Distillation of 2nd Gathering and Neill's Proposal

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On the 27th of June, 2009, a group of 10 Presbyterians gathered in the virtual world of Second Life. It was the second gathering of this sort, and the conversation turned to dreams and plans for the development of a Presbyterian ministry in Second Life. What follows is a distillation of key comments and a proposal. Many of the items expressed below are direct quotations from participants. However, since the discussion was of a communal nature and several similar ideas were expressed, rather than attribute quotations to individuals, I would prefer to consider the conversation, in its entirety, as the collaborative work of the following residents of Second Life: Aeldyn Belfire, Andreas Torrance, Chella Llanfair, Grammercie Pexington, JoySophia Northman, MB Deed, Menchor Barbosa, Neill Loxingly, Pelagius Friend, and Philip Lionheart.

From the June 27th Gathering

Hopes and desires expressed

  1. To define what we are in a way that we can all understand (small group? church plant?) and also initial goals of the group.
  2. To work on a variety of ministry possibilities in small groups of folks who feel particularly called to that particular ministry
  3. To start a regular worship service in Second Life
  4. To build community and relationships (get to know each other) through study, prayer, and worship
  5. To bypass the virtual/real barrier
  6. To become a ministry nested with the PCUSA, helping the denomination to:
    • explore evangelism and church planting in an online context
    • be a presence that helps people here cope, discern, wrestle with whatever they may be working through.
    • draw together, connect, and help Presbyterians new to Second Life and virtual reality
    • support Presbyterians already engaged in various ministries in Second Life
  7. To do ministry in a way that honors both our Presbyterian heritage and our Second Life context.
    • on the Presbyterian heritage side of things, this includes a reformed/reforming outlook, sharing of ministry with elders, and some of the ideas at the core of the Book of Order (especially first three chapters, mission of church, etc.)
    • on the Second Life context side of things, this includes "building it as we drive it," starting organically rather than institutionally, and letting the spirit guide the ministry as we listen to the stories of others.
  8. The eventual emergence of a core group of leaders committed to working toward a common vision.

Points of Consensus

  1. The more responsibility folk have for others (i.e. pastoral & counseling functions), the more we need to know about them (SL & RL transparency/accountibility).
  2. This is to be balanced with a healthy respect for the privacy and anonymity of those not in leadership roles who come to Second Life as a "safe place" to explore their spirituality and identity.
  3. For now, Neill will serve as liaison between this group and the PCUSA, and will continue to facilitate/organize meetings.
  4. We'll revisit the issue of official connections and structure in September, after we've gotten to know each other a little better.
  5. It would be good for those who are committed to this group to also experience other worship services and expressions of ministry in SL, and continue to familiarize themselves with the Second Life context.

Neill's Proposal

Who We Are

I used this for the Doodle poll, and with a few modifications it seems to fit where we are now:

"We are a group of Presbyterians meeting in the virtual reality world of Second Life, exploring together the possibility of starting a ministry that is uniquely Presbyterian, but also unique to the culture and nature of Second Life. We currently meet for conversation & prayer, but aspire to eventually incorporate service, evangelism, education, and worship into our activities."

Our Commitments

  • To explore evangelism, education, service, worship, and church planting in an online context.
  • To be a presence in Second Life that helps people cope, discern, and wrestle with whatever they may be working through.
  • To grow in community, nurturing relationships with each other through fellowship, conversation, and shared experiences.
  • To draw together, connect, and help Presbyterians new to Second Life and virtual reality.
  • To support Presbyterians and others already engaged in various ministries in Second Life.
  • To do ministry in a way that honors both our Presbyterian heritage and our Second Life context.

Gathering Times

What we learned from the Doodle Pollis that no single time slot allows us to accommodate all people who are interested in participating with us. However, given the diversity of desires indicated above, I think we can accommodate just about everyone by creating two gathering times, each with a distinct purpose: one focused primarily on conversation/study/discussion, and the second focused primarily on prayer/liturgy/worship. People are encouraged to attend both if possible, or else choose the one that best suits their schedules and interests. While each group has a focus, it's also likely that some conversation will occur at the prayer group, and some prayer will occur at the conversation group.

Conversation Group

  • Tuesdays @ 7pm SLT (7pm Pacific / 8pm Mountain / 9pm Central / 10pm Eastern)
  • Approx 1 hour, although in the past, discussion has continued into 2 hours (leave when you have to).
  • Unstructured Leadership -- come with something to talk about, and we'll follow the Spirit's lead.
  • This group will more fully explore our call to service, evangelism, and education.

Prayer Service

  • Sundays @ 7pm SLT (7pm Pacific / 8pm Mountain / 9pm Central / 10pm Eastern)
  • Approx. 30 minutes, followed by fellowship time in the skybox for anyone who can stay longer.
  • Rotating Leadership -- we'll take turns designing & leading a brief liturgical prayer service.
  • This group will more fully explore developing a full-fledged worship service in Second Life.

Our Leadership

We currently have no official leadership structure, although Neill Loxingly (SL) / Neal Locke (RL) serves as our point of contact with the denomination, and as a facilitator for our gatherings. We hope that leadership emerges organically from our time together, and will revisit the issue of leadership in September, 2009. We have also agreed that, in the future, anyone from our community who serves in a pastoral role or has responsibility for others, must be open abut her or his real life identity and connection with an actual church.

Our Relationship with the Presbyterian Church(USA)

While we are welcoming of all people, especially those who share our Presbyterian heritage, we have a special relationship with the PC(USA) Office of Evangelism & Growth, which contributes to our financial operating costs in Second Life and serves us in a supportive, advisory capacity.

Our Relationship with Other Second Life Ministries

As part of our commitment to "support Presbyterians and others already engaged in various ministries in Second Life," the following are some existing ministries we hope to contribute to and collaborate with.

  • Church of the Dawntreader. Founded by real-life Presbyterian minister Ben Fraummann (SL Pelagius Friend) The Church of the Dawntreader is, in their own words, "an outpost of kindly Christianity and hope to a virtual world that needs it desparately...and INTENSELY does not want it. We attempt to be a reference point of sanity in a world gone slightly mad." In their ministry to SL residents who are or have been at odds with the church, the Dawntreader is not explicitly Presbyterian in worship or ministry style, but definitely "part of the family." Worship is Tuesday nights at 7pm SLT.
  • Within the Vine. Within the Vine is an ecumenical, interfaith community with roots in the Presbyterian/Reformed tradition. Members work for the advancement of Peace, Perception, and Production through their various traditions, as they "discover, understand, and cope within the vine." Malachi Hissop (SL) is the community organizer.
  • Koinonia Community. Koinonia is the name of both an actual worshiping congregation in Second Life, and the multi-region sim that hosts their church, ours, and several others. The founder of Koinonia, Sophianne Rhode (RL Kimberly Knight) has articulated a vision for a "zone of spirituality" in Second Life that encompasses a variety of communities and promotes conversation and dialogue among people of faith. While Koinonia itself is non-denominational, we are in relationship with them both as our gracious hosts, and as long-term partners in achieving this vision.

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