The gospel is broadcast to cyberspace
The reverend Alan Bain saw his congregation of 170 swollen by an extra 500 people for whom the spirit was willing but the flesh weak, or just too far away, when he gave an online broadcast of his Sunday service yesterday.
Broadband technology helped to spread the word from St Philip and St James church in Bath, for what is believed to be the first time in Britain.
According to Telewest Broadband, which organised the webcast - including two TV-quality cameras and professional sound mixing - the service attracted as many viewers as a webcast by the former Spice Girl Mel C. "I'm calling him Reverend Spice now," said John Moorwood, a Telewest spokesman.
Mr Bain, 55, who has a high-speed internet connection at home, said the response had been "brilliant", with e-mails from people watching the Anglican service from as far away as Australia and Hokkaido in Japan.
The parish priest said he wanted to encourage people who were unable to get to church, were looking for a new way to worship or wanted to have a lie-in on a Sunday morning.
While many American churches offer services on high-speed connections, the technology has not yet been embraced by the church in England.
But Mr Bain was optimistic. "It was quite expensive to put on," he said, "and the technology is pretty difficult to set up, though I'm sure that will be easier in future. We are thinking about doing it again for Christmas. I think this is the way forward for the Church of England. It's not quite the same experience as going into a church - although one e-mailer said it moved him to tears. We're not setting up a virtual church, simply encouraging people to go along to their local congregation where they will find similar things."
Although the sermon was shorter and more to the point than usual, Mr Bain insisted that otherwise the service, which had an international theme, was normal.
The virtual congregation was able to interact by choosing a hymn from a shortlist of five posted on the website. The one with the most votes, "Amazing Grace", was sung at the end of the service.
The service took place on www.broadbandreligion.co.uk, where it is being repeated.
- 1 Kylie Jenner challenge: Bizarre lip suction device inspired by Kardashian sister goes viral
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor are reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 4 Bruce Forsyth backs assisted dying campaign: 'If I had Alzheimer's or dementia I would do something about it'
- 5 Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
iJobs Money & Business
£30 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst with experienc...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£21000 - £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged b...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...