First web church unveiled

PLANS for the world's first officially recognised online church were unveiled today.

The i-church - which will be the first to be included in the formal structures of the Church of England - will go live at the start of July.

And already more than 700 people - from across the world - have shown an interest in joining.

The church - which will be open to all denominations - is part of the Diocese of Oxford.

Alyson Leslie from the Scottish Episcopal Church has been made "web pastor", although ultimate responsibility for care will lie with the Bishop of Oxford, the Right Rev Richard Harries.

Speaking at the launch at Sandown Park, in Surrey, Ms Leslie said: "With the internet you cannot confine it to one geographical area, and that is the exciting thing about it.

"We have people who are in residential care homes with access to the internet, we have people who travel around a lot with their work and want access to church groups that will pray and support them, and we have people who are just exploring the Christian faith and don't want to commit to a physical church but want to be part of a community where they can explore their spiritual longings."