The Revd Kevin Colyer, who joined St Michael’s Church in Bray in October 2020 at the height of Lockdown 2, has discovered a great new way to engage and get to know the younger members of his congregation – without, as he puts it, “boring them with long sermons and unrelatable bible stories.” Instead, he is trialling worship in the digital realm with the help of the computer game, Minecraft – in which players explore an online world via their square-shaped avatars.
He says he was inspired to explore the digital space after seeing his own children use Minecraft to shape their understanding of the bible and in particular the story of Joseph and his coat of many colours. To bring the story to life, they ‘built’ the prison cells described in the story in their Minecraft world.
Starting small, Kevin called up friends and colleagues in the parish to see if their children, friends, or family might be interested in joining him on a Sunday morning to explore their faith through Minecraft. Their first project was to build a virtual Christingle, and from there the group has expanded, with last Sunday seeing a group of ten children of varying ages, gathering online, chatting and finishing with a prayer.
Kevin says of the project,
“We know how hard lockdown has been for children and how they are desperate to re-ignite friendships and a sense of community, and I really hope that this project allows them to meet other children their age in a safe and welcoming space. We have worked really hard to make sure that all online safeguarding controls are carefully adhered to, with close moderation and guidelines and rules set out.”
“There is a real sense of fun and camaraderie in the sessions, as well as the ability to tell stories and build virtual worlds, which help the children to figure out how to follow Jesus in an engaging and age-appropriate way.
What is perhaps most exciting is that quite often the whole family becomes involved as we run a Zoom call in tandem with the session, making it a truly ‘all-age’ experience. Even if the children are buried deep in their ‘world’, parents and siblings often end up engaging in some really interesting conversations on Zoom, which is so great to see and hear. It feels wonderful to be part of this new expression of church – something which we hope to build on once the pandemic is under control.”