Artificial intelligence is now being used in the sanctuary.
At Violet Crown City Church in north Austin, Texas, the Rev. Jay Cooper said he used ChatGPT to create an entire Sunday worship service.
Released last November, ChatGPT is an AI chatbot that can respond to questions and create content such as articles, emails, and websites.
"ChatGPT kicked out about a 15-minute service, like a shotgun sermon, an outline," Cooper told The Hill. "It's very clear that a human element is still needed. I had to fill out the service with additional prompts and add a couple prompts to the sermon to kind of beef it up."
Cooper said he was intrigued after speaking with members of his congregation who are software developers and reading more about AI.
"There's so many different applications for AI," he said. "I just had the idea, What would it look like to incorporate this into a worship service?'"
Church member Ernest Chambers, who attended the AI-generated service, told The Hill he was able to worship, but felt it was lacking the warmth of human feelings.
"I'm not sure that AI can actually express the emotions of love and kindness and empathy," Chambers said. "I think that we must practice love and express that. Not only feel it, but we must express it."
Cooper told The Hill that the purpose of the ChatGPT-driven worship experience was to explore the question, What is sacred?
"A big question that comes up to me as we let AI lead worship is, Can a prayer written by artificial intelligence in some way communicate truth?" he asked. "Can you experience God through that?"
The pastor said that if people can find the sacred in a sermon written by AI, then they might be able to find the sacred in other things too.
"Perhaps something resonates with them and then it opens their mind to, maybe I'm not looking for the sacred enough in the rest of the world," he said.
Echoing Chambers, Cooper said that the AI-generated sermon was relevant but missing the key element of emotion.
"I think the human touch is critical in life and in ministry," Cooper said. "I think the messiness of humanity should be present in worship."
He added that the ChatGPT service was a one-time event and said there are no plans to repeat it.
Samantha Shorey, a communication studies assistant professor with the University of Texas at Austin's Moody College of Communications, was appointed to a study panel that examines the future of AI in society.
She said that society has reached a critical juncture in AI technology and needs to decide on the appropriate use and spaces for it.
"Whether that means welcoming in a technology, welcoming it under these conditions, resisting a technology or refusing to use a technology," Shorey said. "All of those are decisions that we need to be making as a community and as a culture around AI."
Nicole Wells ✉
Nicole Wells, a Newsmax general assignment reporter covers news, politics, and culture. She is a National Newspaper Association award-winning journalist.
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