Anglicans create a Virtual Reality service

Virtual Reality service

The ‘Blessing of the Light’ service St Stephen Walbrook, City of London, is believed to be the first Virtual Reality (VR) service conducted by the Church of England.

The evening service was recreated in 3D for an online liturgy last month.

The Blessing of the Light gives thanks for Christ the light of the world as well as for “the lights of evening”, as the hymn puts it. The service originates from the Lucernarium, or lamp-lighting, before evening prayer in the Early Church.

For viewers, the VR offers a simulated experience of standing alongside the choir or moving around the church during the seven-minute rite. It is available on the Church of England YouTube channel and can be watched without a virtual-reality headset.

Virtual reality is growing in popularity in the UK. A recent survey showed that more than a million people now own a VR headset.

The service is led by the Rev Tosin Oladipo, Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, with music from St Martin’s Voices, the professional ensemble from London’s St-Martin-in-the-Fields.

This 3D service was a trial run, and more services might be considered if it had a wide appeal, according to the head of digital for the C of E, Amaris Cole. It was a natural extension to work done during the pandemic to make prayer and worship accessible online.

The clip offered people the chance to explore the inside of a church, perhaps for the first time.

“We worked on this project to bring an ancient tradition to a new audience. We are constantly thinking about how we can bring our prayer and worship content to new audiences using different technologies and platforms. If this first VR service is well received and useful, then we will look at what other traditions we can bring to digital devices using virtual reality.”

“It’s wonderful to be able to bring these ancient Christian prayers to a new audience who can be transported to St Stephen Walbrook for this service, wherever they might be in the world,” said Cole.


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