THE AUTOMATED CHURCH

Gaylon Embrey

 am not much of a believer in organized, institutional religion. It is too impersonal. Besides, the New Testament does not teach it. Yet if the present trend continues, it will not be many years til we have our first fully Automated Church. I can see it now.

The Church building itself will sit conspicuously on Broadway and Main, as it does now, the only difference being its size. Though still exquisitely built, it will be somewhat smaller. Everything inside will be completely mechanized for the "self service" use of Christian patrons. Unlike today, the building will not be open just at the appointed hours of worship. It will be open all day Sunday, and during business hours the rest of the week. This way all legitimate "members" (each will be given a validated membership card to verify him as a customer in good standing with the Church) will be able to "worship God" at his leisure without having to hassle with a crowd. It will be so much easier this way. Of course, many Christians today who "go to church on Sunday" try to avoid speaking to anybody. But in the future they will be able to slip in and out of Church without speaking, and not have to worry about it.

A member of the Automated Church will not have to learn to pray for himself. Not even when he is "at Church." He will simply Dial-A-Prayer. Since most prayers have long since been standardized both in terminology and tone, he will merely select the particular recitation he wishes to hear repeated and how many times. A choice will likely be given for those who enjoy prayers in modern English. Those who prefer the famous 16th Century English prayer that begins, "Our Father in Heaven, we thank thee that we are able to come to worship thee in spirit and in truth and to hear another portion of thy word . . . ", will have to pay a little extra.

In the Automated Church even those who are melodious will not need to "sing with grace in their hearts to the Lord." The music portion of the "worship service" will already be prepared and stored in the Jesus Juke Box. When the correct coin is inserted "psalms and hymns" will break forth. At first, nc) doubt, there will be resistance to having a (lifeless) mechanical instrument of music in the Church, especially an instrument that mechanically reproduces not just a melody, but the human voice as well. But, soon everyone will remember that it has been "scriptural" all along to use similar music machines on radio and tv programs produced by brethren. Why not at Church? The songs will certainly sound prettier than the out-of-tune efforts in so many places today. True, the sound may not be quite as good as what a real live choir produces; but still, most anyone can enjoy spiritual stereo.

Of course no true worship of God would be complete without a sermon, especially on Sunday. Whether the worshippers ever listen or not, God certainly enjoys an entertaining oration once a week. Therefore, in the Automated Church a canned sermon will always be on hand, in the can! There will be a large library of cassettes containing "the truth" on an endless variety of subjects. More sophisticated outlets of the Automated Church will also have the weekly sermon on video, so the orator can be seen as well as heard. In any event, those who are good members of the Automated Church will not be required, or even expected, to pay much attention, or actually practice what is recommended in the sermon. They need only to be there once a week while the routine is performed, and say nothing negative about it.

Inside the Automated Church, down near the front, will be the Communion Room. There the true worshipper will find the sacred Vending Machine with "In Memory Of Me" inscribed on it. A proper amount of unleavened bread and Welch's Grape Juice will be dispensed with the pull of a lever, along with a proper prayer that "those who partake will do so in a manner well pleasing in thy sight." When this is done God will be happy and the members will be ok for another week. This machine, unlike all the other devices, is programmed to work only once a week, only on Sunday.

Oh yes, lest we forget. Most certainly there will be a Divine Depository where in each faithful member of the Automated Church can "lay by in store" on the first day of the week. It takes quite a lot of money to underwrite the overhead of this great Church. All members are reminded of this in the weekly bulletin sent out by the Church Computer. Therefore, every member will be required to "give to the Church" every Sunday, just like the Scriptures say (1 Cor.. 16:1-2). Of course, in a pinch, money will be tolerated by the Automated Treasury on other days too, in spite of the cited text. In fact, facilities will be available for those wishing to use credit cards, and bank draft services will be provided.

As you can see, the Automated Church of Christ will be altogether "scriptural" in all respects, with the "five acts of worship" being performed each Sunday on behalf of all members that show up. But this is not all. The Automated Church will have other capabilities as well, special equipment designed and kept on the premises for other services various members might need.

Someone might wish to be baptized, for instance. Many of the spiritual "Convenience Stores" built by the competition in the community will no doubt have a modern sprinkling system installed in their Baptistery Room. No such thing will be found in the Automated Church. Instead, it will have the Immerse-O-Matic that will gently submerge in water those who wish to be entirely biblical in their obedience to the gospel. This Robot will be a voice-activated machine; however, it will not work if the candidate gives an incorrect answer to questions regarding the nature of his past sins. If he has only been a flagrant fornicator in days gone by, the machine will baptize him without hesitation, even uttering the correct formula, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit for the remission of your sins." But if he has ever once committed the sin of marriage (following a divorce), an alarm will sound, lights will go off, the machine will immediately jam, and not work til his divorce papers have been fully investigated. The Immerse-O-Marie, or "Big Dipper" as the kids call it, will be very handy indeed. It will make it possible for lost souls to be "born of water" into the precious family of God without having to delay any of the busy members, costing them valuable time in the cafeteria line. Thanks to the Automated Church, never again will Christians have to miss the kick-off waiting for some poor sinner to get himself baptized. This is very important, especially during the playoffs.

In the chapel of the Automated Church will be one of its most important features, the celestial Marriage Mart, set up there to take care of a most sacred function of "the true Church" the performing of weddings made in heaven. Like everything else, the Lord's Marriage Machine will be fully automated, requiring only the stipulated fee to operate. Couples seeking to be married will come before the Machine, insert their valid license (previously authenticated by Church Authorities) and wait for instructions. They will be flawlessly led through a "spiritual" wedding ceremony, and finally pronounced to be husband and wife "by the authority of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit." Folks can't get more married than that.

Well, you get the picture by now. With this sophisticated system arranged and in automatic working order, all that the Proprietors of the Automated Church of Christ will need to do is make their regular weekly rounds, collect the money, and make sure all facilities are functioning properly. (How much more do modern Elderships do?) All that the Church members will have to do is make an appearance at the building at their convenience and, for a modest fee, have their religion performed for them. (How much more than this do average church members do today?) Anyway, it will be wonderful when Christianity gets to be fully automated won't it? Then we Christians will not have to be bothered much by our faith. Nor will we have to bother each other, or with each other. We will not even have to bother God that much. Of course, God probably won't feel it necessary to bother much with us either - but that's another story.