Project History

and Current Ministries



"God acts with the world as it is,
leading it toward what it can be."
-- Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki in God-Christ-Church

We took delivery of our simulator in Second Life on October 14, 2013 and First UCC Island came into existence in the virtual world.  Our first worship service was on Sunday, October 27, 2013.

Second Life and Why We Are In It

To read the underlying theology for this ministry, please visit our Theology Page.

In 2003 Linden Lab launched a virtual world called Second Life. At 3:11 p.m. on March 9, 2013 -- just to pick an example -- there were 60,311 persons logged in and actively engaged in doing everything one can do in the real world. Some have thought of it as a game. It’s not. In fact, that is a sure way to make a second life resident very unhappy. For us it is not a game (although it can be a lot of fun!), it is a “second life.” And like life in the real world one can shop, play golf, attend a concert, visit a gallery, build a home and furnish it, get a job, and go to church. 

Living in a virtual world is like living in the real world except that the body used in-world is an avatar that one designs exactly as preferred. It can interact with all the other avatars and it can walk, run, fly and instantly teleport from place to place. 

The avatars are controlled by people from every conceivable walk of life and living anyplace on the planet where they can use a personal computer connected to the internet. Some of them work for major business organizations and receive their company-delivered training in-world. Some are pursing a master's degree at a major university. Others are simply looking for a way to meet people, share ideas or perhaps get some help. And some are looking for a way to find God.  You will find more about the importance we place on helping people on their faith journey on our Theology Page. Apartment Building Under Construction

 Religious services are part of in-world life and the opportunities for exploring, learning and growing are limited only by the imagination. Perhaps especially important is the chance to connect with people who have felt marginalized and who have chosen Second Life as a means of getting some comfort that they have not found in real world settings. And for others, it is just convenient and fun! 

There are even very practical uses for which an in-world presence is a great a benefit. Among those uses are meetings – either “formal” or ad hoc among friends. And you can visit at any hour of the day or night, right from home, and you don't even have to get dressed up, or get in the car, or travel someplace, or find a place to park or... well you get the idea!  And we have night clubs for dancing, too!  Yes, fellowship opportunities are part of this ministry.  If you'd like to see how a building takes shape, some pictures are here.

The “grammar” -- the "how to use it" -- of technology and social media has become commonplace and its use is growing everyday. We thought that the time is right to begin to utilize this incredible tool in the service of all who are looking for a wonderful way to connect. And so, this project has launched a place for people to gather, discuss, socialize, worship and ponder the gifts that God has given us, including the gift of technology!

We Learned An Online Church Can Make a Real-World Difference

RealReach: THE FIRST UCC OF SL SPONSORSHIP INITIATIVE

 Can a virtual world reach out to change a real life?  Can a online community make a real-world difference?  For the next year, “Kristine Joy B.” of the Philippines will become living proof that the answer to those questions is Yes. 

In February 2014, members of First UCC of SL, an outreach ministry in the Linden Lab virtual world Second Life, launched RealReach, an in-world initiative to raise money for the sponsorship of a child living in poverty.

 The concept is straightforward: Staff and clergy of First UCC of SL will hold regular in-world fundraising events where DJs and live musicians donate their performance talents, providing entertainment to visitors who contribute “lindens,” the Second Life token currency.  The linden donations correspond to real-world dollars,* and those dollars become life-changing help for Kristine Joy B. through the charitable organization Children International.

 “Members of Second Life have been involved in a number of charities, notably Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society and fundraising for relief disasters in Japan and the Philippines,” said the Rev. Dr. Jerold “Jerry” Garber, who serves as senior pastor of the First UCC of SL ministry.  “Our staff approached me to discuss a real-world outreach for our virtual ministry, pointing out that all of Second Life’s charitable efforts to date seemed to be managed by secular organizations.  From that discussion, RealReach was born.”

 “To my knowledge, we’re the first SL religious ministry to sponsor a real-world child,” the Rev. Dr. Garber added.  “As RealReach succeeds, we hope we’re the first of many and lead by our example.”

 WHO IS KRISTINE JOY B.?

Kristine Joy B. may have no idea what Second Life is.  She is a seventeen-year-old speaker of Tagalog, one of the two official languages of the Philippines.  Although her village does have access to electricity, it’s unlikely she’s ever owned a computer.  Such a luxury would be unthinkable for a young woman living in a household of seven with a daily income of barely a dollar a day per person to cover food, clothing, medical, and educational needs.

For safety reasons, public details of Kristine Joy’s life are minimal.  First UCC of SL knows that she lives with both her parents and four other siblings.  Her home has a roof of corrugated metal over concrete walls and a concrete floor.  She sleeps on a mattress on that floor.  When she and her family need water, a neighbor has a working faucet they can use.  She’s enrolled in school, and now, thanks to First UCC of SL’s RealReach sponsorship through Children International, she’ll have access to basic necessities, medicine, dental care, and school uniforms and supplies.

“We made a conscious decision to select an older child to sponsor,” said Yolanda Ramírez, a First UCC of SL staff member.  “We knew we could fulfill a one-year obligation, and we wanted to see how successful the initiative could be before making a longer commitment with a younger child.”

On the day Kristine Joy received the sponsorship she hoped for, the members of First UCC of SL stumbled over a surprise of their own.  After selecting her as their child, the ministry members discovered they’d chosen her on the very morning of her seventeenth birthday.  “What a gift, for her and for us,”  said Ramírez.  “ I actually teared up when we discovered that.”

“We took it as real evidence of the Spirit at work in what we were doing,” said the Rev. Dr. Garber.

 

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