Scientific Ghost City (or, why we need a place to make mistakes)

I came across this news article today…

Scientific Ghost City To Test Future Technology

A “world first” $1bn scientific ghost city will be built in New Mexico to test the latest next-generation technology.

Researchers will use the facility in Lea County, near Hobbs, to look at everything from intelligent traffic systems and next-generation wireless networks to automated washing machines and self-flushing toilets.

The town will be modelled on the real city of Rock Hill, South Carolina, complete with roads, houses and commercial buildings, old and new.

No one will live there, although they could as houses will include all the necessities, like appliances and plumbing.

The point of the town is to enable researchers to test new technologies on existing infrastructure without interfering in everyday life.

For instance, while some researchers will be testing smart technologies on old grids, others might be using the streets to test self-driving cars.

Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb said: “It brings so many great opportunities and puts us on a world stage.”

The city will be built by Pegasus Holdings and its New Mexico subsidiary, CITE Development.

The Centre for Innovation, Technology and Testing (CITE) is being billed as a first-of-its kind smart city that will be developed on about 15 square miles west of Hobbs.

Bob Brumley, senior managing director of Pegasus Holdings, said work on the city will begin by June 30 .

The initial development cost is estimated at $400m, although Mr Brumley estimates the overall investment in the project to top $1bn.

The project is expected to create 350 permanent jobs and about 3,500 indirect jobs in its design, development, construction and ongoing operational phases. (

Now, put aside for a moment the issues they may have with squatters or the fact there are millions of starving people in the world and this might seem like it’s a good idea…

I’m sure they will make the money back from leasing it as a film set within a few years but it will be interesting to see what technologies are tested there. The conspiracy theorist inside me thinks it’s probably the first stage towards building an alien refugee camp like District 9 but we’ll have to wait and see…

Anyway, there is obviously a point to this post and I shall come to it now.

It got me thinking about whether there is a testing ground for stuff we do in church? Is there a safe and yet realistic environment for us to try out a sermon or a new song, a liturgical painting, a poem or those funky intercessions you’ve written? During my time as a youth worker it has always been ‘the evening service’ or another time when the main body of the church is not actually present to get upset. 10 years down the line and I’ve been let loose in main services but we’re always learing aren’t we so where do we get to try new things? It can’t be right that it’s only the long-suffering wife or dog or mirror that is our practice audience…

It worries me that so many churches are seeking such perfection in everything that they have removed all space to let people ‘have a go’. How can we bring an openness and spirit of graciousness back to our churches? I am keen to see gatherings and space for creatives to collaborate and produce wonderful new things for churches to use but this is surely a much deeper issue. This is an issue which has become engrained in our church culture and it needs to change…

‘In the world, not of’ comes to mind as I consider how church should look, work and communicate – have we (the church) taken on too many of the traits society pushes on us everyday?Lets create some space to try, to explore, to fail.



  1. Great post – it’s something I think about quite a lot. I am all for trying new things – and am working through the best place to try them. The most common response to new things – is, as you say, let’s try it in the evening service. In reality – this often means – lets try it when there aren’t as many people present so if it gets messed up – then we still have our credibility. Ok – I am being a little harsh – some of it might be to protect the person trying the new thing – not wanting them to fail etc – but still. Also, if we are not providing the opportunity for people to ‘have a go’ during the main service we are saying that only the best can go on in the ‘main meeting’ – which has several implications – firstly that those that are given the privilege of doing ‘stuff’ in the main service are ‘excellent, have it sorted, the best’ – and secondly that there is something different about the main service – as if God turns up in a greater measure during these services. Yes, I believe in excellence – but I also fully believe in training, equipping and empowering the saints for works of service. The other thing to throw in whilst thinking about this – is who gets to say what is ‘good enough’ for the main service? What if the power of choice rests only with a certain type – will they recognise the benefit of something totally different and let those with a different style ‘have a go’. Lots of my jumbled thoughts on something I feel passionately about.

    1. Thanks Jo,

      It seems you may have had a similar experience! It is very difficult to get a balance between supporting new ideas and yet keeping the status quo for the rest fo the church. Who gets to say what is ‘good enough’ is a personal bug bear, particularly in terms of creativity. Perhaps you are in a similar place to me where ‘traditional’ forms of church aren’t really hitting the spot and yet you know you need to be in church family…

      1. I think it goes beyond that with me – on the whole I am ok(ish) with what goes on at church traditionally – but I know it doesn’t always hit the spot of others – especially (although not only) the young people. We really need to be creative in the way we do ‘church’ in order to engage with such a diverse culture. I preached on Sunday – and had a live tweet feed on the subject behind – some loved being able to engage this way – others were ok with it – but a few – well – its just not the way ‘church is done!’. I am fed up with the thought that we need to do it this way because we have always done it this way. It appeals to a small % of society – but what about the rest?! I should stop ranting really … 🙂

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