This will be part one of a two part blog post regarding my visit to the First United Church of Christ in Second Life. In this part I’ll provide some background information on the church, discuss why they came to Second Life and why they feel virtual worlds are an important place for a church. In the second part I’ll take a closer look at what they do and how they embrace diversity in their ministry in Second Life.
I find myself in an office of the First United Church of Christ in Second Life. I’ve been joined by Reverend Jerome Newstart, known as Rev. Dr. Jerold Garber outside of Second Life. Reverend Becca Kellstrom has also joined us. I’ve spoken to Becca on Twitter and I’ve also blogged about First UCC in Second Life before; First UCC SL To Attend General Synod In RL. That post concerned members of the First UCC SL attending the General Synod of the United Church of Christ outside SL and in the physical world in Cleveland, Ohio. However this is the first time I’ve sat down with members of First UCC SL and they made me very welcome.
Their mission statement reads :
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.
Jerome Newstart explained that both he and Becca are actually both ordained UCC ministers. ” We’re actually recognised by the denomination as a church,” Jerome informed me. These people are the real deal, indeed that came up in our conversation, the challenge of people actually believing there is a real church operating within Second Life.
“Some want to be sure we are ‘real.’ I had that happen this morning.” Jerome explains.
“Particularly early on in this ministry, people wanted to verify we were who we said we were.” added Becca. This is unsurprising of course, in virtual worlds people can play many different characters and we see plenty of churches within Second Life which don’t actually have ordained ministers within them, if people are going to embrace their faith, then they will want assurances. In the physical world, a church speaks for itself, people have trust in the building, in a virtual world where anyone with the time and talent can put up a building, it’s more difficult to convince people you are genuine.
Why did First UCC come to Second Life though? Becca explains that this incarnation is the second or third time UCC have had a presence in Second Life, and it’s here that Jerome’s belief that this was the right platform really shines throught, “I saw a need for a ministry that welcomed everyone,” Jerome explains, “When I conceived of this ministry some two and a half years ago I recruited Becca to our RL Board of Directors. She serves as a pastor here as do I. Becca is also our social media person.”