It got me thinking, however, that there might be a market for an online only congregation. It would be just the kind of congregation most people want -- cheap and easy to fund, one you can shut off and tune in again without anyone making some snide comment about missing you, one you can sleep through without having anyone notice, and one that asks hardly anything of you. Who would not want to join such a congregation? And that is the point. How long before our congregations end up with an online presence that is larger and perhaps more significant than their in person operation? How long before people in one state or country watching online will request to become official members of their online congregation? Is it possible to have a congregation with a mostly online membership?
I think you already know what I think of such an endeavor. So I will not repeat to you the bitter words I have for people who right now might be salivating at the prospect of such a church. But I will suggest to you that the day is coming and perhaps already is when such congregations will exist -- even within denominations formally opposed to such virtual parishes. It is an inevitable outcome of some of the poor choices we have made and the awful judgments rendered by and upon the churches during this pandemic. Worship is not essential, online is the same as in person, sacraments may be handled remotely and virtually, and hits are the most important barometer of parish success.
Just think about it. We could sell off all those properties expensive to maintain and run and have a church for the cost of some decent bandwidth. We could get rid of all those in person programs and their volunteers and leave it to people to Facebook message or text each other for fellowship, zoom for instruction, and download for information. It would be truly a virtual church! The only people needed are the social media people and a few spare hours of some pastor's time. We have the technology. We could do it.
Remember what St. Paul said about the possible not being the beneficial? I wonder how long it will be before the folks at the head of our churches either suggest what I have said or insist it should not be done. How long will we want? Some congregations and districts are fairly close to the whole idea of virtual parishes and virtual ministries. And if we can do it, why would we not? Therein lies the rub. We would be pounding nails into our own coffins.
The whole definition of a virtual church is that such a church is not real. Real churches have real pastors, people, water for baptism, bread and wine for the Eucharist, and fellowship that flows from this though the assembly and out into the world. Oh well, I will be retired by the time this really catches on and maybe I can supplement my retirement income with some side gigs online. I can work at my leisure and don't even have to wear pants. The camera only needs a head shot, after all, and that is what the digital media is good at -- making real people into talking heads. Perhaps the only one disappointed by this would be Jesus. But we can outvote Him.