A recent opinion piece on Episcopal Life Online stated:
I believe the internet to be a remarkable tool and resource as well as a fine supplement for spiritual growth. It is wonderful taken with the real food of church attendance, just as we take vitamin supplements with real food. We shouldn’t “eat” vitamins in place of food.
In responseCady Enoch, Chair of the Anglican Cath. leadership team writes:
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!
Mary Wanamaker (SL avatar name: Cady Enoch)
on behalf of the Anglicans in Second Life Leadership Team
Mary Wanamaker is a member of the Vestry of Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, in Columbus, Ohio, in the Diocese of Southern Ohio.