Several churches are now streaming services over the iPhone (News - Alert). One of the first was Northland, A Church Distributed, which launched an iPhone Web App last month offering not just videos of past church services, but the ability to join in live services via streaming video.
Today, approximately 2,000 people regularly worship with Northland online, bringing the church into homes, coffee shops, restaurants, military bases, offices ... "even a Burger King restaurant," church officials say.
"Love it - in seat 9E on the Tarmac worshiping with ya," Twittered one man waiting for his flight to depart. For the more techno-cluelessly devout the church has posted step-by-step instructions on its blog.
Nathan Clark, Northland's director of digital innovation, and leader of the team that brought Northland's services to the iPhone, said the congregation gathers for worship on a weekly basis in a normal brick and mortar church, and since they were already "asking people to leave their communities and come to this place" to temporarily form another community, it "just made sense to help people worship where they are."
The latest technology pressed into the service of the divine is certainly not a new concept. Christian broadcasters have long employed state-of-the-art techniques and approaches, with some churches carefully architectured to serve more as live studios than actual churches.
Other churches stream their services live online, iTunes is full of free religious lectures and sermons and other material, and last December TMC's Michael Dinan reported that the Vatican approved technology bringing its priests’ book of daily prayers onto iPhones, the iBreviary, an iTunes app created by Italian Web designer and hi-tech priest the Rev. Paolo Padrini.
Northland operates four sites throughout Metro Orlando, Florida. The church began webcasting its services in January 2006, and two years later launched an interactive version of its webstream including "immediate access to an online pastor and the ability to chat instantly with other worshipers."
Northland officials say that given the ability to connect the iPhone -- or iPod Touch, it works on those, too -- to an external display such as a TV or monitor, "many users will use the iPhone to start home churches, especially in countries where advanced cell networks are far outpacing broadband connectivity."
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Clark dismisses criticism that people are opting out of the communal church experience in favor of an isolated worship experience. "We continually hear stories of people who start to worship online and eventually find a community to worship with others, or start one of their own. We don't see this as a zero-sum game."
twitter.com/itexpoDavid Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi