Online churches are internet-based Christian communities, pursuing worship, discussion, friendship, support, proselytization, and other key religious goals through computer-mediated communication. Hundreds of thousands of people are now involved with online congregations, generating new kinds of ritual, leadership, and community and new networks of global influence.
Creating Church Online constructs a rich ethnographic account of the diverse cultures of online churches, from virtual worlds to video streams. This book also outlines the history of online churchgoing, from its origins in the 1980s to the present day, and traces the major themes of academic and Christian debate around this topic. Applying some of the leading current theories in the study of religion, media and culture to this data, Tim Hutchings proposes a new model of religious design in contexts of mediatization, and draws attention to digital networks, transformative third spaces and terrains of existential vulnerability. Creating Church Online advances our understanding of the significance and impact of digital media in the religious and social lives of its users, in search of new theoretical frameworks for digital religion.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Welcome to the Online Church
1 A Brief History of Cyberchurch
2 Making Sense of Online Churches
3 Methodology: How to Study an Online Church
4 Church of Fools
6 St Pixels
7 The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life
8 Church Online at LifeChurch.tv
9 Creating Church Online: Media Design and Media Logic
10 Being Church Online: Networks and Existential Terrains
Conclusion: What Happened to the Online Church?
Tim Hutchings is a postdoctoral researcher in the Institute for Media Studies at Stockholm University, Sweden. He is a sociologist of digital religion, and his research has included studies of online churches, digital Bibles, evangelism and pilgrimage. His current work focuses on death, grief and memory in digital environments, as part of the Existential Terrains research program (et.ims.su.se) funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation and Stockholm University. He is the editor of the Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture (jrmdc.com).