VR Liturgy

Psalm 29v2 (REB) reads, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to his name; in holy attire worship the LORD.”

The REB translates הֲדָרָה as attire, while other translations use splendor. The nuance may be what one means by adornment. In context, the verse is about Heavenly/angelic beings the difference between attire/adornment/splendor may not be so clear cut as it is in more human existence or English.

This translation obviously caught my attention. Then in Exodus 40v30-32 (as the next part of the day’s reading in the lectionary), we read that the head priests would wash their hands and feet prior to entering the most Holy place of the Tabernacle. This was in addition to another cleansing ritual and ritually clean clothes they had to put on.

Church Clothes

These verses brought to mind a memory of as a child where there were 2 churches sharing a space, and the Methodists (I think that’s who they were) would all put on blue robes (like choir robes) prior to entering the sanctuary and participating in their worship service. My childhood memory may be flawed, granted, yet it seemed strange to all put on different clothes to go to church.

As I got older, I ran across the “Sunday best” concept, which makes sense, as we want to be our best selves for God, yet, I think that it was often the best self to be seen by others. On the other hand, I can see the habit of putting on the blue gowns as two-fold: (1) you’re not wearing clothes to be seen, but clean enough to not smell, comfortable to fit under hot robes; (2) by putting it on before entering the sanctuary, there is a physical “trigger” that causes one to realize that they are entering a place specifically set aside to worship God.

Ritual Power

As I begin my journey into VR, I can see how many of the ancient church rituals may be rejuvenated in VR.

In a number of traditions, there are remembrance baptistries. As a person enters the sanctuary, a small sink or tub contains water that a person dips their fingers into and makes the sign of the cross on their forehead (pre-COVID).

Then there is the wearing of specific clothes—specifically, a robe—while attending a worship service.

What this brings to mind is how these rituals could be revitalized in VR.

Yes, that water may not be real, but programmatically, one could receive physical feedback (i.e., haptic) when one touches the water in the virtual container, then receive more feedback when you touch your avatar with that same water.

Putting on a robe as you enter a place wouldn’t be difficult either (says the non-programmer). While VR is, in many respects, chaos and a place of so-called freedom, putting the robe over the avatar may do some NSFW coverage, but it also creates a sense of visual unity. Granted, not sure how it would work with a non-humanesque shape (I saw a dragon avatar the other day).

As the move to VR strengthens, rituals (whether religious or secular) will need to be developed. Based on some stories floating around, I wonder if rituals may be a necessary thing, so that people cannot behave like trolls in VR as they have been elsewhere online, because they might then truly associate their avatar with theirself.

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