Published in AI

German church replaces priest with AI

by on22 June 2023

Much more precise

A church in Germany has held the first AI-driven mass in a move that some might feel is a reform too far.

More than 300 people attended an experimental ChatGPT-powered church service at St. Paul’s church in the Bavarian town of Fürth, Germany.

The 40-minute sermon included text generated by OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot and delivered by avatars on a television screen above the altar.

The priest in this case was shown as a bearded man with a fixed expression and monotone voice which was pretty much what we saw the last time we stepped into a Christian church before catching fire.

It started: “Dear friends, it is an honour for me to stand here and preach to you as the first artificial intelligence at this year’s convention of Protestants in Germany.”

Jonas Simmerlein, a professor at the University of Vienna and the man behind the production of these proceedings, commented that nearly all the mass content was AI-generated, save a couple of percentage points where humans got involved. Humans had to query and guide the construction of the mass, but ChatGPT built nearly all the content and AI avatars delivered the sermon.

It did not go down as well as hoped. Some in the congregation took issue with the lack of emotion in the avatars, or their speech patterns. Basically, they wanted their priests to be a bit more human.

Marc Jansen, a 31-year-old Lutheran pastor was more positive: “I had imagined it to be worse. But I was positively surprised by how well it worked. Also, the language of the AI worked well, even though it was still a bit bumpy."

Simmerlein said his intention wasn’t to replace religious leaders but to use AI as a tool that could assist them. For instance, AI could provide ideas for upcoming sermons or expedite the sermon-writing process, freeing up pastors to devote more time to individual spiritual guidance.


Last modified on 22 June 2023
Rate this item
(1 Vote)

Read more about: