Avatars do not need to look like us. The best avatar to create for a metaverse church experience (this is from the Q&A session after my message on Sunday) is an elderly grandmother because grandmothers rule the church. They can turn around on the pew to shush the young people giggling during the sermon, they can scold the pastor after the sermon for sloppy exegesis, and nobody would ever complain about the casserole they bring to the potluck.
That was part of the Q&A after the message last Sunday at Rhythms of Grace church in Auckland. Here’s a brief outline:
Subject: The Parallel Universe. I first heard this term used in a church context regarding Mark Pierson in NZ who had a ministry with that title. Mark was the person inviting me to speak and hosted the meeting.
Beginning in 2004, avatar based church in an online immersive environment happened in a number of places and has been maturing ever since.
Hebrews 10:25 is the most common backlash against metaverse church, “Do not forsake the assembly of yourselves together”. But the metaverse/internet/cyberspace is also a place to assemble together for community and experience a wide range of spiritual practices and activities.
Hebrews also says that the church includes the living and the dead in Christ so the idea of having all Christians meet physically has never been possible.
Hebrews says we have not come to a mountain that can be touched (Heb. 12:18). Mount Zion is a spiritual aggregation of believers in Christ who are living stones and building up the holy temple. This is a BETTER way. Christ is superior. REAL church was never bricks or stone.
Physical church is an environment created from wood and bricks and concrete. Digital church is created from pixels and voxels. Both are created by human hands. Physical church does not trump virtual church. Experiences in both are real. Moses built the tabernacle according to the pattern from heaven given to him by God. The Kingdom of Heaven, a parallel universe which invites us to a fully Real future also runs alongside us and occasionally bleeds into our present reality. But God’s Kingdom is (R)eal. Our physical world is (r)eal and our metaverse is (r)eal. And anyone who says otherwise is guilty of idolatry, of acknowledging a FORM of godliness but denying its power (2 Tim. 3:5).
The church is iconic. We are icons and not idols. Icons pass on the gaze but idols receive the gaze (Jean Luc Marion). Our spiritual experiences in both physical and virtual worlds are always symbolic and prophetic and find their validity, authenticity and legitimacy as they correspond to the Reality of God’s parallel universe. They are the shadow of a substance. A copy, but not the real thing.
Those who have been involved in the alt. worship movement like Mark Pierson, who has written a few books on the subject, are in a better position to create meaningful spiritual activities in the metaverse because the gaming environments that undergird the metaverse invite participation and active interaction rather than the traditional church world that think sitting and watching is normal.
YOU STAY ICONIC, RHYTHMS OF GRACE!!!!!!!!!! And thank you for the opportunity to speak.