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Friday, March 23rd, 2018

The VR mega-church attracting atheists.

Imagine matrix-like baptisms in a virtual lake.

“One thing we’re working on is when Jesus is walking on the water, and you’re on the boat.”

“Or when we talk about Moses and the Red Sea, you’re walking through the Red Sea and you look up and see the walls of water.”

“I was so excited because I saw the potential, I saw the possibility, and my first visitor was an atheist from Denmark.”

“People are amazed!” DJ Soto exclaimed, and they’re saying, “I didn’t expect this, I didn’t expect this level of immersion.”

You’re baptised, but you’re not there!

Imagine going to church where the sanctuary behind the preacher suddenly morphs into biblical locations.

Imagine the burning bush blazing away right in front of your very eyes just as it’s being mentioned in the message.

What about new converts? No problem. In a virtual reality ‘church’ they can be baptised without being physically present.

This is the virtual reality church whose members are known as avatars and who gather on Sundays to worship.

Leading this virtual flock is its pastor who emphasises how you can experience God and Scripture in ways impossible in physical church buildings.

According to founding pastor, DJ Soto it’s a three dimensional cyberspace congregation with a global fellowship.

https://getmediapoint.com/document/episode/podcast/MDAwMTE0MTIxNS5tcDM.mp3

The audacity to try something new

Describing himself as a techie nerd, DJ Soto admitted he’s by no means the finished article.

“I don’t know coding I don’t know animation but I just have an entrepreneurial spirit and tap into resources and tools, and tap into people that do know coding and animation and 3-D modelling.”

Pastor Soto said you don’t have to be highly technical but just have the audacity to try something new.

The virtual reality church had its beginnings in 2016 with five people attending the first service.

For people that haven’t tried it DJ Soto likens it to being the Facebook of  virtual reality.

“It’s where you have friends, you can play games, but it’s all in this immersive environment.”

‘People are amazed!’

“The other thing I tell people it’s kind of like the Matrix movie where Morpheus tells Neo you can’t explain what the matrix is, you have to experience it for yourself.”

The virtual reality church is the same thing. The light bulb comes on after they put their headsets on and actually experience it.

“People are amazed!” DJ Soto exclaimed, “I didn’t expect this, I didn’t expect this level of immersion.”

“So when Oculus Rift came out and I’m chatting with people across the world, having great conversations, and then I noticed you can create your own virtual space.”

DJ Soto said he tried it out and after just an hour into playing around with this social platform, he realised there was a need for a church program in VR.

‘Five people came, I was excited’

“That was on a Friday. Then on Sunday a few days later I had my first church service,” said DJ.

“I threw out some graphics on social media and invited whoever would do it and we had the first service.”

“We had worship music, we had a sermon, and five people came, I was excited.”

“I was so excited because I saw the potential, I saw the possibility, and my first visitor was an atheist from Denmark.”

“I don’t believe in God but I was curious to see what this was all about,” said the atheist.

DJ Soto said they’ve had many atheists and agnostics come to the church services because they’re curious. Church in the VR. They want to see what it’s all about.

Oculus Rift and the HDC Vive

“That’s how it got started. It kind of started like an experiment. Is church viable in VR and we came quickly to the conclusion that yes. This is a very compelling experience.”

So, if anyone wanted to experience the Virtual Reality church, DJ Soto had some advice on what sort of gear would be suitable.

“The two high-end ones would be the Oculus Rift and the HDC Vive. These ones are high resolution and they take a pretty powerful computer to run.”

“With that you get a very detailed photo realistic experience,” said DJ.

There are also mobile versions. There’s one called the Samsung Gear VR and if you have a Samsung phone you can put the Gear VR in this mobile version.

“It still looks really good although it’s not the high resolution of the Oculus Rift or the Vive.”

The Google Daydream

“Actually most of the people who attend in VR, attend through a mobile Samsung headset. There’s also the Google Daydream.’

The Google Daydream is another headset people are using and DJ Soto estimates around 50 percent of his church-goers or avatars are mobile VR users.

But as you’d expect in this virtual reality world nothing stays the same for very long. There’s always something new to consider.

“Oculus is coming out with some standalones. That means you’re not going to need a powerful computer or a phone, it’s just a VR headset.”

“That’s’ coming out in May and that will help VR become accessible to the public.”

Doing church the virtual reality way

As far as price is concerned the mobile headsets are the cheapest way to go.

“The mobile headsets are only like a $100 but you do need a Samsung phone,” DJ mentioned, saying to watch out for the ‘knockoffs’ that are sold at airport kiosks.

“They give you the fundamental idea of VR but it’s not that higher immersive level you get even in one of the portable ones.”

DJ said the potential for doing church the virtual reality way is amazing. Take the church itself for example.

“The imagination is unlimited. Our vanilla version is what we call it. It looks like a modern church with glass, pews and a screen, but we have strong plans to create specific environments.”

‘We’re walking around the Ark’

“One thing we’re working on is when Jesus is walking on the water, we’re on the boat and maybe we have a replica of Jesus or some type of animated experience where people are inside the story.”

“Now in VR you’re going to be fully immersed. So when we talk about Moses and the Red Sea, you’re walking through the Red Sea and you look up and see the walls of water.”

“Or if we’re talking about Noah and the Ark we’re walking around the Ark and looking at the animals.”

DJ Soto expects Virtual Reality church will evolve into an amazing experience of the Bible never undertaken before.

“This is a very unique thing and it’s going to be quite exciting to see where the imagination goes because it really is unlimited.”

If you would like to listen to the full audio interview click play below

https://getmediapoint.com/document/episode/podcast/MDAwMTE0MTIxNS5tcDM.mp3

Footnote:

Pastor D.J. Soto is the owner of Sonata 7 Studios, LLC. which is a film production and virtual reality company.

D.J. Soto quit his job as a pastor at a branch of his local megachurch in Reading, Pennsylvania, a few years ago with a burden to reach out to people in unusual places. Since then he established a VR church in Los Angeles.

Soto says, “Attend a real church in virtual reality,” The mission is “to explore and communicate God through virtual reality, augmented reality, and next generation technologies.”

Virtual reality allows churches to have global presence and foster diversity and inclusiveness. It can be far more enabling than live-streaming, which numerous megachurches are currently using to conduct multi-site worship services.

https://www.wired.com/story/virtual-reality-church/

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Facing a New Industrial Revolution – Alex Cook

 



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