Begin Free Online Ordination

Woman on LaptopOn December 15th, the New York Times published an opinion piece from San Francisco-based writer Laura Turner, entitled “Internet Church Isn’t Really Church”. We, respectfully, disagree.

The crux of Turner’s article is that dragging yourself out of bed on Sunday to physically spend time at church, to build in-person bonds with your fellow believers, is a community-building experience that cannot be replicated by online participation in such services. Turner posits, “Showing up in person is exhausting, especially compared with live-streaming. But being together is the whole point.” Turner took to Twitter to clarify her views further, saying “my point here is about not treating church as one more thing we consume”.

But a community is not defined by the building where they meet. In today’s technological age, worshipping digitally is a perfectly legitimate way to express your religion and build community bonds. Rather than changing people to fit into the church, online churches are changing church to fit the needs of the people. And here’s why:

Ease of Access

For the elderly or people with disabilities that prohibit them from travel, the ability to attend church services digitally matters. To suggest that you can only really experience church from a Sunday pew is offensive and exclusionary to anyone who is homebound.

For those who cannot physically attend church, digital services are a meaningful alternative that can be just as fulfilling, enlightening, and beautiful as an in-person service.

Diversity of Thought

Attending an online church is likely to expose you to a greater diversity of people, cultures, and opinions than you would normally be exposed to at your local church. Most churches minister to a homogenous group of people, and only about 12 percent of U.S. congregations are multiracial (defined as a church where less than 80 percent of the congregants are the same race or ethnicity). And while racial diversity in churches is growing, there’s a long way left to go. This can’t really even be blamed on the churches themselves: Many cities in America just aren’t terribly diverse.

But online churches remove those geographic barriers entirely. At the Universal Life Church, a minister in Lexington, Kentucky can connect with a minister in Portland, Oregon. A minister in Cedar Rapids, Iowa can get in touch with a fellow minister in El Paso, Texas. Being able to regularly share ideas with people on a nationwide (and even global) platform is a positive community experience that promotes diversity of thought and experience that traditional churchgoing simply cannot replicate.

Online Community

A large part of Laura Turner’s argument seems to stem from an anecdote about her own church: A few years prior, when she was having a particularly rough time, the members of her church community helped to lift her up. They sent her flowers, they brought her meals, books, and their companionship. And that is exactly what a community is supposed to do, to prop each other up, and be there for each other when times get hard. But Turner’s insistence that this kind of humanity cannot be found online, that genuine human bonds cannot be forged digitally, is rooted in antiquated thinking. The Universal Life Church community, and other online church communities, are just as real and just as compassionate, loving, and supportive as any other congregation.

Safety First

Attending a Sunday sermon at your local church is a lovely, life-affirming experience- for some. But too often, our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters do not feel welcome (or sometimes, safe) in houses of worship. Online churches provide LGBTQ+ individuals the ability to research a church’s values from the safety and comfort of their own home without risk of physical reprisal or local community ostracization.

Online Church Matters

This is not meant to be a take-down of the Sunday-best church experience. The Universal Life Church believes we are all children of the same universe, and everyone should be free to live and worship as they please, so long as they bring no harm to others. We respect and love our fellow houses of worship. But to suggest that online churches aren’t "real" churches and don’t provide a genuine experience is not correct.

In church, like most things in life, you’ll get out what you put in.

Category: Technology Church

ULC Universal Life Church culture self care

Add Your Comment

To post a comment you must log in first.
You may alternatively login with your credentials, below.