All ministers in the Church of England affirm upon taking up a new appointment that they will proclaim the Christian Faith "afresh in each generation." So I am going to try to think through this current experiment to create a worshipping community or a Fresh Expression of church that does just that in the medium of the wildly successful blocky wonderland of Minecraft. That is where a new generation of people are thinking and living. I was out for a run the other day and passed a couple of boys and caught snatches of their conversation "elytra... crafting.. nether". It is common conversation of a shared sub-culture.
I don't know who introduced Minecraft to our household, but we were into it fairly early on. Now all four children, spanning a 9 year age range, all share the same interest. The game has developed greatly over the years adding interest, complexity and delight. I am sure it was me who first got them a server and spent some headbanging hours trying to get it to do interesting things.
In December 2020 in the midst of the second national Coronavirus lockdown I had just moved to a new parish to complete my curacy. I knew no-one and getting to know new people was going to be almost impossible with the months of restrictions ahead of us.
My supervisor and I have been discussing a number of possible options for creating online communities. To be frank I had Zoom fatigue, cabin fever and was not feeling hopeful at my prospects of creating an online community. The online sphere was the only option really for community building but I have not had great success there before and it felt like a lead weight. Mike suggested to me "why don't you set up a Minecraft church". It was one of those light bulb moments really. It lifted me above the heavy weight into a wild space of new possibilities. And the prospect of fun and creativity, something that often gives me energy.
I have been thinking about how to draw in Minecraft with different family groups before but had few options for combining it with church in the physical when meeting together was permitted! In lockdown, my youngest had struggled with the online church offering. We were not going to force them through it so I said to them. "Get the laptops, sit down and work together to create something from the story they are reading today". And off they did. They worked hard at it too and came up with some fresh and new ways of seeing the Bible story. So I had a feeling this could all work.
I am grateful for a very supportive boss and team at St Michael's. I explained what I wanted to do to them. As Christmas was approaching and the traditional Christingle service was abandoned I wondered if we could build Christingles in Minecraft? It was something quite build-able so I thought it might work! I found a couple of families in the church with kids who were mad-keen on Minecraft and sounded them out about the idea. They were all positive. So I booked a date and started to plan...