Person-To-Person Prayer Environments In Meta’s Horizon Worlds
TRUE CONFESSIONS: We just added an RSS feed subscription to the blog so we can create a new workflow automation for Discord. This blog is a test to see if it automatically posts to our #churchblogs channel on the Ginghamsburg Community Discord server when we publish it to ginghamsburg.org. BUT – very interesting content to read, nonetheless…
First, let’s recap:
Facebook bought Oculus VR in 2014. It was the first phase of merging social media and virtual reality. In late 2021, Facebook rebranded as META and capitalized on the term “metaverse”, previously coined by science fiction. The “Metaverse” doesn’t really refer to any one specific type of technology, but rather a broad shift in how we interact with technology.
Facebook’s shift to the metaverse is a desire to create a new future internet, one in which digital experiences are more fully embodied. As virtual reality headsets enter mainstream society, several apps have been developed that embrace the potential of social interaction in VR. Meta (Facebook) has developed a social VR app called Horizon Worlds. In Horizon Worlds, users can build custom environments with Meta’s easy-to-use developer tool box, then open their worlds to the VR public. These worlds include gaming, meditation, puzzles and simply designed spaces to hang out with friends.
In February of 2022, Ginghamsburg Church was given a technology grant to explore digital ministry. With this money, the Ginghamburg creative studio purchased seven Meta Quest 2 headsets and set out on a new frontier. Horizon Worlds, though still in beta, quickly became a focal point of virtual social interaction and discovery.
Exploring Worlds is really easy… but I noticed that the Church had very little representation. At Ginghamsburg, we’ve always been on the edge; finding new ways to reach people for Jesus. We thought it’d be a fun experiment to create a prayer world, where people exploring VR can seek prayer from someone on our pastoral care team.
With the tools available to all Horizon World users, our team built an outdoor, open-space environment that will be staffed by someone from our pastoral care team every Monday at noon. When you enter the world, you’ll see two couches surrounded by green grass and rolling hills. There’s a river winding through a line of trees, natural sounds from the edge of a forest and a friendly yellow sun surrounded with puffy clouds. It’s a world of worlds that feels safe, unlike many environments that currently exist across the social VR landscape.
Safety is a real concern, but danger shouldn’t be a deterrent.
If anything, it should motivate the Church to be present in this new digital society.
It’s a little strange to communicate with people through a virtual representation of themselves, but one thing we have to remember is that behind every avatar is a real person with real lives and real needs. We are very early in the exploration phase, and the learning curve is steep. We’re still learning where VR and the Church collide.
As technology improves, virtual experiences are set to become even more immersive and real – what’s digital will masquerade as analog. The creative team at Ginghamsburg understands that many people are still skeptical of new technologies like virtual reality. But we’ve been online since the 1990s! The aim is to be connected. If physical connection is lacking, emotional and spiritual connection can still happen in digital spaces.
We just want to help people–wherever they ‘are’.
Now – here’s the link to join our Discord server. It’s a pretty great way to stay connected through the week! Join us and check the #churchblogs channel to see if this blog was automatically posted by our Blogbot.
Blogbot… cute name, right? I came up with it myself.
Communication Director | Ginghamsburg Church