On May 11th, Ship of Fools, an online Christian publication, will launch the first virtual church in an effort to reach out to those who normally do not attend traditional church services.
The church will be a full virtual online environment complete with cartoon pews, pulpits and animated users. The priest or pastor will log on and have full control over a cartoon double. Connected via internet they will be able to move around the virtual church, welcome the attendants, announce hymns and deliver sermons.
"The congregation, too, will log on in different parts of the world – and see each other on screen," says Jenkins. "They'll choose a pew to sit in, introduce themselves to other worshippers through speech bubbles, sing a hymn, listen to the sermon, chat to each other afterwards, and perhaps pray together.
"They'll even be invited to put something on the collection plate – via SMS on mobile phones."
There are plans to invite guest speakers to lead the services each Sunday, including some celebrated preachers.
The first service will take place on the opening day of UK’s Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE)
Simon Jenkins, the website's editor said: "We're running this as an experiment for three months and we are looking forward to seeing how people use the church and what they get out of it."
"The full costs of creating the environment have still to be met," says Simon Jenkins. "So the project's future depends on finding enthusiastic sponsors. Long term, we hope to work with the established church in creating a structure that reflects the type of person attracted to the environment.”