Get Me To The Church Online

Apparently, if I’m not blogging. people think something terrible must have happened. Between numerous e-mails and random IM’s I realized that either have a loyal fan base or disturbed cult following. Either way, I figure I’ve got to get back and somehow work out a way to turn a profit. In the meantime, I’ll try to respond in due time.
As to what I’ve been doing for the past month or so, I leave that as an exercise to the reader, especially if you’re proficient with Photoshop.
Getting back to normal here, you might have seen the stories about the Church Of Fools, the first interactive sanctuary on the net.1 As part of my ecumenical procrastination, I decided to check out this community which serves the spirituality seekers who cannot be inconvenienced to leave their computer.
Behold, my first foray into Church.2 Screenshots included.
Disclaimer: I don’t have the time right now to thumbnail the images. If you are offended either by Christian imagery or slow web pages, please to not read any further.


God's eye view
Perhaps because of the novelty, the Church has attracted quite a following. In their first week, they had over 41,000 worshipers, but unfortunately many of them were also trolls. Consequently, the church needed to enact new policies and rules to combat these faux spirituality seekers. Not only have they disabled some features – like restrict people from giving a “shout out” to the congregation and lecturing from the pulpit – but they have also limited the number of worshipers who can be logged in at a given time.
If you try to log in when they are maxed out, you become “ghosted out” and cannot interact with the other congregants. Here’s what your holy spirit looks like:
Holy Spirit
With a little persistence, you too may enter the kingdom of heaven. And in fact, you get your choice of avatars from which to choose. Not wanting to be picky, I selected the first one they gave me:
Flanders: Undercover Rabbi
The interface is impressive and loads of fun. Not only do you get to move your character around and change camera views, but they’ve also built in several gestures for your worshiping pleasure.
Gestures
In addition to the personal gestures, you can also interact with the scenery. The Church has several “inspirational” pictures on which worshipers may meditate. I think the pulpit used to be open for communal prayers, but as mentioned, that was disabled. I was a little upset that the organ wasn’t functional either. Maybe there were too many requests for “Freebird” or “In the Garden of Eden.”
And now, In the Garden of Eden by Mr. I. Ron. Butterfly
The only real benefit for being logged in is the ability to interact with other congregants. You can “whisper” to a few people around you or speak directly to certain individuals. I had some interesting conversations with some of the worshipers there, but nothing got too deep.

But I thought it would be nice to sit down and chat with some of my new friends.

There’s also a special room in the back called “the crypt” which is where people can discuss their thoughts about God, spirituality, and of course everything else.
Deep thoughts
In case you were wondering, the conversations can be as inane and insipid as any other congregation. On the other hand, if your thirst for God has not been sated by now, you could also try the vending machines.

As a religious service, I’d have to say I was less than inspired. No one prayed audibly, and no one seemed interested in talking about God or religion. In some ways, not unlike your typical modern orthodox congregation. They even had separate seating to some extent.

But I guess it must be doing something for some people. Maybe like the success of The Sims shows, some people just prefer living vicariously over the computer rather than actually living. My guess is that as this trend persists, people will continue flocking to these things en mass.
Hidely-Ho!
Hidely-Ho Heathenereno!

1. Not counting IRC.
2. I fully anticipate a flame war breaking out on whether or not this constitues avoda zara. If it gets too much, I’ll write later about why visitng this place isn’t a problem halakhically.

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