Several churches have already set up congregations in Facebook’s Horizon World, a computer-generated online world. It is one of many online worlds available today, generally referred to as the metaverse.
Since it went public on December 9, 2021, Horizon has garnered approximately 300,000 registered users.
After setting up an account on Horizon World, a person is represented by a digitally created avatar. Software is available where you can supply a photograph and create a 3-d avatar that resembles your appearance in the real world if you want.
These avatars can be manipulated wearing VR headsets, where the person’s real-life actions, such as raising your hand or turning your head, are mimicked by your avatar.
The avatars tend to have a cartoonish look and currently do not have legs due to the limitations of the goggles. The goggles also come with a mic that allows people to verbally communicate with others in this digital world.
Facebook’s metaverse mimics real life in other ways. It has streets, shopping malls, houses (where people set up residences), and similar to the real world, you have to purchase digital property in order to build.
And according to a recent Christian Post (CP) article, Facebook’s metaverse world now has churches.
Life.Church, pastored by Craig Groeschel, is a large megachurch based in Edmond, OK, that has 40 campuses across North America. It recently added a campus on Metaverse in December 2021.
Initially, Life.Church used a template supplied by Metaverse that provided a theater-style building to host its services but has since digitally constructed a church, creating a space similar in design to one of its physical campuses.
Bobby Gruenewald, who oversees Life.Church’s virtual campus, told CP that it doesn’t replace a physical church, but added that there are people who would not set foot in a physical church but are willing to attend services in a digital world.
“We recently talked with a dad whose son has social anxiety. He wouldn’t walk into a physical church, but he felt comfortable coming to church in the metaverse,” Gruenewald told CP.
“That’s why we’re passionate about leveraging technology to share the Gospel. We know that to reach people no one is reaching, we’ll have to do things no one is doing.”
Gruenewald added that because of the anonymity that avatars offer, people tend to open up more quickly about issues affecting their lives.
There have certainly been critics of these digital worlds, as they also attract some seedier elements. There have already been complaints of women being sexually harassed in Facebook’s metaverse.