ME and Ophelia

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

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The Church of England's new virtual parish i-Church

The Church of England has appointed Ms Alyson May LESLIE as its first web pastor to oversee a new parish that will exist only on the net. The website is called i-church and is part of the Church of England's response to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams' call for a "mission-shaped" church.

i-church is a Christian community of the Church of England in the Diocese of Oxford. It is a web-based commmunity for those who wish to explore Christian discipleship, but who are not able, or do not wish, to join a local parish church.

Although parishioners from many countries are taking part, the church will nominally be part of the Diocese of Oxford, which is funding the £15,000-a-year venture - a fraction of the cost of maintaining many physical churches. The Rev Richard Thomas, spokesman for the Diocese of Oxford, said he hoped it would appeal to people who preferred modern ways of doing things, such as dealing directly with organisations over the web.

It is the first time a web community will be a fully recognised Anglican church. More...
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700 people have already joined

I've just joined i-church. BBC News online reports that 700 others have already joined ahead of its proper launch in July.

Alyson Leslie, a lay pastor, will run i-Church, a community of worshippers from all over the world who will congregate at the website for prayers in chatrooms, webcast services and e-mail socialising.

She said "They're a wide range of people. Some are working abroad, some are in countries where they find it difficult to express a Christian faith openly, and some are in residential care and can't get about. Some are disaffected by the church and want to find new ways to belong."

The website would for some be their main church; others would take part only occasionally, she said. But her hope was that there would be a sense of belonging. She said: "My experience of online communities is that they can be loving and generous and supportive."
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Launched by The Bishop of London

A separate online church, called Church of Fools, was also launched, at the same time as i-church, by the Christian website Ship of Fools and the Methodist Church. Unlike i-church, it has a virtual reality representation on screen, much like an online game.

The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, launched the Church of Fools by preaching on the potential for the web to be used for good. [via BBC news online report above]

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 5/11/2004
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