We’ve embarked upon a new ministry in a largely undiscovered mission field, in a land on the fringes of society, and unexplored by many other Christian ministries. You can’t get here by plane, train, automobile, nor boat. This is a land so exotic and primitive that you can lose yourself and in the losing of yourself, quite possibly discover a whole new you.
We’re building churches, creating community, offering counsel, creating safe spaces, preaching the word, building schools, offering prayer, and reaching out in fellowship. Our ministry is reaching new heights and probing new depths of human spirituality and is being sought after more and more.
Where in the world is this new mission field you ask? Well, not in this world, but in a virtual world called Second Life (SL).
Second Life (SL) is a virtual world developed by Linden Lab that launched on June 23, 2003 and is accessible via the Internet. A free client program called the Second Life Viewer enables its users, called Residents, to interact with each other through avatars. Residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade virtual property and services with one another, or travel throughout the world (which residents refer to as “the grid”). Second Life is for people aged 18 and over, while Teen Second Life is for people aged 13 to 17.
Built into the software is a three-dimensional modeling tool based around simple geometric shapes that allows a resident to build virtual objects. This can be used in combination with the Linden Scripting Language which can be used to add functionality to objects. More complex three-dimensional sculpted prims (colloquially known as sculpties), textures for clothing or other objects, and animations and gestures can be created using external software. The Second Life Terms of Service ensure that users retain copyright for any content they create, and the server and client provide simple digital rights management functions.
I became a member of Second Life some years ago when it first began. I had heard a report on National Public Radio (NPR) about this new virtual world created by Linden Labs and was intrigued. I joined but in the early days it was rough going. The technology and programming just didn’t work well together or at least my old computer didn’t work well with the new platform and its resource demands. Just this last fall I head a new report about Second Life again on NPR and decided to revisit the place. I found a whole new world.
Always thinking about the Gospel Message and how to spread the Good News I immediately started thinking about a Second Life missions field and began doing research and learning everything I could. I visited many church structures in SL and even sat in on a couple of prayer services and daily offices. I was hooked and started making plans for Shepherd’s Heart “Second Ministry.”
In SL you create a virtual avatar that represents you and your personality. Needless to say I created that of a monk: Abbot DeSantis. I look like a monk, gesture like a monk, do the work of a monk, and in SL live like a monk. In this new world you can be anything you want to be and look like anything you want to look like. In my heart of hearts I am a Celtic catholic monk in the Order of the Shepherd’s Heart and so that’s who I chose to be in SL.
We’re still in the preliminary stages but we have some virtual land and have built a “mother house,” a beautiful chapel, and some Celtic monk’s cells. We also have a “Garden of the Stations” where we have stations of the cross set up for people to pray at. We have offered compline a few times and are working on a steady schedule of service times, including but not limited to Sunday worship service.
This is a whole new world for us and we’re just beginning to explore it and find our way around it. Won’t you visit the “Second Ministry” of Shepherd’s Heart and join us in the quest? When you arrive simply do a search for “Shepherd’s Heart Abbey” and teleport in. If you will befriend me I can help you if I’m in world. My avatar name, as already mentioned, is Abbot DeSantis. We also currently have three different groups in SL, the Ecumenical Free Catholic Communion, the Order of the Shepherd’s Heart, and one just dedicated to Christian ministry in Second Life called Second Ministry. I invite you to join the groups as you like.
See you in Second Life!
Abbot-Bishop Brian E. Brown, OSH in Real Life
“Abbot DeSantis” in Second Life