The diocese of Oxford has created the first church in the Church of England that will exist only on the World Wide Web.
The diocese announced the appointment of its first Web pastor, Alyson May Leslie at the recent Christian Resource Exhibition. The Web parish, i-church.org, will be formally launched in July.
Ms. Leslie set up the WebChurch, Scotland’s first online church, in 1998, according to the diocese of Oxford Web site.
The post of Web pastor was much coveted, the diocese said. “The post attracted applicants from every continent across the world.”
Ms. Leslie is a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church and is licensed as a lay eucharistic minister in the diocese of St. Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane.
She told BBC Online that more than 700 people have joined the i-church. “They’re a wide range of people,” she said. “Some are working abroad, some are in countries where they find it difficult to express a Christian faith openly, and some are in residential care and can’t get about. Some are disaffected by the church and want to find new ways to belong.” And although they will only “meet” via e-mail and Webcasts she said, “My experience of online communities is that they can be loving and generous and supportive.”