A number of posts recently have been touching on the subject of e-Church or having a virtual parish community.
Virtual worship services lack the following features:
- Sacrifice — A the fundamental aspect of liturgy is sacrifice. The service is our offering to God and part of that sacrifice to God is of our time and our presence. Reducing that sacrifice to sitting before your computer screen in your proverbial pajamas certainly severely diminishes if not eliminates the sacrifice involved. There is also an aspect of “standing to be counted” especially in an increasingly secular world to worship … which when done anonymously and virtually causes that aspect to be eliminates as well. Moses travelled up the mountain to write the tablets. He did not have God “wire” him his message because he could not be bothered to go to God himself.
- Holiness — “Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Liturgy is (or should be) a participation in the Holy. For myself, I fail to see how participation and contact with the Holy can be done by wire.
- Contact with the liturgy and with the community. We have 5 senses. A virtual service may serve, poorly, two (hearing and sight). Touch, taste and smell are sensory channels missing in form the virtual sensory pallet. Humans remain more primitive and essential in our connection with these other senses. Hugging, kissing, touching, even smelling the presence of our neighbour remain an essential part of the human community experience. If the human essence could be reduced to a purely rational floating intellect then virtual community and church might work. Yet man, created in the image of God is not purely rational and the organism and the meat of us is part of that image.
- Isolation in modernity is exacerbated by virtual contact. It is a bug not a feature of the modern world. Moving church to the virtual realm does nothing to reverse this.
How does the concept of virtual church confront these aspects of worship? Why or how do these aspects become inessential?