Just over two years ago I went to visit The First United Church of Christ in Second Life where I spoke to Reverend Becca Kellstrom and Reverend Jerome Newstart, known as Rev. Dr. Jerold Garber outside of Second Life.
In an interview that I published in two parts they explained to me how the church worked in Second Life and some of their experiences within the virtual world.
Rev. Dr. Jerold Garber has now published a book of his own, Ministry to the Avatars: Building a Real Church in a Virtual World. The book is published by Archway Publishing From Simon & Schuster. I haven’t read the book, so this post is not going to contain a review.
The blurb for the book gives some insight into the content :
In Ministry to the Avatars: Building a Real Church in a Virtual World, author and reverend Dr. Jerold A. Garber shares the transcendent story of First United Church of Christ Second Life—a virtual church designed and built in Second Life,
The blurb also points out that First UCC SL is a progressive church :
Since its founding, First United Church of Christ Second Life has grown into a multifaceted, vibrant ministry with a 365-day-a-year presence in Second Life, and it is also a member of the Open and Affirming Coalition of the UCC, an association of churches affirming the full inclusions of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons in the church’s life and ministry.
A PR Web article, New Book Describes History-Making Church in the Virtual World, gives a bit more background about the book :
Garber recounts an example of the vibrant ministry possible in Second Life: “I spent countless hours listening to stories of real life exclusion, discrimination and outright cruelty. One resident avatar I know as Stacey said that real life at work had become intolerable. Alcoholic parents had retreated from really being in touch at home, and life seemed utterly bleak. I listened. Listening is what ministers do. I am not a therapist. I could not “treat” a disorder. But I could listen. At the end of a long evening (our two avatars were sitting in a virtual hot tub to chat) I simply asked, ‘So, what decisions are you postponing?’ Weeks went by. When next I heard from my friend Stacey she had news. She had made plans to move out of her parent’s home into a place of her own. She had found ways to cope with the pressures at work and not let them get her down by being resolute about who she was. I asked her what had happened to help her make the real life changes. The answer came back in two words, ‘You listened.’ I heard that. I came to understand in that simple answer perhaps I was hearing something else. I became convinced that I really was meant to keep on listening with a purpose. And soon a ministry, a real church, was born.”
Virtual Worlds and if it gets going, Virtual Reality, have a multitude of use cases that don’t get widely reported upon, so it’s good to see Rev. Dr. Jerold A. Garber authoring this book to give another example of a use case for virtual worlds.
SLURL To First UCC SL : http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/First%20UCC%20Island/119/203/25
First UCC SL Website : http://www.firstuccsl.org/index.html