This is the first Sunday Morning in a long time I will not be in church. Our plans for Thanksgiving were seriously altered as Chaos had a C. Diff. infection this week. We stayed home this week; I don't know that we've been outside since we got Chaos home from the hospital. So I have been exploring alternate ways of doing church -- on Second Life.
I began exploring SL quite a bit about 18 months ago, but never did much with it. It certain has come a long way since then. There is still an overwhelming amount of true dreck there; stuff I avoid vigorously. However, there is much more interesting content as well, including a Myst-like Adventure game (very complex), a community based on Dragons and a community called "Chronicles of Narnia." There are also very interesting exhibits about the history of Spaceflight; exhibits by the Weather Channel complete with videos; an incredible NOAA building and so on.
John the Methodist posited an interesting question about a month ago about virtual communion. I had never thought about it -- so this last month or so, I began to explore the faith communities of SL.
I spend a good deal of time at the Anglican Cathedral, the UCC Church and the SL Mission (UMC). I started with a worship service at the Koinonia UCC church. (Another picture above.)
Here is tonight's service at Koinonia. The two worship experiences I've been to were lead by an ABC pastor and an UMC pastor. It's a good place to go, with gatherings 6 times a week.
I also have attended worship experiences at an Unitarian Church and a meeting at the Society of Friends. Both were very worshipful. I've always enjoyed the meditative experience of a Friends Meeting -- but I'm too much of a talker. I have a hard time with the just being quiet. It's a area of growth for me. Here's a picture of the Friends Meeting.
The service at the Abundant Life Church was much more like today's contemporary worship services; lots of music and energy. There are worship poses to download, as well: a prayer pose, an Orans pose and a "lift up your hands" pose. I liked it and it is better attended than the other churches -- much nondenominationals are in real life.
The Abundant Life sanctuary is set up more like a traditional sanctuary, with rows of pews. The other worship service set up that way was the Anglican worship at the Cathedral.
This service is a completely liturgical service using the Book of Common Prayer. Very quiet and contemplative. After the service is a coffee hour and Bible study on the RCL reading for the next week in the Edwardian structure next to the Cathedral.
I've also attended a Bible Study at one of the Catholic centers in SL. It too was based on a lectionary reading, but it was not the RCL. It was a more international study, with attendees from around the world.
All this bring to the forefront questions of what is virtual and what is real. They are questions that are not new. They are the questions that were asked when radio ministries began: Can the word of God be distributed over the airwaves? Was it as efficacious as the Word preach in a congregation? It definitely lacked the interactive flavor of a live service. Was a true service? And the question was asked when the radio evangelist moved to the television -- is this real worship? Again, television "church" lacked the interactive element.
Today worship services are telecast from one location to another -- two separate congregations, one preacher. Is this "real" worship? One congregation is getting the flesh and blood preacher -- the other a virtual preacher.
How about a preacher on SL? She or he will use their own voice via a headset. The congregation hears her; they can interact with worship poses and text messages. Is this real worship? In a way, it is as incarnational as the telecast preaching. Can this be worship in spirit and truth? For some, it may be the only experience of worship they may ever have. How many furries have ever showed up in your congregation?
Questions to think about.
Edited to add:
Yes, it meets a need. Especially for those who cannot, for one reason or another, leave their home or join in worship in community.
And Jen, it's more of an online MySpace -- social networking -- than an online RGP. The kids were into Runescape and Neopets for a long time: it was at first a game for them, then it was where they hung out to be with their friends. This skips the games completely and goes directly to the social networking.
I'm doing a 2nd Life fast today -- it's also a temptation to run off into SL to avoid RL. I saw that yesterday with a few people; when RL is so bad that they cannot cope or when it's so boring or whatever, the compulsion to escape into SL becomes the same energy that causes addictions. (And then there are those who genuinely go into SL to seek out those people and do ministry.)
SoF could be subsumed into SL, and have room to spare. Koinonia is nominally UCC, but could be seen as nondenominational (or multidenominational) as could the SL Mission -- there is a community of professional counselors forming that will be a resource for those who need the service.
Still thinking about all this... When I was working, I was "forced" to host Starfleet Academy (the Star Trek club in Atlanta) because I was the one working on Saturday. After a few meetings, I was with William Shatner -- I felt like yelling "Get a Life!" I have some of that same feeling this morning about SL....