I’ve blogged about places of worship in virtual worlds before, for example looking at the challenges of virtual worship for places such as The Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life and looking at Giulio Prisco’s more unconventional views on types of religion in virtual worlds. The latter also looked briefly at the tongue in cheek First Church Of Rosedale.
One observation on worship in a virtual world such as Second Life is that for a place that is considered in many quarters a den of iniquity, it does quite well when it comes to a religious presence. This is exemplified well by The First United Church of Christ And Conference Centre.
However more to the point, what struck me recently was the news that First UCC SL will be at Booth 834 at the General Synod in Cleveland Ohio. The General Synod runs from June 26th-30th.
The mission of First UCC SL is :
First United Church of Christ and Conference Center is founded and exists to be the voice of Progressive Christianity in virtual universes. We live out the United Church of Christ notion of extravagant welcome by providing for all who desire a place to worship and who seek a community of love and acceptance.
We are proud to be a part of the world’s fastest growing LGBT-welcoming church movement, the Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ.
So this is quite a progressive outlook in many ways.
First UCC SL hail from, Southern California, I’m reliably informed … I hope! However being in a virtual world means they can extend their reach. However the question that is often asked is, why would a church want a presence in a virtual world? First UCC SL answer that in great detail on their project page, here’s an excerpt :
Religious services are part of in-world life and the opportunities for exploring, learning and growing are limited only by the imagination. Perhaps especially important is the chance to connect with people who have felt marginalized and who have chosen Second Life as a means of getting some comfort that they have not found in real world settings. And for others, it is just convenient and fun!
There are even very practical uses for which an in-world presence is a great a benefit. Among those uses are meetings – either “formal” or ad hoc among friends. And you can visit at any hour of the day or night, right from home, and you don’t even have to get dressed up, or get in the car, or travel someplace, or find a place to park or… well you get the idea! And we have night clubs for dancing, too! Yes, fellowship opportunities are part of this ministry.
So there we can see community, socialising, shared experiences, all the things that virtual worlds can offer to people who may struggle to attend such places outside the virtual world.
If you would like to read more about First UCC SL, Webspelunker did a great interview with them : Interview with a Pastor in Second Life.
I should also note that First UCC have tried to extend their reach to other virtual worlds, they did set up a presence in Inworldz.
Whereas religion is not everyone’s cup of tea, it does exemplify another good use of virtual worlds. We often see in the wider media people questioning what the point of virtual worlds is, personally I find all these diverse use cases fascinating and as anyone who has spent time in virtual worlds knows, if you don’t like one thing, there’s almost certainly another region for you where you will find something you like.
SLURL To First UCC SL : http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/First%20UCC%20Island/119/203/25/