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Reyes-Chow launches church on-line

            Here’s the idea: start a new Presbyterian church. Progressive. Online.

            Former General Assembly moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow and a small group of Presbyterian leaders from across the country have announced plans to plant a new church that would connect people primarily through social media.

            Among the questions the group is posing: “What if a church decided that the discipline of following Christ and building genuine Christian community could be lived out without everyone having to actually be in one place at one time?”

            The new initiative doesn’t yet have a name – that’s part of what the community might help define. So far, ideas are being shared through a Facebook group page, where already prayer requests are being presented and ideas are flying about everything from Bible study to youth ministry.

            Reyes-Chow announced the initiative in a blog post, but he’s only one of a group organizing the new congregation – a group that includes ruling and teaching elders from New Jersey to California.

            In an interview, Reyes-Chow said this is an idea in progress – with much yet to be determined, including the question of, for worship, “does everyone have to be in front of the screen at the same time?” The hope is “model an open source way of being church,” with ideas emerging from the group, including determining exactly what techniques or platforms the congregation will use to connect.

            Also, “we’re not at all trying to have the face-to-face go away,” Reyes-Chow said. Possibilities for in-person interaction might include regional clusters and gatherings organized around particular events.

            Already, some have raised questions about ecclesiastical matters. On Facebook, for example, people asked questions including how the sacraments would be handled, and some have wondered what presbytery approval might be needed. Reyes-Chow said he’s encouraging those involved who are teaching elders to inform the committees on ministry in their presbyteries of the endeavor, as he has done. But “I didn’t feel we needed permission from anybody to do this,” he said, as the congregation is not formally calling a minister, but is more a fellowship taking shape.

Along with the questions, there has also been excitement – particularly from those for whom traditional bricks-and-mortar churches still leave them wanting more.

            “We’re not just doing this as a gimmick,” Reyes-Chow said. “This is serious. This is truly different . . . That’s what folks are excited about.”