The Reality of Prayer in Virtual Reality

godvertiser —  2010/02/21 — Leave a comment

Tonight I teleported over to the 1st Presbyterian Church of Second Life and joined a prayer gathering in the virtual world.

I’ve done church online, video chats, tokbox multi-user web conf prayer meetings, I’ve even been to LifeChurch.tv in Second Life before.

But this Second Life virtual reality prayer meeting was a first for me today.

10 people stopped by this evening as we gathered in a taize-style prayer mini-service in a circle of comfy (looking at least) floor cushions.

prayer-second-life2

Here’s my first thoughts as I left the meeting tonight.

The technology seems to still get in the way of the experience.   Aside from voice chat not working for some members tonight, the learning curve for navigation, gestures,  audio-visual control, group chat, messaging, etc is all a challenge for new comers.

But if a church is to continuously attract new visitors, even in a virtual one, getting over the technical hurdles is one reality that needs to be addressed.  Of course, if you are more versed (spend more time) in this virtual reality environment, it would become infinitely more transparent. Perhaps ministry volunteers are needed to monitor and guide new visitors through the experience just as in off-line churches.  Perhaps more training can be offered via short videos or other methods on church websites, available before entering Second Life.

I realized that viritual church and church online are two completely separate things.  With church online such as www.lifechurch.tv or www.liquidchurch.com, the technology is basically transparent for most.  You are not bogged down continuously being reminded of the technology interface you are using to connect with others.  To give SL credit, I *was* handed a “newbie card” during the experience, which had some help notes to get me started on Second Life.  But most of it would be more useful only sif I had a sherpa guide next to me helping to decipher and lead me through it all.

The human connections are still real though.  Some of the concerns shared and emotions showed up big time.  One can’t help be frustrated that you want to be ever more present – be virtually there if you could.  (sorry, couldn’t resist!)

Bottom line is: Virtual church on Second Life still has a way to go before it is ready for mainstream exposure.

But in the meantime, digital explorers have found a place to roll up their sleeves and beat down a path for us for when we (and the technology) catches-up.

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