The EvolVR Story
Rev. Jeremy Nickel, an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and founder of EvolVR, has long been comfortable at the intersection of spirituality and technology. Growing up outside of Boston, his parents ran, first a video company and then later a computer company, so he always had access to the latest tech tools. His family’s membership at the local Unitarian Universalist congregation awakened his interest in spirituality at a young age. It was simply a matter of time before these two interests came together for him.
EvolVR is exactly that – a melding of technology and spirituality designed to help others along their unique spiritual adventures within the context of a real community, importantly, however, these communities can be free of the baggage carried by historical faith traditions and religious organizations.
By taking advantage of a new generation of VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, EvolVR has already convened over eighty events across four separate SocialVR platforms. Together, these events have been attended in real time by hundreds of people from around the globe, each appearing as an avatar, together in a virtual space.
Because people can join from anywhere, Virtual Reality uniquely allows for the creation of communities that can easily cross barriers that we thought could never be bridged. Our events typically draw people from Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Sweden, South Africa, Mexico, Canada and the United States. Attendees range in age from 14 to 65 and come from all walks of life.
EvolVR currently offers these live events for free, but soon will add smaller, more intimate groups, with deeper programming, available for a small fee. And further, in September 2018 EvolVR will launch a VR worship project with Rev. Marcia McFee and the San Francisco Theological Seminary that will immediately and fundamentally redefine the art of liturgics.
EvolVR has also developed a prototype VR Video game curriculum that introduces the user to historical faith stories while teaching spiritual technologies like meditation. In addition we are forming several pilot programs enabling brick-and-mortar faith communities to equip their leaders and members with simple standalone VR headsets with which to gather weekly for VR programming from the comfort of their own homes or even during a break at work.
At EvolVR we believe that we have only scratched the surface of what is possible for spiritual exploration and growth in Virtual Reality. With new hardware and software becoming available every week, and the price of the necessary equipment dropping steadily, most of the adventure lies ahead.
EvolVR is an incubated project of the Center for Progressive Renewal, a registered 501c3. Our mission is to ensure that a robust not-for-profit space for spiritual exploration and personal growth exists in Virtual Reality. We invite you to join us.
Jeremy Nickel / CEO
Jeremy Nickel / CEO
Rev. Jeremy Nickel, an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and founder of SacredVR, has long been comfortable at the intersection of spirituality and technology. Growing up outside of Boston, his parents ran, first a video company and then later a computer company, so he always had access to the latest tech tools. His family’s membership at the local Unitarian Universalist congregation awakened his interest in spirituality at a young age. After High-School Jeremy spent a year traveling around the world, with the most significant stop being a six-month spiritual adventure in Nepal, living with a Tibetan Buddhist family, studying meditation, and trekking and traveling throughout the country by foot, bus and motorcycle. After this formative gap-year Jeremy enrolled at Earlham College, a small liberal arts school in Indiana, inspired by Quaker values. He spent the next four years working through the Religion and Philosophy catalogs while participating as much in the life of the community as possible. Graduation led him back to Boston, where he worked initially as an events coordinator before settling into a creative job in the marketing department of an Internet start-up called Virtual Ink.
Despite enjoying the job he couldn’t ignore a nagging call to Seminary, and so he moved to Berkeley, CA in the summer of 2001 to begin the Masters of Divinity Program at the Pacific School of Religion. He eventually added a second Masters in Liturgics, and interned at the Fellowship of Reconciliation in San Francisco, CA. Following Seminary Jeremy worked for almost two years as the events coordinator at the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee in Cambridge, MA, before completing his studies with a Ministerial internship at the First Unitarian Society of San Francisco and a unit of Chaplaincy training at Mass General Hospital in Boston. With his education complete Jeremy was called to pastor Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Fremont, CA. He spent seven wonderful years at the congregation before deciding to leave the parish in order to launch what would eventually become EvolVR. Jeremy has been happily married to Rev. Nicole Lamarche since 2008, a UCC Minister who leads a congregation in Boulder, CO where they live with their daughter Eliza.
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