Ship of Fools to Resurrect Virtual Church at 'St. Pixels'

LONDON – A new online worshipping community is being launched, two years after the world’s first 3D internet church shut down.
( [email protected] ) Jun 12, 2006 10:00 AM EDT

LONDON – A new online worshipping community is being launched, two years after the world’s first 3D internet church shut down.

This week, the official launch of "St Pixels" is taking place, with plans for it to go 3D this autumn.

St Pixels will be sponsored by the Methodist Church of Great Britain, and has been created by the U.K. Christian webzine "Ship of Fools."

The new online church will also be the subject of a master class at this week’s Churches Media Conference at The Hayes Conference Centre in Swanick, England, taking place June 12-14.

A four-month trial of an online church took place in the summer of 2004, resulting in people from all over the world logging in as cartoon characters, meeting up with others in a gothic-style church.

Speech bubbles were used for the virtual congregants to speak to one another, and hymns were also sung, with sermons given and prayers said.

According to Ship of Fools, the online church generated high levels of traffic during that trial period, achieving an international profile and reputation.

On the busiest day of its trial period, 41,000 attempts were made to log into the church and an average of 7,300 visits per day were recorded throughout the four months.

Official figures from the creators also revealed that more than half of the visitors to the church were registered as under 30 years old, with 60 percent being male.

"This kind of response begins to dispel the notion that church is only of interest to silver-haired spinsters," said Simon Jenkins, editor of Ship of Fools. "Even more significant than generating high visitor numbers, the church created a space on the Internet where people could join others in worship and become involved in a new form of Christian community. The church became a visible sign of the worldwide Body of Christ.

"We are enormously encouraged by support from the Methodist Church for this new adventure," Jenkins continued. "We are looking forward to a creative partnership with them in the years ahead."

According to Jonathan Kerry of the Methodist Church, "‘Foolish' was the reaction of some stalwart Methodists to the news that we were supporting an online church but many more were delighted, intrigued and inspired by the pilot project.

"Methodism's 18th century founder, John Wesley said: ‘The world is my parish?’ and 300 years later that parish includes cyber-space as well. We are extremely glad to continue our support of the project into its next phase as St Pixels. Bricks and mortar churches will continue, but now supplemented by on-line Christian communities."