Around 300 people joined an experimental 45-minute programme of the German Evangelical Church. 98% was created and performed by machines.
“From what you will see and experience today, around 98% comes from a machine”.
The short introduction of theologian and tech expert Jonas Simmerlein gave way to the first-ever Artificial Intelligence-led worship service in Germany.
In the next 45 minutes, 300 attendees in the packed St. Paul Protestant church, took part in a service in which artificially generated avatars in human form, projected onto a screen, led the service through intercessions, Psalm prayers, the confession of faith, a sermon and the final blessing. Even the music between the individual elements was composed by AI, the press service of the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD, the mainline Protestant church) confirmed.
The public mostly followed all the digital indications, although whispers and some laughter were heard at some points. “I would have expected the avatar to at least raise its arms during the blessing”, one worshipper said.
Watch a video summary of the AI-led worship service below:
The service wanted to be an experience that would lead to a conversation. The attendants were asked to turn to the person next to them to comment their views as the service finished.
In a roundtable, a philosopher and theologian said it had been “a cool thing”, although more conversation was needed about how to relate to AI in church contexts. A communications expert of the Church saw a simplification of the preaching, and a loss of the “art of speaking”.
[title] The EKD Church Day
The experimental worship service was part of the Evangelical Church of Germany’s Church Day, a large 4-day event organised every two years. The city of Nürnberg hosted the event, which attracted a total number of 100,000 visitors.
Roundtables on current issues, worskshops, music concerts and side events closed on 11 June with a public worship service attended by 18,000 people.
Among the guests was the German head of government, Olaf Scholz. He said he would not comment on his personal faith but mentioned that he had read the whole Bible.