The modern world is a difficult place for Christianity in many ways. The notion of attending church every Sunday with your family and community is seeming like an increasingly unrealistic prospect to many in a world where there are many demands on your time and energy. A pastor named D.J. Soto believes that the answer to this problem lies in virtual reality (VR).
Soto trained early in life to be a pastor at the Baptist Pensecola Christian College, but was disillusioned by what he saw as its insular, isolationist attitudes and extremely conservative political stance. Seeking to create a new type of church that welcomed everyone, and has teamed up with two other VR pioneers named Alistair Clarkson and Brian Leupold to carve out a space for worship in VR.
With the number of users in social VR spaces booming, Soto chose social VR app AltSpaceVR for his VR Church. Only two days after the first time Soto for experienced the virtual space, he was hosting services every few weeks. While audiences varied at first, sometimes leaving Soto preaching to an empty room, he kept at it, eventually attracting an audience of people, many of whom would never consider walking into a real-life church, but are happy to listen to Soto speak. The audience frequently includes atheists, not a crowd you would typically expect to see at a religious service of any kind.
Soto says he believes in welcoming all kinds of people. His services feature his VR avatar, a silver robot leading the virtual congregation in worship, Christian rock music playing as animated graphics and lyrics to the song scroll on screens behind Soto’s avatar. The crowd throws up emojis of hearts and smiley faces in response. “Everyone is invited here to VR Church, no matter where you are from in the world, even if you don’t believe in God.” Soto says.
The VR Church is seeking funding to continue its work and expand into other VR social platforms, such as RecRoom, and have plans to being a crowdfunding campaign to extend its reach. VRFocus will bring you further news on the VR Church project as it becomes available.