By Rev. Marty Levesque
Livestreaming major events, ordinations, Christmas, and Easter service was something the diocese was slowly stepping into for the past six or seven years. The pandemic has accelerated the need to invest in this space.
Recently my wife and I purchased an Oculus (https://www.oculus.com/quest-2/). This wireless VR (virtual reality) headset is made by Oculus a brand of Facebook.
The VR headset is not just for games and workout routines, but it is also for entertainment, as Facebook plans "venues" for watching concerts, sports, and movies in VR.
Facebook and others already promote major concerts and sporting events that those with the VR headset can join and immerse themselves in. For instance, you can, through Disney+, stream Billie Eilish's concert film “Happier than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles” and have an immersive experience in LA from the comfort of your couch.
Does this mean the VR church is coming? Well, it is already here, in some forms. You can log onto https://altvr.com/ create your avatar and then join a church service on Sunday mornings. There are even new church plants in this "space". https://www.vrchurch.org/ is just one example.
And while many churches have quickly adopted live streaming during the pandemic, and are actively putting infrastructure in place to be able to continue in a hybrid format of both in-person and online, it will be some time before this VR space is ready for mainline denominations. That doesn't mean we should ignore this space though, but rather, begin planning for future investments.
Livestreaming major events, ordinations, Christmas, and Easter service was something the diocese was slowly stepping into for the past 6 or 7 years. The pandemic has accelerated the need to invest in this space. And as such, churches around the diocese have invested in delivering a quality live stream experience for our regular Sunday Services.
Does that mean individual churches should invest in VR? I don’t think so. But it does mean that we should as a diocese, or even as a national church, put some thought into offering major feast days celebrations in a VR format. Just imagine Christmas hymns, the church decorated and the beauty of the liturgy from St Paul’s Cathedral London on Christmas Eve or St James Cathedral in Toronto or Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa or Vancouver.
And while we may have some initial doubts about VR church, many of us had the same reservations about live streaming worship. And if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to be ready for a new normal in reaching out with God’s love to the world.
Rev. Marty Levesque is the diocesan social media officer and rector of All Saints’ in Waterloo.