Calling religious communities the “best of Facebook,” social media giant Sheryl Sandberg’s chief operating officer said she expects the day when churches and other religious groups begin hosting virtual reality services at the platform, as many turned to the service in the midst of the pandemic to stay connected.
Sandberg unveiled his intentions during a recent virtual faith summit with various religious groups in which he highlighted the critical role Facebook played when faith communities were unable to come together as a result of the new coronavirus pandemic. .
“As a person of faith, I know how important it is for my family to maintain a remote connection with our Jewish community. We have been able to celebrate the holy days … from home thanks to technology, ”Sandberg said.
“Sometimes I think about how difficult the last year’s experience could have been if the pandemic had occurred a few years earlier, because before a TV studio was needed to do what you can now do with your smartphone. “Nothing has made me more proud than to see the role that Facebook applications have played in keeping people connected at a time when we all had to be apart,” he added.
Sandberg explained that long before the pandemic, Facebook began working with religious communities to see how the company could serve them better and those efforts were fruitful during the pandemic.
“I know that religious organizations and social networks are a natural fit because, fundamentally, the two are related. This was true long before the pandemic. In 2017 we changed our mission to give people the power to build community around the world closer. We envisioned a world where our platform could help people build community by connecting with others who shared their interests. And we have created a team within Facebook to help us better serve people of faith and houses of worship around the world, ”he said.
“Four years later, we gather on Facebook to reaffirm (sic) the value of connecting people with faith, hope, inspiration and love. Facebook can be a place where members of large faiths find common ground or where people of older or younger religious tradition are found, regardless of where they are in the world, ”he continued. “Our hope is that someday people will host religious services in virtual reality spaces or use augmented reality as an educational tool to teach their children the story of their faith.”
While technology will never be a substitute for uniting in a cult space, Sandberg believes it will empower them.
“Faith communities represent the best of Facebook and we hope to keep it that way now and in the future,” he said.
Nora Jones, pastor of the Open Door Ministries in Gainesville, Florida, and director of Facebook’s global faith collaborations, said the company has been working for the past four years to help churches and other houses of worship understand that “Facebook is much more than just a place to make people aware of your programs and events. It’s a place where you can build a true community of faith.”
“Many of you, as people of faith and leaders of houses of worship, had to take into account the fact that physical meetings were suspended for health reasons. And it was during this time of uncertainty that so many people felt lost when they stood up and said, “Let’s introduce our faith in the digital domain.” Jones said.
“The reason we are organizing this meeting today is to celebrate you. To celebrate the fact that when the world community of faith was challenged with the opportunity to continue waiting for change, life and light, you created these spaces on Facebook, ”he added.
A Facebook spokesman told The Christian Post on Wednesday that churches will also be able to participate in a program called Fan Subscriptions, which allows fans to support their favorite creators with a recurring monthly payment. To participate, all creators, including religious groups, must also have 10,000 followers or more than 250 returned viewers along with “50,000 published posts or 180,000 viewing minutes” in the last 60 days.
Since the new coronavirus pandemic caused blockades in March 2020, the Church, like many other sectors of society, has had to make many changes, including a significant shift toward digital worship, and recent studies show that it is likely that many of these changes resist.
One study, Trends in the Black Church, showed that black clergy have adapted so well to the online church in the midst of the pandemic that 41% of them now favor a hybrid model of face-to-face and online services. even after COVID-19 is no longer considered a serious threat. 7% say they prefer religious services to be digital in the future.
They could no longer pass the collection plate because they could not physically meet, many churches also increasingly switched to online delivery platforms.