Original Research - Special Collection: South African Science and Religion Forum

The reconfiguration of social, digital and physical presence: From online church to church online

Anthony-Paul Cooper, Samuli Laato, Suvi Nenonen, Nicolas Pope, David Tjiharuka, Erkki Sutinen
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 3 | a6286 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i3.6286 | © 2021 Anthony-Paul Cooper, Samuli Laato, Suvi Nenonen, Nicolas Pope, David Tjiharuka, Erkki Sutinen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 August 2020 | Published: 17 June 2021

About the author(s)

Anthony-Paul Cooper, Centre for Church Growth Research, Cranmer Hall, Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom; Department of Computing, Faculty of Technology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
Samuli Laato, Department of Computing, Faculty of Technology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
Suvi Nenonen, Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of the Built Environment, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland
Nicolas Pope, Department of Computing, Faculty of Technology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
David Tjiharuka, Department of Human Sciences, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia
Erkki Sutinen, Department of Computing, Faculty of Technology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland


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Abstract

Digital presence refers to technologies that provide communities a shared experience and a sense of togetherness, despite geographical distance. Emerging technologies for digital presence provide the church with both theological questions (e.g. related to the validity of sacraments when administered online) and practical opportunities. Think of the pros and cons for online communion in some churches: is digital presence real presence? The digital realm as a thread of the universe leads to rethinking of the church as a social, digital and physical unity. What kind of new possibilities could digital presence in digital realities provide to spiritual experience, individually and within the worship?

Contribution: Rather than a plain application of the existing technologies to digitise the current functions and events of congregations for online services, technology should expand and reform the church online. This study aims to discuss the transformation from online church to church online. The technical solution for digital presence was inspired by the demands of a Finnish plug-in campus in an African setting, which draws inspiration from African concepts of community and place.


Keywords

digital presence; church online; affordances; digital theology; digital religion

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