As I continue to learn about the amazing Capital District, it is becoming clear that there is a willingness to try creative, out-of-the-box, and sometimes unconventional approaches to being the church and extending ministry. A most recent example of this has occurred at Violet Crown City Church, a United Methodist Church in Austin, where Rev. Jay Cooper serves as lead pastor. In an extraordinary approach, the church held Artificial Intelligence (AI)-generated worship service!
The worship service was a one-time experiment as part of a series in which Pastor Jay explored the increasingly popular AI technology with hopes to examine it, understand it better, and perhaps consider ways that it could become a resource to be used for good. After the worship service, the congregation discussed the experience and produced some honest feedback about it. Where cutting-edge approaches often take us to uncomfortable places, it appears that the congregation learned of some benefits, as well as the growing edges for the use of this technology, that could ultimately contribute to its broader role and value in society.
The worship service received significant media recognition from local, state, as well as national media forums. One of the news anchors at foxnews.com called Jay, “Pastor Creative.” I am not sure how Jay felt about that reference, but I celebrate this kind of creative, out-of-the-box leadership that Pastor Jay and Violet Crown City Church were willing to engage. It reminds me of a quote by leadership expert, Margaret Wheately, in which she said, “A leader these days needs to be a host – one who convenes diversity; who convenes all viewpoints in creative processes where our mutual intelligence can come forth.” (Leadership and the New Science, Discovering Order in a Chaotic World).
As challenging as this kind of approach can be, it can also help the church to stand at the forefront of processing and possibly influencing some of the most pressing issues facing society today. In doing so, we might even gain clarity about God’s creative activity in the world as alluded in Isaiah 43:19, where the Prophet declares, “Behold, I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it?”
Here are some news broadcasts and articles that covered Pastor Jay and the AI-generated worship service at Violet Crown City Church that generated good reflection:
- News Nation
- My San Antonio: Texas Methodist church using ChatGPT-generated sermon
- Texas Monthly: Are You There, God? It’s Me, ChatGPT
May our imaginative sprits, created in God’s image, continue to emerge in appropriate ways to serve us well in areas of opportunity and need in our various ministries!
Grace and Peace,