'Gaming for God': Bexley Vicar becomes video game streamer during lockdown

The Vicar of a church in Belvedere has managed to combine his two biggest passions after "being called by God to a ministry of playing and streaming video games."

The Diocese of Rochester's Rev Simon Archer might not be your typical vicar, and using his love of video games, he has been keeping hundreds of people entertained during the lockdown period.

The vicar of All Saints church in Belvedere, south east London, Rev Archer started his gaming hobby with the arcade video game Pong, released by Atari in 1972.

Online gaming has since become a popular online phenomenon with 20 million players in the UK and more than 2.5 billion worldwide.

A couple of months into the lockdown and Simon was looking for something to do with the spare time he had in the evenings with fewer meetings to attend.

A cancelled holiday due to the crisis also landed the family with a little money. While his wife updated her camera, Simon bought a gaming PC.

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"There was still a lot to learn about cameras, software, microphones and many other skills needed but I thought it would make for a good hobby for my spare time and a real challenge.

"I am a geek and gadgets and computers are my thing so why not?"

Fast forward a few months and Simon has his own gaming channel, with a few hundred followers and viewers each time he goes live.

Playing and streaming games such as Call of Duty Warzone, Apex Legends and Among Us, he now goes by the"Vicar of Facebook Gaming", aka "Vicarious BIG."

"I've always loved computer games," said Simon.

"I started with Pong, those two little white rectangles bouncing a small square at each other! It progressed to a Spectrum 48k in the early 80's, Sega, Nintendo, PC and then a string of Xboxes."

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And the vicar says the hobby has been a real revelation for his faith.

"There was always something in the back of my mind that this could be a genuine ministry.

"About 80% of my followers are men between 25-45. I knew I could reach a disconnected group who were very much connected online.

"In the few months I have been doing this I have teamed up with pastors, ministers and Christians from all over the world.

"We've chatted whilst playing games and talked about our faith watched by people of many faiths and no faith. I have played with other friends, viewers and followers.

"I've made many new friends and the community is growing every single day."

Simon has also added a feature to his online streams allowing people to type '!prayer' into chat and his 'bot' replies telling them he will pray for them, which he does at the end of each stream.

"I don't preach, but people ask deep questions and I reply honestly and reference scripture if it's appropriate. I don't have parishioners but I offer support and care when I can.

"This remains a hobby but it is also a ministry. I do it in my own time but I enjoy it and it enriches my life.

"It will never likely grow my church, but it is another chip out of the barriers people have put up between themselves and the Church.

Simon added that his availability online has given people the opportunity to reach out

"While in another community forum on Facebook, I received the news that one of the members had had a heart attack. I was asked whether I would pray for him, which I did.

"Not long after, the person who had been ill was in my chat, and he let me know he was on the road to recovery and thanked me. It's not the only example but it is a good one of how my availability has offered some a means to reach out."

"Am I called by God to a ministry of playing and streaming video games? Yes, I think I am."

His channel can be found here.