Online worship as a mission tool
The world wide web has placed a wealth of information and experiences at the fingertips of a huge number of people. Any topic you’re interested in can be ‘googled’ and the chances are you’ll discover at least something – even though you may not be able to guarantee its reliability. When it’s this easy, it’s understandable that the web has become the first place to start to look for any topic.
So it stands to reason that there must be people searching for spiritual experiences on the web. With this in mind, here is a guide to online worship experiences.
We’ve featured rejesus before in this column – it is probably the first website you should recommend to anyone who is looking for spirituality in their life. The ‘Post a prayer’ feature is based on the stands of candles often found in Catholic and Anglican churches. This web version works in the same way as the real thing – light a candle to symbolise your prayer. On the web your prayer is visible to others until the candle burns down.
This feature has recently been updated to include different background options and the ability to add an ‘amen’ to other’s prayers. You can also choose to email your prayer to someone to let them know you have prayed for them.
One of the team behind rejesus is Bruce Stanley, prior to rejesus he produced the Ember Days project websites which are still pretty unique on the web even though some have now been online for seven years.
Ember Days is a series of exploratory multimedia worship experiences. There are meditations, prayers and games which lead to discovering passages of scripture or just stuff to make you think. It’s an eclectic mix and that is embody’s strength – if something doesn’t ‘work’ for you, just move on to the next. A favourite of ours was the ‘random prophet’, complete with sandwich board whose messages become more and more intriguing as you click on them. In contrast to these fun applications are meditations such as one based on a 1500 year old icon which prompts you to reflect on the nature of Christ by literally reflecting the two halves of the image.
Embody is crammed with fantastic ideas and although some will work better for those with some knowledge of Christianity, there is also plenty here that will intrigue and possibly inspire those who are exploring spiritual themes for the first time. There’s a lot to engage with here – allow yourself plenty of time!
Also available on the embody site is an online labyrinth, but we’re pointing you to the official website for this project:
Labyrinth was a Youth for Christ project that toured UK cathedrals and other locations between 2001-2003. Participants were invited to walk around a labyrinth painted on a large piece of material, similar to that used by Christians in medieval times, but wearing a personal CD player and stopping to engage with a series of stations. This online version replicates those stations during which you’re invited to take part in activities and meditations.
The stations include dropping a pebble into a bowl of water to symbolise letting go of worries and leaving them with God, and using magnets near a compass to represent the distractions that stop us focussing on God.
It’s a challenge to replicate something designed to be multisensory on a computer screen, and whilst some of the stations are more successful than others this is really a superb effort, not least because it projects a sense of being still and draws you into the journey. This isn’t really a site to just visit for a quick look around, but a place to spend some time. Neither is it necessarily a solitary experience – this journey could be done with someone else as you ‘walk’ and pray together.
Ok, so this is our own website but have you used our online prayer feature?
You are invited to pray via a lavalamp – each of the globules of oil represents a prayer. Click on a globule to type your prayer and then watch it float and gradually merge with the others. It can be quite soothing just to sit and watch it in action, perhaps thinking about your prayer and spending time with God. The lamp can also be minimised so whilst you get on with whatever it is you have to be doing it remains in the corner of your screen as a little reminder of God’s presence.
This article originally featured in RUN’s on-line magazine SPRINT