The identified goals of the initial pilot program include creating digital experiences such as vigils, worship, and fellowship. The coordinating team is also thinking deeply about how we leverage our heritage as a community gathering place and our social justice commitment to creating a very compelling digital experience. Additionally, what alternative interfaces can be developed so that participants can get on and off the platform without a VR headset? The team recognizes that our churches in the Conference have a varying level of human, technical, and financial resources upon which they can draw. As the platform is given shape, the team asks, “How can this be easy to implement so that the metaverse experience doesn’t stress and strain already burdened church volunteers and staff?”
Note that this metaverse project isn’t adopting, and adapting to, technology developed by Meta (the parent company of Facebook). Those on the team are co-creating a platform that currently does not exist. Churches know all too well the frustrations of trying to conform to the constraints of another organization’s ecosystem. The few faith communities that have built their presence in the Metaverse using Microsoft’s AltspaceVR know this frustration firsthand. As of March 10, 2023, AltspaceVR has been shut down by Microsoft after it cut 10,000 jobs across its global workforce and refocuses its initiatives to platforms that promise more growth. While Microsoft has made it possible for creators to download their digital assets from Altspace, community organizers must completely rebuild and rebrand on another platform. More significantly in the immediate term, these platforms have not been designed with churches and their ministries in mind. Churches have adapted their ministry to them, not the other way around. In short, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and the like are not designing products with the needs of faith communities in mind. We are seeking to develop a platform designed from the ground up to be in service to the ministry and mission of the church.
As you might surmise, this metaverse pilot program is attempting to address some new and longstanding challenges. Everyone on our team is excited that our Conference is on the cutting edge of this work, and I am grateful for the dedicated work of those on the team. I will continue to update everyone as the pilot program progresses. Until then, may the digital ministries you currently have in place continue to grow and serve the people of God entrusted to your care.
Left to right, top row: Rev. Shawn Fisher, Morgan Bayona, Scott Lyon
Left to right, bottom row: Anny Moreira da Silveira, Jon DeHoyos, Rev. Eric Elley
Eric Elley provides consultant services to Conference churches that need assistance defining and creating a digital presence. Eric can: Recommend hardware and software solutions for digital ministry that fit within your church's budget and technical...