The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life

Discussion Group & Leadership Update

9 Comments

Greetings!

There is much to report on this week, so apologies for a long post! I will share with you both a synopsis of the fascinating discussions being carried on in the “Being Christian in SL” discussion group, and a report from the Epiphany Leadership Team meeting that was held this past weekend.

“Being Christian in SL”

The “Being Christian in SL” discussion group continues to go strong, with many folks stopping by on Saturday afternoons (it starts at 11am SLT, and tends to go on for some time after that!). A wide range of topics are discussed related to this theme.

This past Saturday, there was an interesting conversation related to how we express our Christian identity in SL, and whether it differs from how we do so in RL. Most of those present shared that they bring their real personalities with them into the virtual world, and that religion plays a similar role in their lives in both worlds. One member shared a lovely story of how she stopped in one afternoon, and encountered an opportunity to pray with two of her SL friends at the cathedral, and how she was touched by that.

When asked how they bring their Christianity to those they encounter in SL, some stated that they tend to stick to “Christian” areas of SL. That raised the interesting question of the value of staying within your own community, and perhaps the danger of leading an insular existence and missing opportunities to witness to others (either by word or deed) the effect that their relationship to Jesus has on their lives.

The topic of sin was also brought up. Sin in SL is often equated with sexual sin, but the other temptations of SL were discussed, mainly that of neglecting RL responsibilities, which some shared as a real issue for them at times. Also addressed was the desire for an organized way for us to come together and pray for the needs of those within the community.

If any of these topics resonate with you, I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section below, and/or to join the group on Saturdays to continue these wonderful discussions!

Leadership Team update

The Epiphany Leadership Team met this past Saturday, to review current issues and to make plans for the future. Interestingly enough, many of the topics on the agenda were also matters that came up in the discussion group.

Epiphany Code of Conduct

The Leadership Team has been considering the need to establish a code of conduct for visitors to Epiphany. The hope is that by spelling out what our expectations are regarding behavior here, it will help prevent misunderstandings and needless conflict on either side. Also, we have been approached by a member of another Christian group in SL, who inquired about using our worship facilities for their group, until they were able to put up a church building of their own. In order to respond to both of these issues, the Team has put together the following Code of Conduct regarding the use of our facilities:

“All are welcome, regardless of creed or affiliation, to use any of our facilities for private prayer and meditation. However, formal services of any nature MUST be approved by the Leadership Team. Requests for use of these facilities will be reviewed, and approved using criteria that we have established (available upon request). [Briefly stated, these criteria have to do with determining that these are legitimate religious groups, and with scheduling concerns.]

Any requests for use of our facilities for ceremonies of a sacramental nature (such as weddings, baptisms and Eucharistic celebrations) will NOT be considered at this time.

Activity taking place within our worship spaces must be respectful of the sanctity that we accord these spaces. Anyone who violates this directive will be given a warning to desist in such behavior. Any further activity may result in being banned from this region.”

Volunteer Coordinator

The need for a volunteer coordinator was raised, to coordinate the organization, scheduling and training of community members who wish to serve in this capacity. Hildeguard Psaltery agreed to take on this role. She will consult with Mark on how to establish training guidelines and protocols, and will communicate with the community when these are in place.

Community Bulletin Board

The idea has been put forward by the community to have a group bulletin board, that group members can use to communicate with one another. This could be used to promote events, to share needs that group members may have, to help orient newcomers to SL, as well as other things that we haven’t thought of yet! I have agreed to set up this board, and I will accept and review submissions for postings.

Anglican Clergy in SL

Hilde suggested that it would be helpful to establish a sub-group within Anglicans in SL for real-life clergy members. This group would consist of those SL clergy who wish to participate, and can substantiate to the Leadership Team that they hold RL clerical credentials. This will help differentiate those RL clergy members from visitors who may be role-playing as clergy, as well as give those members of the community the opportunity to meet and discuss how they can offer their unique gifts in service to our wider community.

Prayer Groups

During the discussion group conversation, the desire was expressed that a method be developed for members of our community to share their prayer requests with others. This may take the form of a prayer list and/or organized prayer groups. I proposed to the Leadership Group that this may be a task that could be charged to Hilde, who would work with me, and with the proposed clergy group, to explore how we could best implement this concept.

So as you can see, we have much in store for the community! As always, we invite your input and suggestions. And thanks to all for giving me the opportunity to share in this fabulous ministry adventure!

Cady

9 thoughts on “Discussion Group & Leadership Update

  1. Wilfried, thanks so much for doing all this research! I have mentioned to Arkin that this came up at a recent discussion. I really appreciate you sharing your expertise with us😉

  2. One further note – I see I forgot the keyword “prayer.” I’d suggest that we add prayer in keywords in place of Episcopal. Prayer is a highly relevant word and likely to be frequently searched, and we would possibly be #1 for this extremely important keyword were we to do so.

    Episcopal is not at all competitive as a keyword, there is only 1 entry that comes up in places search at the moment for this term. I’d suggest we use the parcel strategy as outlined above for Episcopal – this will surely be enough – perhaps Episcopal could be used in the description of the prayer labryinth, and this could be made into a parcel, with a greeting kiosk at the tp point, including a tp to the main tp point. The parcels strategy is weak for competitive search terms, but would be more than adequate for a non-competitive, niche-related term like episcopal.

  3. One thing that’s been brought up in the discussion group is the issue of optimal use of the cathedral’s profile/description in SL search results. It isn’t entirely clear how the SL search function works, though it’s obvious that a few factors are important. As someone who has worked a lot in the area of search engine optimization (for search engines such as Google & MSN search), I thought I’d have a bit of a look at how the cathedral currently does in search and how it could improve its results – i.e., come up on top for relevant keywords, so people are more likely to find it.

    Our current title:
    “Epiphany Island – Home of the Anglican Cathedral in SL”

    Our current description:
    “Our aim is to be church for you where ever you are, and what ever your circumstances. Our vision is to see God glorified in Second Life. The Cathedral holds regular worship services each week, as well as a regular Bible Study. Info:”

    Good news:
    We’re doing exceedingly well in the search results already. We have a traffic rating of 3148 (for more info on traffic ratings, see http://suezannecbaskerville.wordpress.com/2006/12/31/traffic-in-second-life-how-does-it-work/ ). This is enough to get us a few #1 listings and many highly-placed listings for relevant keywords.

    SL has two search functions which are relevant to places, like the cathedral: general search, which shows up first when you open search, and places search.

    Places search is easiest to understand. It doesn’t try to determine “relevance” of keywords, it seems to show all places which contain the keyword in the title or description, and ranks these according to traffic. We score:
    Anglican – #1
    Bible – #1
    God – #3
    church – #14, and the first “real” church in these results (e.g., New York City has “church” in its description along with Mafia, Guns etc., and because of its high traffic rating it scores #1, though it’s not really a church destination).

    Were we to add the word “Christian” to our description, we would most likely have spot #7 in search, as well as being the first worship place listed for this term. With “Jesus” added to our description, we would come up #6.

    General search is more important for newbies since it’s the very first search screen they see. Since it tries to rank according to a relevance factor, it’s more difficult to predict how modifying our texts would place us. Since other places have some of these keywords in their titles, and traffic ranking isn’t so important here, we don’t do so well for most keywords.

    Christian – not in first three pages of results
    God – ditto
    church – ditto
    Anglican – #1

    Conclusion:
    I like our title very much, it would be difficult to change this title for the sake of adding keywords. However, the description could be changed. I like our current description very much as a descriptive text, and I would suggest against simply replacing this with a string of keywords, as many places do – users are more likely to click on a description that makes verbal sense and isn’t just a jumble of keywords. I gather this description is limited in the number of characters (guessing that something came after “Info” that got cut off), so I’d suggest we tighten up one of our sentences a bit so we can make the description something like:
    Our aim is to be church for you wherever you are, and whatever your circumstances. Our vision is to see God glorified in Second Life. Regular weekly worship services and Bible study. keywords: Christian, Jesus, Episcopal
    This would keep our lovely description and only modify one sentence while keeping its basic meaning, and add keywords in a clear manner without trying to “stuff” these words into a sentence. This would be enough to get us much better results in places search for keywords Christian, Jesus, and episcopal.
    The default “all” search is much more difficult, since title here is the main factor. For this, one possibility would be to create parcels which are also listed in search, hoping that people will find these parcels, which can be named things containing keywords relevant to search. For example, we could make a tp point in the meditation garden and call it “Church garden – Anglican meditation garden”, with church also prominently located in the parcel description. However, it is unclear indeed how “relevance” is determined, and if you see how many results appear with “church” in the title and in the description, there is so much competition that it’s far from certain that we will be found this way.

  4. Thank you Una for sharing your story! I think that many Christians do not understand the BDSM lifestyle and would not consider it compatible with a life of faith. I really admire your willingness to share with us how you work to integrate the two and to give us insight into the loving and supportive relationships that are possible, that truly are a gift from God!

    As a transgendered/bigender person who is not out in either RL or SL, I appreciate the opportunity to present myself as my other gender in SL and at the Cathedral and to be accepted for the gender that I really feel myself to be.

    I also spend allot of time outside of Christian areas, and in particular at the Transgender Resource Center where I enjoy good company and fellowship. Many people who are transgendered have had very bad experiences with the church, so I hope that I can figure out ways to share God’s love and to get beyond the hurt that many have experienced at the hands of Christians.

    In my opinion, we are created in the image of God, male and female, or some combination of the two, and many of us are struggling to understand just what that means!

  5. Thank you so much for the kind words, Anton – it was a pleasure to hang out with you and show you some SL stuff, I only wish that I had been able to show you more – being able to sit in SL does help! I look forward to seeing you again and I am keeping you in mind in prayer. Nb., anyone out there with a Mac laptop and a practical description for Anton on how to fly (equivalent of page up / page down on this type laptop) and how to sit?
    In the discussion group we hit on topics of evangelism and the frequent problem of insularity amongst religious communities. There are indeed many pitfalls Christians typically fall into when considering evangelism, whether they are “conservative” or “liberal.”
    Many years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a retreat where the speaker was Michael Green. I found his approach very refreshing – and not afraid to attack many of the cherished clichés – in a number of camps – regarding evangelism, offering a healthy approach to evangelism which allows us to shed such clichés. I see one of his recent lectures on the topic of evangelism – inspiring as usual – is posted at http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1425923607?bclid=1527697281&bctid=1509865975.
    One of the topics he brings up is the problem with insularity, particularly with respect to busy clergy.

  6. My partner passed away this past two months ago, so I was online trying to find appropriate songs for the service and excerpts for the bulletin from BCP online. So, I was on YouTube and stumbled upon the Cathedral. It was so ‘other real’ and I was stressed and beyond sleep deprived people at my parish thought I was hallucinating when I discussed what I saw! Today I found SL and joined. And many persons helped me try to learn more. In particular, Wilfried who spent hours with me.

    The issues that social context, liturgy, techno divide, race and gender are so intriguing and pregnant with possibilities at all different levels of the Anglican Communion; clergy, outreach, lay and sunday school. The model can be extended, abbreviated and adapted for so many purposes that it makes me want to ‘holla!

    The prayer meeting I had with a member, the ‘gathering together’ and touching and agreeing while typing and meditating is proof that the Holy Spirit comes to us–even in space apart physically from each other. Now, for us who don’t have tech savvy capabilities we have to catch up. Thank you

  7. Thank you, Una, for taking this chance to participate in the discussion. It sounds as though you share your Christianity in both word and deed. I like what you said about praying for the real people behind the avatars, something SL residents can easily forget to do.
    God’s peace! Arundel

  8. Thank you Cady for your reports. I’m sorry that RL prevents me from joining in the discussion groups on “Being a Christian in SL”. although I did manage to get to my first Bible Study on Sunday and found that very worthwhile.
    I am one of those who does not “stick to Christian areas”. Most conventional Christians would see my SL world as being the antithesis of an earthly Kingdom of God.
    I came into SL simply looking for a little adventure. Somehow I found the world of BDSM and it occurred to me that in a year when we were celebrating the abolition of the slave trade (in the UK) I could get some feeling of what it was like to become a slave. So that is what I did. I submitted to a Mistress, agreeing to do exactly as she asked. It turned out that she was not only strict but benevolent too, so the slave experience was probably not too real. Problems arose and I had to leave her but after a short spell (and feeling a bit lost) another Mistress offered to take me on and I have been with her for nearly a year. I have no wish to leave her.
    Throughout this time I have made no secret of the fact that I am a Christian; in fact I try to make this clear at the earliest convenient moment when starting any new relationshipin SL. I try to share God’s love with those I meet, many of whom do seem to have RL problems. I do pray for the real people behind the avatars.
    I have to say also that I have been surprised by the generosity and love shown by people whose main activities in SL seem to consist of tying others up, locking them in cages and even whipping them, or worse.
    And now, again almost by accident, I find that I myself am a Mistress. A friend had left her Master and pleaded with me to take her on. It seemed at the time that it was my duty to look after her and so I now have a submissive who will do whatever I ask. I guess she knew she wouldn’t find a softer Miss in all SL.
    So that, in brief, is how I am being a Christian in SL, acting out things I wouldn’t dream of doing in RL, but always remembering the real person behind the kinky avatar.

  9. Arundel, many thanks for leading the discussion group, I enjoyed it a lot and I think it’s a great way to get people involved & discussing things – as well as welcoming them to the cathedral and our church body here. I think Arkin told me you ended up being there for a total of seven hours – well done!

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