The concept of a virtual reality church is being championed by a priest in Florida.
Rev. Christopher Benek of the First Presbyterian Church of Ft. Lauderdale is also working on a PhD in theology, exploring the intersection of technological futurism and eschatology, at Durham University, England.
In an interview with Hypergrid Business, Berek said that he expected virtual worship and Christian education experiences to develop as virtual reality (VR) software such as Oculus Rift becomes more immersive and readily available.
Last year, a priest took a virtual tour of a church being planned for the Catholic community of Burleigh Waters on Australia's Gold Coast. Fr Ken Howell used Oculus Rift headgear to get “a real sense of how it was going to feel” inside the new church, as part of the planning and commissioning process.
Image: Kah-Wai Lin / Flickr
For Berek, virtual reality software "would be a great asset to the church universal, as it will enable the infirm, homebound, and potentially even the poor to participate from afar regardless of their personal mobility or lack of affordable transportation”. Berek also sees VR as a way to overcome linguistic barriers to worship, "creating a more unified church body”.
He added: “Congregants and pastors will be able to visit and pray with greater numbers of people more often. Small groups will be able to meet more frequently, even at great distances. The way that we currently do care and discipleship will radically change as will our expectations as to what it means to participate in those aspects of the church.”
Religion already links communities the world over. Software to enable them to share virtual experiences of their faith could see these communities soar in number and strength.