The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life

Episcopal Life Online Opinion Piece

5 Comments

Back in October Episcopal Life Online printed a piece called. “Worshipping online: Is it really church?”  And a couple of days ago an opinion piece by Dina Mann called, ‘Not by Internet alone: Virtual church can’t replace real thing‘  was published on Episcopal Life Online.   The leadership team of the Second Life Cathedral intend to respond and we encourage you to head over to Episcopal Life Online, read the article and leave a response.  In short, we agree with much that Mann writes but feel it misses some of the positive and significant ministry that does occur online.

To read the article click here.

Author: Mark Brown

CEO of The Bible Society in New Zealand.

5 thoughts on “Episcopal Life Online Opinion Piece

  1. On my blog, I wrote about this exact same issue, entitling it “How I Stay Connected.” In some situations, I have had to learn how to listen to sermons in Spanglish, as I am in Panama and the English sermons are occasionally punctuated with Spanish here. I was ready to attend St. Luke’s Episcopalian, but I had two major obstacles. First, my husband refused to wake up in the mornings. We not only share a car, but if I wanted to go alone, I would have to take the baby with me, which is a long, frustrating process. (She’s 1 and 3 months and very active.)
    2. The churches in Panama rarely have nursery services available. Which means that I am left to tend my active, screaming, wanting to run all over the church baby, which pretty much guarantees my lack of participation and also means that I miss the sermon. Even when my husband can go to church with me, my baby is such a handful at this age that we both spend our time trying to make sure she doesn’t interrupt the formal, beautiful liturgy. It’s a small congregation, so it’s pretty noticeable when she’s screaming.
    I have resorted, in the meantime, to finding episcopalian sermons online and making sure that I am at least having a daily devotional. I also do the Sunday reading as given with the Sunday sermon I print out. It doesn’t replace the real thing–it doesn’t connect me with other people, really, but it does serve to keep my heart connected with God as I am continuing to learn about Him. Lately, I’ve also been asking my husband to sit with me on a Sunday to listen to my printed sermon. I’m hoping that it will allow us to still, as married people, connect to each other as we are pursuing God. I don’t see it as a replacement, but just as a choice for right now due to circumstances. As a former Baptist, I have a really hard time when people tell me that I’m not “Christian enough” because I don’t attend church regularly or because I don’t attend every church event. Believe me, I want to do those things, but my life is also dependent on two other people at the moment.

  2. As one of the leaders of the Anglican Church in Second Life, I read with interest the opinion piece “Not by Internet Alone.” I don’t wish to discount Ms. Mann’s experiences, but I would like to present another side of this issue.

    This article seems to be based on a misunderstanding of the basic premise of online worship. Our intention has never been to replace the “face-to-face” worship experience with the virtual. According to a recent survey that was conducted among our community members, over 80% of us are also actively engaged with our local faith communities. We enjoy, and are nurtured by, the opportunity to engage in worship and fellowship with other Christians, many of whom we would never have the opportunity to meet in person, as our membership literally spans the globe. As for the members of our community who are not members of a local church, many simply do not have access to one, often due to cultural or geographical constraints, or health issues that prevent them from having the opportunity to worship with others in the “real world.”

    We also have a wonderful opportunity to engage with the many other members of the Second Life community who visit our cathedral. Some of our visitors are merely curious about us, some come to learn more about our Christian faith, and many come to us with genuine spiritual needs and concerns. Some of these people do not have access to “brick and mortar” churches, and some of them do, but do not visit them, for a variety of reasons. Our aim is to be “church for you where ever you are, what ever your circumstances.”

    The Anglican Cathedral in Second Life was founded nearly two years ago, as an attempt to somehow be church on the internet. We are commanded in Matthew 28:19 to “go forth and make disciples of all nations.” However, due to the rapid expansion of the internet, the concept of “nations” is quickly giving way to that of “networks.” This concept does not seek to discount the bonds of home, parish and nation, but to add another dimension to them. As more and more people spend their time in such trans-national locales as Second Life (as of this writing, there are 60,752 people online in Second Life), the need for the presence of the church become clear. For more information on the implications of this for the church, I refer you to the excellent paper written by The Rev. Mark Brown, “The Digital Revolution and the Church” which may be accessed here: http://brownblog.info/?p=665.

    I have been an active member of the Anglican Church in Second Life community for over a year now. In that time, I have had the most incredible opportunities to meet people from around the world, many of whom are now very dear friends. We have shared thoughts and ideas with one another, which has led to greater insights for us all as to how Anglican Christianity is understood around the world (surely a good thing in these troubled times within the Communion). We have shared our struggles and prayed with one another. In short, we have developed a strong and loving faith community, which, to quote Ms. Mann’s article, “heals us and, in turn, makes us vessels that are the ‘living reminders’ (to quote Henri Nouwen) of Christ’s presence.” Our bonds of affection with one another are no less real than those which we share with the people we know “face-to-face.” I know that this may be a difficult concept to grasp for those who have not had the opportunity to be part of such communities, but this has been my experience, and that of many, many people that I know within our community.

    Of course, this expression of Christian community will not suit everyone, nor is it intended to. And just as with any new experience, one may feel disoriented and isolated at first. But if you do choose to stop by, we will all do our best to welcome you and make you feel at home. If you would like more information about us and our ministry, please visit our blog at https://slangcath.wordpress.com/. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact any of the members of the Leadership Team, either by email, or within Second Life. Or just stop by the cathedral and meet the community. We would love to see you!

  3. My initial contact with online church came in May 2005. I had little experience of real time communication via the internet, having not long before begun to use MSN to talk to scattered family members. I had never chatted to people I didn’t already know in real life. I admit that my early experiences of worshipping online, using text only, were scary affairs where the technology got in the way of the worship. However, perseverance allowed me to get to know a few regular attendees and I began to perceive their personalities and to think of them as friends. I found that the worship became very real to me and I was in no doubt that I was worshipping with a community. Eventually I would say that I knew about 20 people well and another 30 fairly well. Many of them are still close friends today; in fact some are among my closest friends. All in all it was very much like the parallel experience in real life church where we have to feel our way in a new group, getting to know one or two people at first and gradually getting to know more and more people. It may be that in a new church some of the ways of worshipping are unfamiliar but with time they become familiar to us, exactly as with online church.

    When I began to worship in the Anglican Cathedral of Second Life, the technology once more got in the way at first as I got used to seeing avatars and hearing voice. I agree with Ms Mann that hearing a voice is very important, though I would say not essential. Once I was used to the way things appeared I became able to worship in SL and once more grew close to the people with whom I worshipped. Perhaps the greatest testimony to how very ‘real’ this community is to me occurred on Christmas Day. My husband had chest pains and eventually we decided to go to hospital. I was online in Second Life after a service at the Cathedral and told members there what I was doing. Immediately they began to pray. Throughout that night and the next day as high risk life saving open heart surgery was carried out on my husband, I felt peace and a sense of being prayed for. Messages of concern and assurances of prayers have not ceased to reach me. Whenever I log on, someone asks how we are doing.

    I know I’m not alone in feeling this type of support but I appreciate that this kind of community takes some getting used to and may not be right for everyone. If you can have a real life church experience that is great, and to be enjoyed. If you have no other Christian support then online church is a valid and valuable alternative. And if you can have both, you are doubly blessed!

  4. I essentially said that her experience is not my experience and for her to generalize from hers makes it seem that she thinks mine is not valid.

  5. I encourage those of you who have comments to share to post them here as well!

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