Church and Social Distancing

Church and “Social Distancing”

So, 2020 has really been one for books and has affected the social, economical, and personal lives of billions of people worldwide. While some countries and US states have been slowly reopening, it’s still not recommended to socialize closely with others in a non-essential setting.

But what if there was a way to socialize and share in God’s love and glory while still respecting social distancing boundaries? Better yet, what if you could watch or listen to church services with your friends and family, or mingle, dance, or enjoy a concert and make new friends?

Maybe build a home, shop at the mall, take a Sunday drive in a car or on a motorcycle, or even go on a guided tour by bus. It may sound a bit crazy, but indulge me for a few minutes and keep reading (I’ll get to the good stuff).

Church as a Socializing Agency

Humans are a social animal and always have been. In the Journal of Educational Sociology, Paul B. Horton cites John F. Cuber in stating:

“The vitality and effectiveness of the church, as with any other social institution, are the resultants of a number of interacting factors, including the faiths, loyalties, and participation of its members, the efficiency of its functionaries, and harmony among both functionaries and members as to primary postulates and essential objectives” (Horton 1941).

This still rings true today. Simply put, we need that socialization and feeling of coming together with like-minded people who share our core beliefs and traditional values and have a strong sense of faith and community. This need gets stronger in the face of the unknown and uncertain, which would adequately describe the current pandemic and social restrictions that so many of us are under.

Join the Evolution

For the past decade or so, more and more private churches have turned to television to reach their congregations and the local community. By broadcasting live and pre-recorded services on public broadcast systems, these churches reach a larger audience and have the potential to grow their congregation. Most importantly, they can reach church members who once attended services but can no longer do so due to age or health.

As technology advanced, and before COVID-19, the religious sector turned toward the Internet. Recording or DVRing church services no longer dominated; people could watch church services online in a live setting or catch up on missed services at their discretion. Even those who were not tech-savvy could learn how to do this, and it was quite the breakthrough.

The Unscratched Itch

But something was missing. There is something about church, something unlike any other place in the world. I grew up in a small town that had several churches of different denominations. My family and I attended a beautiful church of maybe 100 on a good Sunday, with many more attending the week-long Vacation Bible School held every summer.

We had a different greeter every week and a different bell ringer (something I always wanted to do and never got the chance). There were young church goers, but the older ones are who I remember. We were a true family in that church. The older church members knew my grandparents, watched my mother and her siblings grow up, then watched us, the grandchildren, grow up. Funeral services for my grandparents were held in that church. When we moved from that small town, I returned to get married in that church.

That feeling, that sense of family and familiarity, is what needs to be rekindled and something that is not easily attained. Until now.

Virtual Reality (VR) Church

Watching church services online didn’t have its day in the sun long before something different came along. Virtual reality churches, or online churches, offer a sense of community and togetherness in the comfort of your own home. As the world changes, our way of communicating and reaching out must change, too, and it’s no different for churches.

People are busy. People move away from home or hometowns. Or, like now, pandemics change everything in the blink of an eye and “social distancing” becomes a thing. With a VR church, you can host or attend church services virtually and socialize in a virtual setting.

Hosting a VR Church Service

You can host services for your congregation in your own custom VR church (like the two below) on the PraiseWorld3D platform. If you are not comfortable with a live virtual service quite yet, you have the option to pre-record your sermon or service and make it available to your congregation and they can watch it at their convenience.

Freedom Fellowship Church and Peace Tower Church | PraiseWorld3D

Since technology is not everyone’s bag, here are some quick tips on how to go from preaching to a live audience to preaching to a virtual one.

  • Start with a Bible study lesson
  • Keep it simple
  • Opt for recorded music instead of live music/choir
  • Record or stream in a well-lit area
  • Keep your background comfortable and inviting
  • Speak loudly and clearly

Bible Study

A Bible study session presents a more relaxed, conversational environment and is a great option to get your feet wet and learn the virtual ropes. Technology can be intimidating and scary, but easing into it makes things easier for everyone.

Keep it Simple

No one expects you to be the next Spielberg or Scorsese. One recording device and a good microphone are all you need. Get everything set up before you start recording or streaming and make sure everything looks and sounds good. One company, boxcast.com , has simplified the streaming process by creating a hardware encoder which illuminated the need for computers with special software to “push” the stream to a delivery platform. They provide a fantastic dashboard interface with loads of features including the ability to publish your live stream to multiple platforms simultaneously. Just plug in an HDMI cable from your camera and connect to a router!

Music

Choirs and live music are wonderful, but you can’t always have an entire choir around you when you’re recording. Create a playlist on your phone or computer and play the music at the appropriate times. Before recording or streaming, do a test run so there are no unexpected glitches or interference with the music.

Lighting

Good lighting is a necessity for good video. Record or stream in a well-lit area so your congregation can see your pretty face! Lighting from the top and sides reduce glare and harsh shadows.

Background

Like lighting, a comfortable, inviting background sets the tone. If you have an office, a bookshelf or wall are great options. Try to avoid recording or streaming in front of a window, especially during the day when it’s sunny.

Speak Loudly and Clearly

Know your audience and their needs. Speak loudly and clearly so they can hear you. This is something you probably already do in a non-virtual setting, so this should be second nature. Have a drink handy to prevent a dry mouth.

Most importantly, have fun and spread God’s Word! He is everywhere and we can sing his praise and worship Him in any form and from any platform.

PraiseWorld3D TV

If your personal church has been suspended, but you still want to hear God’s Word and teachings, PraiseWorld3D offers live and archived video and audio sermons and services at PraiseWorld3D TV (PW3D TV). These preachings are recorded and made available by PW3D members from around the world. There is also Bible study, updates, and news.

You can explore the channels and find exactly what you want to hear, when you want to hear it. These amazing people on PW3D TV broadcast live sermons and services, or you can listen to past services. PraiseWorld3D TV is a great way to break into the online Christian world with the option to delve further in and make meaningful relationships in a Christian-based online community. The VR church and home packages include a Channel on PW3D TV for live stream and archived video. They can also provide you with your own streaming radio/podcast channel.

PraiseWorld3D Virtual Christian Community

COVID-19 has made things scary and upended our lives and routines. Right now, we all need our faith and families, and that includes church families. The wonderful thing about the Christian community is you can find family and friends in so many places. VR churches are inclusive and welcoming; lending a shoulder or ear in the most difficult of times.

PraiseWorld3D is more than VR churches and online churches. It is a bonafide community full of Christian people who want to interact with other Christian people. There are virtual churches, but there are also virtual homes, malls, a fire station (seriously!), concert pavilions, bus tours, helicopter tours, nature, water, boats… I could go on, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s back up a bit. Before all that, you need a “you.” Choose an avatar (the virtual you) from a wide selection of pre-made male, female, and animal or themed avatars. Now you’re ready to get to the fun stuff. You can also create your own avatar from scratch.

As a Citizen, you can rent a virtual home. After that, head out to the mall to furnish your home and make it yours. In your home, you can live stream church services on your new television (the one you picked out at the mall) with whomever you choose. If you’re feeling social, attend one of the many churches in PW3D and take in a live broadcast; the dates and times are displayed on the signs in front of the churches.

You may meet new friends at the service and you can chat with them. Citizens of PraiseWorld3D have the option of chatting with friends and family via text or voice chat. There are concerts, dances, boat rides, and so many more fun activities to socialize and meet old and new friends. There are even games!

Angels Among Us

This all must sound very overwhelming, especially if you’re not very tech-savvy, but that’s where the angels come in. PW3D does, indeed, have angels, and they are there to help. All you need to do is “call” on them for help and they will fly to you and answer any questions or show you the ropes. The bus and “flying avatar shuttle” tours are spearheaded by the angels, and they can show you around. While riding, you are able to hear the angel/pilot speaking to you.

Did You Say Free?

Well, I didn’t yet, but, yes; it is free! Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to get into PraiseWorld3D. It is a free downloadable browser that installs in no time on any MS Windows device. After that’s installed, click on it and you’re good to go. The angels are waiting for you during peak hours and they can show you around. Being a Tourist is always free, and there is so much to enjoy as a Tourist.

One of my favorite things to do is “sit” by the water and listen to the sounds of nature while I’m working. My dress doesn’t even get dirty. I love watching the boats go by, and I like to talk to the angels when I’m taking a break. It is very relaxing and peaceful.

Citizenship

Becoming a Citizen is entirely optional, but it does come with perks:

  • A customizable avatar from your head to your feet. You choose your clothing, hair, eyes, nose, face, features, etc. You may create as many as you like
  • Reserve a unique name of your own
  • Keep a contact list of people you meet
  • Send “telegrams” to your contacts
  • Save your favorite locations in a “teleport” list
  • Rent a virtual home of your own
  • Use the Voice Chat feature
  • Connect your citizen profile to your website or social media page

If you aren’t ready for the commitment, that’s okay, too! PraiseWorld3D offers so many things for Tourists. Their mission is to have a safe place for Christians to connect and create relationships with others from all over the world.

A Leap of Faith

In such a digitally connected world, it is so easy to feel alone and isolated. It’s hard to remember there are people out there who believe in the same things and want the same things for their families and friends, but there are. Online friendships are some of the best friendships to be had, and the virtual part of it just makes it even more immersive and entertaining for everyone. Behind every “avatar” is a human being.

Join PraiseWorld3D today and download the free browser to see what you’ve been missing. Invite your friends and family so you can explore and experience this new virtual Christian world together. There’s nothing to lose and so much to explore and gain!