Media interest; interesting media

4 12 2007

The Anglican Group in Second Life continues to get a lot of media coverage. And as I discovered today, not all of it is well informed. But let me start with a positive post on Episcopal Cafe, based in the USA. CLICK HERE to check it out. One particular quote from caught my eye,

 

The virtual world of Second Life is an international community with millions of members, and the average age of the Second Life player is considered to be in the range of mid-20s to mid-30s. The lay and ordained leadership of The Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island are reaching out by logging on. I believe that their work in SL is creating an essential bridge between tradition and technology. As they build trust and deepen relationships among the SL community, they are proclaiming the gospel.

And then at the other end of the spectrum is a scathing attack by Anglicans Online who report to have more than 200,000 readers. That article can be accessed by CLICKING HERE.

 

How can a website with such a large readership produce such a misinformed lead article?

 

So let me respond to each point of the Anglicans Online article in turn…

(note:  these are my thoughts and don’t intend to represent the Anglican Group in SL.)

 

Anglicans Online: Many of you will be familiar with this three-dimensionalish online world, in which your avatar can live and move and have its being. It’s cleverly designed and programmed, it’s involving (as are all video games, more or less*), and it’s taken with deadly seriousness by those whose lives have been intertwined with it.

My response: Second Life isn’t a video game. It is a social networking platform, within which some run businesses and others promote causes, but most enjoy social networking. It numbers several million and is growing exponentially. Some significant voices (such as Bill Gates and Sam Parmisano, CEO of IBM) consider it the immediate future of the internet. My motivation is two-fold: fulfill the church’s mission to those within SL and in the long term, provide a platform to assist Anglican Churches leverage the internet as it develops into the virtual form.

 

 

You can watch the first Anglican service ‘in’ that cathedral on 16 July 2007, via YouTube, a service called ‘historic’ by the preacher. In addition to the cathedral (located, by the way, on Epiphany Island), there is an Anglican SL group which does, well, Anglican things, presumably like chatting about tippets and Second Timothy.

The Anglican group now offers 5 services a week, two of which involve a sermon preached. (To see a slide show of the Advent Sunday service CLICK HERE) People can listen to the sermon wherever they are (To hear the sermon CLICK HERE). One Bible Study is offered each week and two others are being considered at the moment.

 

 

Discussions about SL are taking up much air across the church, inspiring conference talks and think pieces, academic pondering and institutional-church head scratching along the lines of ‘What does it MEAN?’ The general conclusion seems to be something along the lines of: ‘The Church should have a presence there’.

The question, ‘What does it mean?’ is being addressed as the author asserts, and this includes a working group of theologians and cannonical lawyers attached the The Ecclesiastical Law Society based in the UK. No conclusion has yet been reached. It is still so young, it was only July when we started offering services. There are no manuals to read, we are in an exploration phase.

 

Also it is important to state that I am an ordained Deacon in the Anglican Church and my Bishop has licenced me to this ministry. This means I am accountable to him for my actions and practices. I might also add that I will be announcing in the near future who our Visiting Bishop will be.

 

We wonder. On first glance, SL seems harmless. Why not have a ‘presence’ there? Build a cathedral, add a clutch of churches, even devote an advertising campaign to drive people to Second Life, as the Churches Advertising Network is doing this season. After all, if people with a steady supply of electricity, fast computers, broadband connexions, and time on their hands want to wander round in a Disney-like virtual world, why not see if any of the unchurched might stumble into some Anglican land or other?

Web 1.0 is quickly fading. This was where information was presented and people accepted what was given to them. Web 2.0 is in the ascendancy. Where people want to participate, to be involved. Social networking is one form of Web 2.0. Right now Social Networking is growing exponentially. Not only Second Life, but with Facebook, MySpace, Bebo etc..

 

The Churches Advertising Network created an exhibit that presents the Christmas story in a creative way. Hardly anyone goes to it and it hasn’t yet succeeded for one good reason: it wasn’t birthed out of a social network. So they expected people to ‘stumble onto it’ and receive information (Web 1.0). The key to the growth of the Anglican Group and its developing ministries is: relationship. When people come to visit the Cathedral to hang out, or attend a service, what is important is the relationship. Relationship with God and relationship with others. Noted Australian social commentator, Hugh Mackay recently stated that people no longer need to be physically present to connect. Connecting and relating are heartland activities for us in the church. The method is just different. As the reality changes, so should we.

 

 

We’ve no quarrel with groups of Anglicans choosing to mess about in SL. We’ve been messing about on the net since the late 1960s, when one of us helped build it. And we’ve messed round on newsgroups and email lists. And in 1994, a young Canadian dabbled with the very young World Wide Web — and AO was born. We can’t claim innocence when it comes to the Internet and how it’s ‘used’. We’ve developed deep and lasting friendships that began online, survived the shock of incarnation, and are sustained through this big pipe. But we’ve never confused this place with ‘life’ and we’ve never considered any sort of 3D online world a reasonable substitute for the flesh and blood of this world.

There is absolutely no confusion on my part either. I am Chief Executive of The Bible Society in New Zealand. I am firmly grounded in the real world, and like the emailing and discussion lists I am part of, SL is simply another tool. There are some in SL who choose the anonymity that is available, and those, like me, who though represented by an avatar, are Mark Brown in every other way.

 

The author makes a huge assumption when they state, ‘But we’ve never confused this place with ‘life’ and we’ve never considered any sort of 3D online world a reasonable substitute for the flesh and blood of this world.’ This ministry is complementary to what we do in real life. There are those who are unable to attend church in the real world. Whether through disability, alienation or because they are in a country where public gatherings are illegal, the virtual setting provides a place for people to be part of church.

 

The actual service is either Compline or Evening Prayer and includes time for communal prayer. One attendee recently commented that they were in tears as we prayed together for his ailing wife.

 

 

We look askance at the American phenomenon of televangelists and their created ‘churches’, the most successful of which were exposed as shameful money-grubbing operations run by charlatans. The object of their TV shows wasn’t to help people visit and join real churches, but to keep their attention and their pocketbooks on the TV. We don’t suggest that SL churches are a sleazy parallel, but we do wonder: What is the plan for moving people from a virtual cathedral to a real church? From their screen to a pew? If Christian life is about incarnated community, will those who find the church in SL go on to explore it in their neighbourhood?

Some who attend the virtual Cathedral are connected to a church in real life, and some are not. And some don’t have a real church community. As our aim is to complement the local church, where the opportunity arises I will discuss their local situation.

 

 

We can hear the reply now: ‘Does it matter? If someone in SL gains some sort of understanding of Christianity online, isn’t that better than no understanding?’ We’re not sure. Bread and wine can’t be shared online or brought to the side of a sick bed. A whispered prayer to a grieving friend, the baptism of a squealing infant, a hot meal served at a parish food kitchen, a sanctuary for a homeless person: How are these ‘experienced’ in SL?

 

As previously mentioned The Ecclesiastical Law Society has formed a working group of lawyers and theologians to consider such issues. Personally I cannot see how we can offer virtual Eucharist or perform a baptism or marriage; but pray for people, provide community, preach the Word of God, evangelize.. absolutely.

 

 

One SL-connected priest writes:

Baptism, immersion into the Christian community, the body of Christ, and hence into the nature of God the Holy Trinity may have some internet equivalents — for example, being welcomed into a moderated group. But my own current position would be to shy away from, for example, having a virtual baptism of a second life avatar. Similarly, I would currently steer away from eucharist and other sacraments in the virtual world.

That ‘SL-connected priest’ is the Revd Bosco Peters and his response to the comments relating to his post can be found by CLICKING HERE.

 

 

‘Currently’? If we natter on about how important it is for the church to be present on SL, are we not buying into the world of a game, a role-playing fantasy that, no matter how real seeming, is far easier than actually visiting someone in hospital or tackling the problem of poverty in one’s community? And if the Gospel is for all — and the Field is the World — SL is surely a playground for the privileged. We doubt there’s much SLing going on in, say, Cameroon. We fully realize that the worldwide Internet connectivity is increasing exponentially, but the ability to spend hours in a virtual world is a far cry from popping on to write an email or check a website. If we carry on about the importance of SL and devote time and substantial money to ‘being a presence’, what are we neglecting? (Are there slums in SL? We rather doubt it.)

SL is limited to those with a good internet connection and a good computer. There are many churches where the above equally applies. It could read, (brackets my own words)

 

that, no matter how real (the issues are it), is far easier to (remain comfortable in our neat church community) than actually visiting someone in hospital or tackling the problem of poverty in one’s community? And if the Gospel is for all — and the Field is the World — (most Anglican churches are) surely a playground for the privileged.

 

The same challenges face the real world as they do the virtual: getting people to be active in their community. In my Advent Sunday sermon I talked about the need to serve others, to seek out the poor and lowly. (To listen to the message CLICK HERE.)

 

 

 

And, by the way, if Anglicans choose to be a part of SL, why not be a little more missionary minded and shed a bit of our edifice complex? Why should we buy land and build instead of simply going to where people in SL are already congregating, like shopping malls and casinos, and start handing out prayer books? Or engaging in conversation? A virtual world can surely give us a chance to evangelise a bit better than we have in this one. Building churches and waiting for people to wander in — or people like us to find our virtual church — probably won’t work much better in SL than it does in FL. (First Life, that is: this real one.)

I am not sure about ‘handing out prayer books’! But the ‘edifice’ was built for the following reasons:

 

  • The first reason I decided on a Cathedral is to endeavor to create interest within the SL community. To do this you have to create something special, something unusual. And this awesome Cathedral does that (for more images click here). The Cathedral recently won an award in SL as the best build, and the builder, Monty Merlin deserved his win!
  • The second reason was the desire to create something clearly Christian rather than something that looks like a meeting hall. SL is international. People from around the globe participate and the Cathedral in my mind is a clear symbol of a Christian community.
  • The third reason is my reading shows that post-modernity is interested in both tradition and technology – so a Cathedral in SL is an attempt to integrate the two.
  • And the final thing to mention is: this is an experiment!! We are creating a completely new way of doing church. Not inventing from scratch, but rather combining traditions of old with the latest in technological offerings. We have no book to read, no blueprint to follow, this is all new territory.

And the encouragement to be ‘missionary minded’ is welcomed. Due to the nature of social networking and SL it is hard not to head out and meet new people. The Cathedral is a home not a safe house.

 

So I invite those involved in Anglican Online to come and experience Second Life, to meet some of the community. I would be very happy to show them around!

 

In Christ,

 

 

 

Revd Mark Brown

 

For more information on the Anglican Group check out their blog by CLICKING HERE

 

 

 

 

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21 responses

5 12 2007
Bill Sowers

Hi Mark..

Excellent points made. I have a response as well to what was written on the anglicansonline web site. I’m not sure how to post it to them but I haven’t looked too carefully yet. Here’s what I wrote:

———

Within our neighborhood when I was a boy were several widows and elderly couples. A few of these households tuned into radio shows Sunday nights playing old time hymns and short positive sermons by Methodist, Presbyterian or Baptist ministers. These shows were not a substitue for the church communites our neighbors belonged to as much as an auxiliary. But they were a connection to a greater community outside our town that seemed almost “magical” at the time.

Fast forward many years to 2007… I know of two people, one elderly and frail, one handicapped. Both are pretty much home-bound.

The elderly lady has a computer, supplied by a grandson. Eucharistic ministers bring her Holy Communion once a week and parochial visitors and clergy visit her regularly. But every Sunday morning she revvs up her computer and watches a live Mass on a Roman Catholic web site. She is not there. She does not really receive the physical elements, but somehow she feels a connection to something… someone. She also receive a video of the local Episcopal church service each week. Again, a connection is there.

The handicapped man I know is unable to move about without the assistance of machinery. Even then he has to be hooked up to medical equipment that helps keep him alive. He does have an avatar in Second Life though who can walk and fly, and within that element he soars. He has volunteered within nonprofit projects in Second Life to create buildings, statues, scripted objects that dispense information and has now begun to create art of an amazing quality. He told me recently that Second Life was his “wings” with which he flew out of his chair into the possible from the impossible.

Virtual reality is not the real world but it is made up of real people. Some of these people come into that “place” seeking a way to connect to something or someone who will lift them out of who they are into an otherness that was really inside them all along. They find their real life limitations becoming limitless, the boundaries melting away before them.

I have been working in Second Life for over a year through my real life job as a librarian. Libraries and educational institutions are moving into virtual environments like Second Life knowing that in part the future of mass communication and socialization lies within these elements.

No. Holy Communion, baptism, annointing of the sick, etc are actions that must take place in the real world, and thankfully there are Christians serving God and their fellows doing this. Second Life or any of the 2.0 social platforms available on the Internet now does not offer a relacement for the sacramental outward signs of inward grace. But it can offer a “touch” of Grace through the Word, be it chatted or spoken within that place.

The elderly lady I spoke of could still walk her Faith Journey without watching a Mass on her computer. The disabled gentleman would still find some solace in what he can accomplish within his physical world. But both are gifted by a new media… a means of communicating the message of Hope that would have astounded people years ago. To belittle these possibilities as trivial or off the mark is not just ignorant and unkind but also puts limits on how God can reach into the hearts and minds of his people.

I am forever amazed at how much progress libraries have made in improving the milieu and methods of communicating and providing information in Second Life. Almost daily I see or hear of some new program or technique that informs and inspires in a new way. Virtual reality is indeed a “playground” of sorts for those who wish to experiment with changing impossibilities into possibilities. It is also a place where younger adults in their 20s and 30s congregate, the “gaming generation.” Many churches have missed these people in their pews. More often than not they are in the chat rooms and virtual gaming sites on Sundays instead.

Perhaps some are being won over to Christ within these virutal settings too. With God all things are possible.

5 12 2007
goforchris

I couldn’t agree more. I am hardly ever able fully to participate in a service on Epiphany because of time zones and my own FL church involvement, but as a member of the Lay Worship Team of a tiny and poverty-stricken congregation burdened with a leaking Victorian church I appreciate the opportunity to meet Anglicans and other Christians online and feel part of the larger family than the numerically small Scottish Episcopal Church. I also know only too well how hard it is to attract new people to the church – anything which can catch the interest of the wanderer or the alienated is to be welcomed, not sneered at.
But I’m afraid to say that sneering at innovation often seems to be an Anglican pastime – whether it’s a modern language liturgy or Web 2.0.

5 12 2007
rev mommy

Full of rhetoric, is that article from Anglicans Online. I stopped reading it because of the tone. And it reminded me of some of the arguments that have been used about cars vs. horse and carriage (or thousands of others). They claim to be conversant with the internet but show themselves to be Luddites, attacking the medium rather than seeing the opportunity.

I say bah-humbug to them.

Reverendmommy Rabeni (SL)

5 12 2007
liturgee

Thanks for this response, Mark,
clear, helpful, and positive

Bill – to send a letter to Anglicans Online go down the left hand side to
letters
write to us:
http://www.anglicansonline.org/letters/writetous.php

I have written to them already

“the SL-connected priest’”
Bosco Peters
http://www.liturgy.co.nz/index.html

My response, as Mark mentioned, is at
http://www.liturgy.co.nz/worship/matters_files/secondlife.html

5 12 2007
sally

well said Mark, I wonder why there is a tendency to asume replacement rather than enhancement when it comes to alternative forms of minisrty, is the established flesh and blood church so insecure that it must see SL as a threat rather than an opportunity?

5 12 2007
Karen Kay

I am just so sorry for the poor who live in slums and neglected souls in Cameroon who, for the hours spent writing such a well detailed and researched article, were not privvy to the ministry of this author.

Surely this would have been time better spent, but since the writer was in such a “curmudgeonly or misanthropic” mood, the “grumbly” could perhaps have chosen a more worthy topic to begrudge, or follow their own Godly advice and “for love’s sake, …take on the stuff and matter of this life”….

I mean REally! This is the very thing that turns me off from the church in the first place! Thank God there are those who are willing to provide unchurched Anglicans with a safe harbor within which to worship without the rediculousness so perfectly exemplified in this article.

Anglicans Online? Are you really?

Pony up and play nice or get out! I say…

Flip over the money changer’s tables!!!….This article has me Angry!

5 12 2007
dave

Mark –

I have been following your adventure in SL for some time and appreciate your well thought out response. As a researcher in Internet Ministry, I am convinced that we as Christians must understand these environments and how to use them effectively. Keep up the good work! If you’re interested, I have http://lessonsfrombabel.wordpress.com/ posted about this on my blog.

Dave
http://www.lessonsfrombabel.com

5 12 2007
Jeff Weiesnbach

Mark and Bill,

Thank you for your well reasoned responses to the AO post. I too pondered over the article yesterday, first wondering if a response was relevant, and second wondering why the following quote kept coming to mind.

“SL is surely a playground for the privileged. We doubt there’s much SLing going on in, say, Cameroon. We fully realize that the worldwide Internet connectivity is increasing exponentially, but the ability to spend hours in a virtual world is a far cry from popping on to write an email or check a website. If we carry on about the importance of SL and devote time and substantial money to ‘being a presence’, what are we neglecting? (Are there slums in SL? We rather doubt it.)”

While there are some Role Playing Slums in SL, the point of their occupants still belonging to the “privileged” of the World is well taken, and is one of the things we as Christians should be mindful of. But this point should never be used as an indictment or injunction against those who have, and will, be called by God to minister and evangelize in this forum.

Mary was praised by Jesus for her ministry to Him in spite of the “Shock and Awe” suffered by those around when she used a pint of pure nard to express her love and faith toward Him. “Why was this not sold! And the money given to the poor!” was the indignant cry. The response came, “When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

The SL Anglican Group and the SL Cathedral Project, is not a handful of people “Playing Church”. The “Real” people (albeit granted – likely privileged) who participate are ministering and being ministered to, for and in the Name of Christ. And it being easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, the prayer of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church should be;

Father of Light, You have made us in Your Image and given us the ability to create technological advances for our enjoyment, betterment of society, stewardship of our environment and, most importantly, declaring the Good News of the Finished Work of Your Son our Savior Christ Jesus.
Gant by the Power of Your Holy Spirit; that Grace may precede, Wisdom may abound, Watchfulness may be ingrained, Holiness may be exemplified and Endurance may be suffered by faith, for and by those you have called to declare Your Gospel and exemplify Your Life through technological means so that others may be called by Your Spirit to find and be found by Christ. AMEN

For those who minister in forums such as this, our prayers should be fervent indeed.

In conclusion this is not “carry(ing) on about the importance of SL”, but rather the importance of not ignoring the calling God gives to each of us to live out His Grace and Glory in All the communities our lives touch, Real or Virtual.

Yours in Christ,

(sl avatar: Roberto Salomon)

5 12 2007
Torey

Thanks to all. This AO article caused a great huff under my roof. Its basic tone was that of a highly vexed and jealous step-sibling (Web 1.0!) looking at something neat and wishing he’d thought of it first. Did they really look into it? — because it sounds like they were trading on third-hand information.

The Gospel is for all people, everywhere, in their many “sorts and conditions.” This is a real ministry that takes the universality of Jesus with serious tenor.

5 12 2007
Rosalie V. Grafe (Hild)

Excellent response Mark,

Two observations:

The Anglicans piece reminded me of some of the verbiage hurled at the Emergent Church in the US. Entrenched structures are threatened by potential losses to emerging coalitions and alternative worship spaces. It boils down to fear of “brain drain” of the young and fewer of what US Episcopalians call “pledging units” for the annual budget. Searchers can find the cathedral in SL easily and are doing so. I don’t think many (if any) are using that worship form to substitute for their regular one.

In the US we have a radio program called “Science Friday”. It’s on National Public Radio. The discussion section in the final portion of the hour features comments and questions from scientists and participants from Science Island in SL. and interactions with the scientist-guest in the studio. The radio narrator tells listeners how to recognize the avatars of the SL scientists. So if there is an overlap in the area of science, why not that of faith?

5 12 2007
Caroline Kramer+

AO has been sweeping and overgeneralized. However, what went through my mind, was the very need to have a good network of FL folks who are involved in SL. This kind of goes against the culture of SL in some ways but because the Church is about community and relationship living through an avatar is not enough.

I hope that Anglicans in SL will never just be Anglicans in SL. That context is ultimately very limiting because everything might happen, but it happens at a distance – you never hold the hand of the dying man, or stroke the cheek of the newly baptized infant. Without those moments of Grace there is something missing in life – I think this is what AO was very clumsily picking up on – that as a channel SL is OK (and perhaps even a supplement) but as a permanent replacement for a FL Christian community it would not be good.

On the other hand it is wonderful to stand around a chat with folks from New Zealand or Australia about faith and Church. I have only been to Compline once but I found it very moving to think that there were so many folks sitting all over the world doing this thing together – and, probably, no one, except God, knew about it.

I think to work this community has to be the most generous there has ever been in terms of encouraging its members to go and find FL places to hang out – being there when they falter in that – and encouraging again.

Perhaps I do not understand – but I know when I read that about mission it rang true with my initial skepticism about the Cathedral project which was if it is simply an online group building exercise it will ungrounded and doomed to fail.

5 12 2007
Benjamin Faust

The article mentioned in this blog sounds like the same tone that would have been used to preach against the Church getting involved in radio or television. “It’s of the devil! It will rot brains and take people away from the real world!” Of course this is partially true, but the point is this:

At the infancy of both radio and television, the Church was at a place financially in which it could have bought the emerging radio and television networks and could have had the greater share. Instead, some of us just didn’t think about it, and others of us were against it (reminiscent of the writer of that article). So the secular producers took over, and just take a look at the majority of television and radio today. They are the result of not seeing the potential and the need, and not advancing the Kingdom of God by passionate force. Whether or not radio and television are the best way to spend much of one’s time, they have captivated the hearts and minds of the world, and both the direction of society and the eternal souls of generations have been unimaginably influenced by them.

When we started the first active church in Second Life over two years ago, we knew that as word got out that there is active Christian ministy taking place there, some people would think it somehow bad.

If we don’t establish a strong and active presence in the Second Life (or any other) community, history will just repeat itself. To do nothing or to fight against doing something is to promote evil and the plans and purposes of the enemy, and smells of the foul stench of a religious spirit.

As the Church, we will wake up eventually. My hope and prayer is that enough of us see the potential of this incredible infant road into the hearts and souls of the masses, and run full-throttle with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in whatever way the Holy Spirit and the creativity God gave us leads.

5 12 2007
Pastor Rick Savoy ( Pastor Rick Liveoak in SL)

Hi folks. I am not Anglican but since Mark invited me to comment on this article, here I am. I minister with Mark in Second Life (SL) as a non-denominational Pastor of a church called Jesus House. I have been pastoring in SL for very nearly a year now. I am a licensed minister in real life and also am in a submitted relationship to a real life pastor who is well aware of my activities in SL. And, for the record, I am 53 years old and have been a practicing Christian since 1973.

The following comment is what drew my attention the most (except for maybe the brief broad brush discussion of American TV Evangelists):

But we’ve never confused this place with ‘life’ and we’ve never considered any sort of 3D online world a reasonable substitute for the flesh and blood of this world.

This comment shows a clear lack of understanding of young people today and their relationship with this emerging wonder that is the internet. I have talked to many of them and most make no such distinction between real life (RL) and Second Life (SL). They consider the virtual world of the internet (including but not limited to SL) to be an integral part of their lives, period. They meet there, socialize, fall in love and do other things that need not be mentioned here. All just like folk do in the non-virtual world. They consider the internet relationships they have built to be just a solid and valuable as they do any other relationship they may have. And it is all about relationship.

Going into SL to reach these kids is no different than going to any other RL location where they might gather. Evangelism and Christian teaching in virtual space is just as real to them as face to face evangelism might be to some others.

Should virtual evangelism replace RL evangelism? Absolutely not! But for some, this may be the only way to reach them, the only time when they will slow down enough to listen and receive the gospel. Should preachers stay away because it doesn’t seem real to us? I don’t believe so. Regardless of what others think, I will preach the gospel wherever and whenever the Lord leads me to, including SL.

By-the-way, thank you Jeff for your wonderful prayer. Very well said.

5 12 2007
Alice MacArthur

I’m Just learning about all the different social networking opportunities available and haven’t really explored them in depth yet. I enjoyed your sermon on the 6 steps. I am wondering if there is a way to integrate you tube video of your sermons into SL. I was a bit disappointed in the virtual one that was available at AO, wishing to see the person behind the words of the sermon.

Agree that you need to put your fishing line in where the fish are. And at social networking scenes are where the young fish are to be found.

Peace and Love

Alice

6 12 2007
Suzanne/Miraanda

Hi,

Churches have been doing “long distance churching” for many years. There is a Unitarian online church that has been established for a long time (uua.org). I would have to argue that a prayer service online is definitely a valid activity. Besides, where else can you worship “sitting” next to someone who is physically on the other side of the planet?

I also believe that receiving communion could only really be done in a real-life manner. Perhaps we could have information at Epiphany Island regarding hooking up with real-life churches? I’m not sure about the Anglican communion, but the Episcopal church in the US rates communion very high on the list of priorities.

6 12 2007
Loo Zeta

Ok this was my reply to them :
Mmmm wake up and smell the coffee. I am a practicing Christian and sharing the Gospel via SL.
My real life Anglican experiences feed into my virtual ministry. I have requested permission to quote the Cathedral Dean in an article I have written about Advent.
Second life is a mess of raw spiritual warfare where Christ’s salvation is so needed.
People project their ego/alterego into this virtual interactive space. You have to be a tough Christian to successfully interact there.
I have known people brought to the Christian family and I encourage all to attend real fellowship. I have even supported senior Christians to ‘get out’.
I wonder if the real Anglican church is ready to receive these people, who think out of the normality and are emergent.
I know of one emergent Anglican church that could cope. B1 in Birmingham.
My own church is aware and prays for me, but resisted a request to directly link. My husband and I have protected our real children and other’s in the church as I did not want them to interact in this virtual space without adequate preparation, mainly of the parents 🙂
I smile though this is not a new concept avatars have attended virtual churches before as in ‘Ship of Fools’.
Yours in Christ,
Loo

6 12 2007
g

My experience of sl has been simply amazing! Thank you M/ark for introducing it to me!
As a parent my nights must be spent at home within hearing distance of my sleeping young family.
As I see it I have a few options, I can watch TV, read a book, surf the net, phone a friend or log on to sl and do it all at once.
I don’t think it has replaced the real world, it’s just added to it as other media I mentioned above already had.

I choose to be at Epiphany whenever I can.
I have met so many lovely people from all over the world, my experience has been completely positive.
Different backgrounds, different cultures..ideas bounce back and forth off people I would never usually meet in rl.
Theologians from Cambridge, Muslims from Casablanca, Doctors from wet and windy Wellington, New Zealand,
Christian Fundamentalists from the Midwest of the U.S.A. Lesbian Christians from New York, Priests from …everywhere..
French programmers, Canadian stock brokers, home makers from Wales, paramedics from Scotland, business folk and kids at college.
The aged who can’t go to church anymore, physically challenged who can’t leave their homes. Anglicans of all flavours, Catholics, Jews, Pentecostals, Baptists
I could go on and on.

Why wouldn’t the church be in sl? All these and millions of others choose to be online for their own reasons.
I think it’s entirely appropriate for the church to meet them, to listen and care and be involved.

7 12 2007
Mark Brown

The comments above are absolutely amazing. Wow.

I will incorporate them into a letter to AO. And I received this great email comment from the Dean of Wellington’s Cathedral, The Very Reverend Frank Nelson:

For some time I have been sensing an increasing irrelevance in Anglicansonline. This saddens me as I have been an avid reader for the past ten years, enjoying the contact with people from other parts of the world, and feeling part of a world-wide Anglican Communion.

This week’s rant against Second Life seems strangely inappropriate in the first week of Advent when we are urged to wake up and look for the new things God is doing!

Mark Brown is one of the driving forces behind SL’s Epiphany Cathedral. He is a member of our congregation here in Wellington Cathedral (built, believe it or not, of real concrete – has to be to withstand the wind!), and was ordained deacon a few weeks ago. His first act as Deacon was to read the Gospel on Sunday morning – a good old fashioned role for a deacon. His second was to preach, a few hours later, in SL.

Should Christians be involved in Second Life? I am reminded of the bitter debates in the early days of Apartheid South Africa. As the Group Areas Act began to bite, and innocent, mainly black, people were forcibly removed from their homes and ‘resettled’ in different areas, the Anglican Church argued as to whether or not churches should be built in these new areas. Would that not simply be an acceptance of an evil policy and situation? Thankfully the argument for incarnation won the day, and many churches were built in the black townships and resettlement areas. Archbishop Geoffrey Clayton, hardly known for his liberal views (he clashed bitterly with people like Trevor Huddleston) had this to say: ‘With regard to churches, I say without hesitation that the Church is going to follow her people wherever they go. But it will be difficult and expensive.’ (Quoted by Alan Paton in “Apartheid and the Archbishop”)

Was it another of those timely god-incidences that one of this week’s Gospel readings should be the parable of the Sower – reminding us of the extra-ordinary extravagance of God’s seed being cast far and wide?

Come on AO – you can do better than that?

Regards,

Frank Nelson

9 12 2007
The Advent Blues (Part V) « Christ Church (beta)

[…] Update: A response. […]

9 12 2007
Tim

How unusual–one group of Anglicans critiquing another group of Anglicans because they don’t take the time to understand that ministry will express itself differently when placed within a different cultural context. I wonder if that has ever happened before?

9 12 2007
BIG ANGLICAN NEWS GAZETTE (BANG) No.2 « The Anglican Church in Second Life

[…] and misinformed lead piece on our ministry in SL.  Please check out Mark’s response by CLICKING HERE […]

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