The virtual church established by The Church of Fools has been drawing in much of the attention in the Christian Online scene after its opening service May 11. The Church of England has decided to create its own take on the virtual church, scheduled to launch in July. Worshippers from all over the world can congregate at the website to take part in webcast services, chartroom prayers, and email fellowship.
“i-church” will be funded $26,500 a year by the Anglican church – only a fraction of the cost of maintaining a common traditional church. The online church, fully recognized as part of the Diocese of Oxford, already has over 700 registered members and has recently appointed Alyson Leslie as the pastor.
i-Church will be open to all who wish to explore, regardless of religious and social backgrounds. “I treasure the fact that while i-church is open to, and will be enriched by, people of all church backgrounds or no church background, it will have a distinctively Anglican ethos.” Said Leslie. “We want to draw on the richness and diversity of our Anglican heritage in worship and to explore expressing our longing for God and our response to him, in ways that fit with this unique online approach to building a Christian community.”
i-Church began development to take an initiative on the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan William’s call for a “mission-shaped” church.
Similar to the Church of Fools run by the Methodist Church, I-church will attempt to appeal to those who do not attend traditional church services according to Rev. Richard Thomas, spokesman for the Diocese of Oxford.
Leslie commented, "They're a wide range of people. Some are working abroad, some are in countries where they find it difficult to express a Christian faith openly, and some are in residential care and can't get about. Some are disaffected by the church and want to find new ways to belong. My experience of online communities is that they can be loving and generous and supportive."
In addition to daily worship, reading for the day, and prayer requests, the church will have a section dedicated for Christian events across the country. Visitors will be able to browse through the extensive information reflecting the whole range of Christian organizations and activities available in the UK.
The spirituality of the online community will be based on the existing communities of the Diocese, emphasizing commitment to prayer, study and social action. Members will be invited to make a rule of life commitment to these values while encouraged to submit articles to spur discussions.
“We are pioneers together in this entirely new venture - something both exciting and daunting.” said Leslie. “However, we draw on a tradition that has over centuries frequently risen to and thrived on new challenges, and ultimately, we seek to know, serve and rest in a God whose delight is to create and who through his Son works in us and with us to "make all things new".