This is the third post in a series from Lara Zinda, a former student of mine and a current student a Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Read, enjoy, and respond.
Church in the Metaverse-- Examples
by Lara Zinda
A good example of the connecting church is the Life Church (http://www.lifechurch.tv/) that celebrates one virtual and thirteen real life campuses. Rev. Craig Groeschel is the lead pastor of LifeChurch.tv based in Oklahoma. When they planted the virtual church, various bible studies and fellowship groups gathered. Today, this sense of virtual community has diminished and has been replaced. LifeChurch now serves as a means to broadcast Groeschel‘s sermon and invite people into various events, in the real world and virtual. Theyhave announced a partnership with XXX Church (xxxchurch.com) and welcomed people to attend the Porn Event, a Christian approach to the problem of the use of pornography. Groeschel's model is extremely well thought out, staffed every Sunday by the same individuals, and designed to help people make connections to the ―real church in the real world.13
The nondenominational Calvary Chapel14 is a well established church run by ―born again avatar Sugar Zucker (Alex) and his real life wife of thirty years, avatar Ai Zheng (Caroline). The notecard they offer upon arrival states, ―Calvary Chapel SL is an outreach of a real life Calvary Chapel affiliate that is based in Scotland. Our Pastor is therefore a Calvary Chapel Pastor who with his wife and the help of a number of faithful volunteers run Calvary Chapel SL. As with any Calvary Chapel we teach the bible in an expository fashion - verse by verse - chapter by chapter - not compromising with regard to the teaching of any of God's truths. Calvary hosts two weekly worship services, a men's fellowship group, ladies bible study, a prayer group available 24-7, café and art gallery, as well as an island with various dance floors, beaches, and multiple gathering points for fellowship. Planted virtually in 2006 with three people, Calvary now celebrates almost 1400 members. Known for their solid worship services, Calvary features a full community that is active only in Second Life, with members drawing from around the world. They also boast a wide reaching evangelism effort led by avatar HeatherGT Braveheart (of sister congregation House of Prayer).
While the United Methodist Church15 seems to have disappeared in all but a relatively inactive group presence without land holdings (after a great start in 2008), the Anglican Union thrives in SL. According to their website16, their vision is to
build an Anglican church in Second Life which: is grounded in worship and prayer, seeking to be a bridge between our rich Anglican heritage and contemporary society; gives those involved in Second Life an opportunity to explore or deepen their faith in God, who loves them and seeks a relationship with them; encourages Christians from different countries and theological persuasions to work together to the glory of God; is a community which welcomes and serves others, and is known for its love and care; and is recognised as an integral part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The Anglicans offer seven worship services a week (welcoming 80-100 people who attend each week), a bible study and discussion groups, daily morning and evening prayers, pastoral care, and several fellowship opportunities to more than 600 people17 from more than 20 countries.18
Next Wednesday: "Theology in Virtual Practice-- The Anglican Cathedral"
Previous Posts in the Series:
Part 1: "Second Life and the Metaverse Church"
Part 2: "Defining 'Church' and the Virtual World"
13 During worship, a message from the internet pastor is shared that includes instructions to email yourself notes taken during the sermon, ways to connect to one of the thirteen real LifeChurch campuses, and a scriptural reading (read from his iPhone).
14 You can visit Calvary Church online at http://www.calvarychapelsl.com/.
17 "About the Cathedral." The Anglican Church of Second Life. The Anglican Church of Second Life, n.d. Web. 19 May, 2010.