, has over 5 million members. The associated intercession page has over 200,000 members. Mark Brown’s page has 22,433 people (the normal friends page has a limit of 5,000, so he is using a public page) – is that the highest for anyone in the Anglican Communion? Marks youtube videos can get 50,000 or so views. My own online chapel here has readings, reflections, the daily office, and a place to light candles. It is used by thousands. The Liturgy twitter has about 80,000 followers. We have to move with the times. I am not sure what OMGod Church intends with its title. I know that a church in Albuquerque, NM launched their college ministry (church on a college campus for college students) with the WTF banner shown (worship; teaching; friends). It was the talk of the campus. Some assume that the church is always out of touch. There were tweets of “this is what happens when churches don’t stay up on current trends.” In fact that church is very much up with the times, and its WTF went viral. This college ministry is apparently strong, vibrant, relevant, and other students continue to refer to it. For some, of course, this church went a step too far. Their url is wakeWTF.com, their Twitter handle is @WTFisWake and their Facebook page is Facebook.com/WTFisWake.

I congratulate Waiapu Diocese with starting OMGod Church. This is tempered by the thought that every diocese should have a vibrant online presence. In fact every parish, church, and ministry unit should have such a presence. WordPress, facebook, youtube, and other such platforms, make such a presence exceptionally easy to start and to maintain.

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12 thoughts on “internet church”

  1. Another in the Second Life virtual reality world is St. Matthew’s by the Sea, a beautiful and modest-sized Episcopal Chapel (Belvedere, 82, 212, 26). Compline is held each evening at 8 PM SL time, which is western time US. As other virtual reality grids become popular (and populated), it is likely that people will shape imaginary spaces which are less reproductions or similes of “real” buildings, and more depictions or externalizations of theologies and devotional “affects” (in the sense of emotions).

  2. Hi Bosco,
    Just to clarify, OMGod (to the best of our knowledge) us the first Anglican Church based entirely on social networking sites (as opposed to simply online). The OMG website is just a portal to Facebook, Twitter & YouTube.
    I still have lots of questions about online church, beginning with ‘what is a church?’, but as a tool for making connections this is where we’re at.

    1. Thanks for comments made. Already some areas for discussion:
      The OMG website appears to be more than a portal, as you can leave comments on that website.
      Furthermore, in what sense is YouTube a social networking site but SL is not?
      Also, Brian’s question is very significant – IMO there is a head-focused tendency in our Western (protestant?) Christianity that sees church as primarily getting (the right) information into our heads. How can we make internet church more than merely reinforcing that (mis)understanding?
      Also, when we talk of “making connections” – do we mean to the real world, or remaining solely in the virtual world?
      Meredith, the virtual abbey is certainly a church internet success story! The internet is ideal for many to pray the office – excepting time-zone issues 😉

  3. Greetings, friend…writing in with info that you probably already know but your readers might not:

    While not a church, The Virtual Abbey (http://www.twitter.com/virtual_abbey)is a community that prays Morning and Night prayer from the Daily Office each day. We pray Vespers on Tuesdays and generally on Sundays. We pray Midday prayer on Wednesdays and Fridays. Our leadership team has about 10 active people on it (not quite a minyan!) and a core team of 8 tweet prayer.

    Currently, we have 2443 people following us and people discover us every day. We follow 951 people who have, at one point (and often much more regularly) prayed with us via the Twitter stream. I, personally, have heard from followers who do not RT prayer in the public stream because of any number of personal and professional reasons. Recently, someone put up a tweet saying that don’t follow @Virtual_Abbey because everyone else in his stream does and he gets the prayers that way.

    I’m also collecting notes from people who send DMs letting us know how much our presence on community means to them.

    We have a presence on Facebook but it’s less developed because Twitter works better for prayer. With more time/resources we could build a FB following. We’re also exploring the feasibility of migrating our blog (http://thevirtualabbey.blogspot.com) to WordPress so we have more functionality (i.e., tabs).

    All this is to say, we’re a vibrant and growing community that exists solely in the virtual world, although at the point, members are starting to meet one another IRL.

    It’s pretty darn exciting!

  4. I took my project from Lindon to Osgrid, virtual world.
    I create visualised bible passages using 3D objects. I am very small fry but out there. Like a toe-nail clipping of the Body of Christ.
    I had two definite messages when I asked God for direction… ‘No ego, My Word’ If ever I deflect from this give me a kick please

  5. Thanks for this Bosco, your comments and reflections are always appreciated.

    I applaud the Waiapu intiative, certainly the more the merrier! But as you point out they are far from the first. As an Anglican Priest I have been involved in ministry within the social network sphere for more than 4 years. Second Life is a social network platform and the Anglican Cathedral of Second Life has been offering services for three years and is still going strong.

    Key to any engagement with social networking is not about chasing a fad, but about being church to the zeitgeist. The church needs to change, not to jettison all that we love and value (the three legs upon which the Anglican Church sits) but to translate them for the contemporary reality.

    And for the record, Bosco you do this superbly.

    God bless,

    Rev Mark

  6. i-Church and St Pixels have been online considerably longer than OMGod Church, i-church being party of the Anglican Diocese of Oxford in the Uk.

  7. An online church based purely on activities on social networking sites sounds interesting but I think you’ve already discovered the downside – which is the same as for churches who meet in rented premises.

    Social networking has to be a big part of the outreach strategy for any online church, but numbers on their own are really no indication of influence since networks are not hierarchical in structure.

    Research on social networking tends to show that the stronger the ‘nodes’ or ‘hubs’ in the network, the stronger we all become. So getting big numbers on one site or page tends to benefit all the other sites that are networked to them.

    However, let’s be honest, a lot of the members of any online group are ‘virtual’ in that once you join something online you may never visit it again.

    In the other direction, if we are truly missional then we may never know who has benefited from or responded to our work since their response may not be indicated by friending, following or liking us!

    1. Wonderful to have you visit and comment here, Pam (for others here, Pam is priest in charge of i-church, which has already been noted has been around for a while :-)) I certainly think of we-who-are-online working collaboratively, cooperatively. We who run such sites can also be honest with ourselves (and others) about the things you highlight. So far today about 1,800 people have visited this site – about 1,350 of those had never visited here before, and may never again. But I hope (and pray) that many (most?) of those visitors were enriched somehow. And I am by many of their messages (and prayers). And, of course, it is wonderful to have our regulars here also. Sounds not too different to church in the real world. Blessings on your venture.

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