Blacktip Island’s non-denominational church stands empty after the launch of iChurch, a mobile application that allows island residents who subscribe to the service to attend church from anywhere on the island. (photo courtesy of the Reverend Pierre Grunt)
Sunday morning will bring the hard launch of iChurch, a mobile application developed by a local theologian, that will allow subscribers to attend religious services wherever they happen to be.
“We’re taking away any excuse for not going to church,” said the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians, the app’s developer and chair of the Blacktip Island Ecumenical Council. “Too busy? Socially anxious? Want to avoid that person? Now you don’t have to leave your house. Or your couch.
“Enter a religion or denomination, and voila,” Ephesians said. “We’ve got them all. Well, the biggies, anyway. It gets you in the ballpark. And it does retinal monitoring to see how engaged you are. You start to zone out, iChurch kicks it up a notch to keep you hooked.”
Early adopters were impressed.
“For last Sunday’s beta test, I went to mass without getting out of bed,” said divemaster Marina DeLow. “That was great, because, hell, after Saturday night, I couldn’t even sit up.
“A sim-priest walks you through the Eucharist, and you can use whatever’s on hand for bread and wine,” DeLow said. “Day-old pizza and beer was handy. Afterwards, I felt moved deep inside. That could have been the pizza, though.”
The app drew criticism from some on the island’s religious community.
“This pay-to-pray program makes a mockery of religious faith,” said the Reverend Pierre Grunt, pastor of the island’s non-denominational church. “Jerrod never has said what got him defrocked, but I’ll wager glib grifting had something to do with it.
“And where’s the ‘body of believers’ in Jerrod’s slick little computer church?” Grunt said. “What’s worse, it’s killing real church attendance. A brick-and-mortar church can’t compete. This’s hitting us right in the offering plates.”
Ephesians was quick to fire back.
“If Pierre wasn’t so boring, he wouldn’t have to worry about competition,” Ephesians said. “He needs to focus on improving his product instead of crying and pointing fingers.
“And iChurch does foster a sense of community,” Ephesians said. “We have chat rooms and in-app meetups, even hymn-singing. Right after we collect the Bitcoin offering.”
Others were disappointed by the app’s limited range.
“There’s parts of the island, like down the southeast coast, where there’s no internet signal,” resident Frank Maples said. “We always joked about Mahogany Row being so far off the grid there’s no God there. Now it’s true.”
Ephesians said he had plans to expand the app’s functionality.
“We’re gonna put in some repeaters so we get total coverage,” he said. “iChurch has the capability to compete with the megachurches, and that’s exactly what we mean to do.”