5.18.2004

So, I'm sitting downstairs in my friends' dining room in a suburb of Nashville typing and checking email and discovering new websites I've never heard of before. I'm here staying with Jay and Kay for a few days while attending the Emergent Conference in downtown Nashville. The conference doesn't officially start until tomorrow, for me anyway, but it's refreshing just to be here, away from the phone, chatting with friends.

I ran across the "church of fools" website and I'm amazed at the idea of a 3D virtual, interactive church service. There you can have community. There you can meet people from all over the world, you can hear preaching, sing songs, pray, cross yourself, bless others -- wait a minute, isn't that what real church should be?

The site was set up last week and visitors could have rather free range of the place. They could go incognito or they could assume a character and wander around, get behind the pulpit, stand up and shout in the middle of the sermon, whatever they wanted to do. If they wanted to sin, let's just say, they could sin boldly.

As a result, some of the rules have already been changed. You can no longer wander up around the altar and get behind the pulpit. There is an invisible barrier to prevent it. While I was wandering around I heard several conversations that were, shall we say, rather uncalled for. Racial remarks were made about people of color in the church and one character demanded cybersex on the spot. You try to set up a place for community and human beings foul it up, just like real life. Enough of that kind of behavior and the "church wardens" will come and escort you out of the building.

The plus the cyber version has over the real one, though, is that at any time during my visit I simply had to click on the "X" to get out of there. I haven't found a way to do that in real life. I just have to wade through the conflict and issues as best I can; I just have to sweat out the discipline of community and wait for the hoped-for pay-off. Or, occasionally, I go away for a conference in Nashville.

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