Mystery Worshipper: A man named Brian
Church: St Pixels
Location: the Internet
Date of visit: Sunday, 27 May 2007, 9:00pm
Uh... virtual.There's a porch, cloisters, rooms labelled A and B, a bar which doesn't serve drinks, a quiet chapel, a vestry and of course the sanctuary. All of these are wrapped into a building hand-crafted from real authentic Java.
The members of St Pixels come from all over the world. They're mainly from the UK and the United States, but lots of the same are based overseas.
Define "immediate neighbourhood":www.stpixies.com is disappointingly still vacant; www.saints.com redirects to a search portal; and www.pixels.com is about cameras.
Mark led the service, from France.There was no organist or band, instead the music was robotic.I think Jeff was in the porch the whole time to direct the confused.The images displayed during the service were courtesy of Jools.
What was the name of the service?9pm service on a Sunday (UK time)
How full was the building?
Difficult to say. What's the capacity of a virtual building?There were 28 of us, including the leader.It felt comfortably full. Any more people and it would have been hard to follow conversation.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yeah. There were a few guys chatting casually in the porch as I strolled in, metaphorically. Nobody actually went into the sanctuary until a minute or so before the service.There was no notice sheet.But what would they put on it?BBQ on whichever side of the Atlantic Ocean is closest to you?
Was your pew comfortable?
High backed, black leather swivel chair at an oversized wooden desk covered in high tech kit. Perfect for all those cat-stroking, Bond villain moments.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Relaxed. Lots of gentle humour. Would have been quite comfortable referring to the Messiah as "a very naughty boy".
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to our service.We'll be using sound and images, so maybe you'd like to turn on your speakers and make this window as large as possible."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
Readings from the Bible were delivered onscreen and via audio.Mark typed out the song words and we typed them back to "sing along".
What musical instruments were played?
Midi files. Very shrill in places. Needed to turn the volume right down for the songs, but back up for any talking.
Did anything distract you?
Thoughts of the bar afterwards.The tiramisu liqueur on my desk.The wind outside (and inside, via my ill-fitting windows).Getting this report right.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was pretty standard denominational stuff. All the hymns were fairly well known – but that was probably just being inclusive with a web community.There was no singing in tongues, though (unless any foreigners were).
Exactly how long was the sermon?
Just over five minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The sermon was delivered via audio stream, backed up with words on the screen and with a few images.He was pretty straightforward, clear and direct, but perhaps a little intellectual – I'm not sure the vocabulary would suit a new Christian or a non-thinker.He managed to talk about money without asking for any, which in my experience is a first!
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Christians and money, their dodgy track record with organ fund thermometers, etc., and what Paul has to say about money.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Probably the sense of community. It sounds odd, but this really works. I think St Pixels doesn't have the baggage of a normal church.I really loved it and felt I was among friends.Plus... there was no Sunday school :-)
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Typing with my hurt finger and wrist.The music – it needs to be in line with the volume of the other audio segments of the service, and slightly less shrill.It would also be good if the music was sung, rather than just instrumental.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Somebody reviewed my profile and spontaneously engaged me in conversation about a hobby of mine, which was very impressive. I think we could all learn from that.I got invited to the bar, which sounded great, but there was no booze. In fact, there wasn't even any water. It was still fun, though. Lots of general chat. None of the usual church agendas or "special interest" cliques.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
It was virtual, but the remains of my tiramisu liqueur more than made up for it.Conversation was fun. I drifted to the cloisters to listen to and read the discussion happening there.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 – I think I'll be a semi-regular attendee alongside my main church. Maybe once every three weeks, plus the occasional chat.I wouldn't consider it as an alternative to my "day church" though. Unless I lived in North Korea.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. It's great that this stuff can work without being taken over by lunatics. People really seem blessed by it and it's great for an introvert like me.These sound quite practical things, but I was really blessed by being there tonight.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
How friendly people were, and how great it will be to be part of that community if I'm off travelling and want to touch base with Christians I know.