Worship untouched by human mouth

I’ve been experimenting with text-to-voice software, useful for those with reading disabilities and tired eyes. Now imagine your computer made of polished brass, mahogany and stained glass and the following will make more sense. Really more steampunk than Church 2.0, and with a bit of whimsy, I took the idea of the electronic church one step forward — or back.

Download as an MP3 or OGG (for the open-sourcers out there) Evening Prayer for Christmas.

I used the Universalist 1894 prayer book and the Episcopalian collect and readings used from the late eighteenth century till the 1979 revision. This would be an ideal spoken (no music) service for the evening of December 25. In other words, when all the steam is out of the clergy and congregation.

Actually, neither is needed here. The service is generated by an electronic voice, courtesy the Festival software, from the University of Edinburgh. Do I note a waft of Scottish accent in this “American male” voice? Some words like Saviour and reading are goofed up, but I decided to leave the source text as-is, rather than go back and change reading to reed-ding. (There is a typo at the very end, but by that point you will have gotten the proof of concept.)

The sad thing is that this computerized reading is better paced and more appropriately emotive than some real live ministers and lay readers I’ve heard in any number of denominations.

Perhaps next year, as the text-to-song software gets better, I can have a carol service for download too. (Now doesn’t that just give you the creeps.)

Christmas evening prayer:

MP3 (5.4 megabytes)

OGG (2.2 megabytes; use this one if you can, of course)

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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