New Church Life NCL May/June 2018 - Page 51

Coming Soon to a Church Near You: Robot Priests? The Rev. Todd J. Beiswenger F (Reprinted from March 2018 The New Church Newsletter of Australia) or at least 10 years now, the General Church has been concerned about a lack of priests. This led to an initiative to recruit men who were interested in changing careers and joining the ministry. I came through that program, but this new initiative is much bolder in an attempt to bolster our ranks. Yes, get ready for the robot priest. I’m sure many of you will be surprised by this, but the Bishop lays out a pretty reasonable case for it. In a statement to the clergy he wrote: “Innovation is the key to church growth. In a world where we are more and more connected through electronic means, having digital, robotic priests will only help enhance our ability to connect with younger generations and ensure that the message of the New Church continues to spread around the world.” He goes on to talk about reaching out into areas where Christianity is growing, but we have little to no presence. With robo-priest there are no immigration issues. Importing a robot is as simple as shipping a computer or a piece of luggage. No lawyers involved, so you can put a robot just about anywhere in the world in a matter of days. There are plenty of other practical advantages too. Training doesn’t take three or four years. Need it to speak a language other than English? No problem. Need it to be part of the musical offering? Easy. Whatever the problem is, just import some files, make some customizations, the new robo-priest is ready to go in days, sometimes hours. At first, though, these robots will only be used to assist human priests. Because they’re able to comb through all the texts so quickly, they will be able to answer any theological question almost instantly. No longer will a priest or layperson have to waste time searching for that elusive passage. But as we get more acclimated to the robo-priest it is expected that they’ll take on a larger role, including offering blessings, officiating at weddings and even pastoral 227