Journalists interacting with GPS 360

6 September 2022, Karlsruhe, Germany: Qingxin Hu and Kar Yan Mak, both journalists with the Christian Times, navigate their way around the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches using a "GPS 360" video screen. The Assembly's theme is "Christ's Love Moves the World to Reconciliation and Unity."


A GPS360º kiosk was set up in each of the two plenary halls and assembly participants were able to engage with an interactive video of the assembly and see first-hand its potential to form a bridge between in-person and virtual experiences.

Those online can visit and get a better feel for the assembly life and space.

Users can see different areas of the Karlsruhe campus. They receive additional information from the pop-up features for added video content, audio voice overs, picture slideshows and interactive questions. Participants simply can click and drag to see every angle of the video or still image that is shown on the screen.

Michel Kocher, a journalist and theologian from Switzerland has been leading the GPS360º creative team. His team includes Yves Bresson, a software engineer and Max Idje, a video graphic artist.

“I trained as a journalist and have the duty to tell the world in its incredible complexity and diversity,” said Michel Kocher. “We need such an approach in the digital world, which is the future.”

“For me personally, and the community, I could imagine my sisters who are not here could have a closer look and a more personal presentation,” said Sister Svenja Wichmann, a sister in the Communauté de Grandchamp in Switzerland, and an observer of the WCC assembly. “We have over 3,500 people here, and the rest of the church is at home.”

Expanding ministry opportunities online

The implications for a piece of technology like this for the ecumenical movement is promising. Platforms, like GPS 360, have the ability to bring high quality, colorful and diverse encounters from remote areas to busy cities, and vice-versa.

During pandemic times or cross-continental gatherings, this platform can allow people to experience an event virtually, giving them a little bit more than a photo or video, accessible by laptop, tablet or cell phone.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an assumption that interfaith and ecumenical dialogues were important to have in the same room for things to work well.

“It’s possible to do it online,” said Rev. Dr. Scott Sharman from the Anglican Church of Canada. Sharman pointed out that with 360 degree cameras, participants would be able to see more than just the speaker. “This allows us to see people and how they are listening and interacting,” he said. “It’s a more personal encounter and enhances the quality of the conversation.”  

In addition to meetings and conferences, others chimed in that 360 degree technology could be useful for presentations from visits across the world.

Pastor Indra Grasekamp from the Lutheran Mission in Germany spoke about how the 360 degree technology could help her bring her presentations from her visits to partner churches in South Africa and Brazil to life.

“I could say have a look and go inside their church,” she said. “More vivid for everyone!”

People in ministry, advocates and activists can bring donors, supporters, public officials and the general public into their issues and provide a tangible reality otherwise only left to the imagination.

But some also see concerns – the protection of privacy and reverence for sacred space being two. And video is not always appropriate or possible.

“We offer a translation of our prayers in audio, and people live stream our prayers,” said Wichmann. “We can’t do video because people make their own prayer corners with their bible.”

In his Reformed church in the United States, the Rev. Zachary Pearce offers service broadcasts for people who can’t attend in-person, but would not use for a technology like this in further outreach.  “For the people that come [to receive help], they have the right for their dignity to be protected,” he said.

When used intentionally and inclusively, the tool provides a unique opportunity for climate justice, gender justice, peace and reconciliation advocacy and other missions because of its ability to portray a “dramatic reality that needs to be addressed in a concrete way for real people and situations,” says Kocher.

Virtual 360º experience of the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe

Livestream of the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany

Photos of the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany

WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany