Brian McLaren Book Discussion in Second Life

Have you read Brian McLaren’s newest book, A New Kind of Christianity? Have you been meaning to? Would you like to get together with folks from all over the country for to talk about what you think and feel about this book?

Join us at Koinonia Church in Second Life on September 21 & 22 for two evenings of generative conversation.

If you are new to Second Life and need a tour let me know and I can show you around.

Do you go to a “real” church?

Maybe not…

A small news item blipped on my radar this week about a federal court ruling that a religious nonprofit organization that primarily conducts worship services via the Internet and radio does not meet the Internal Revenue Service definition of a church (that has 14 criteria), according to a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling reported on by The National Law Journal.

Those criteria include that it has a recognized creed and form of worship; a formal code of doctrine and discipline; a membership not associated with any other church or denomination; ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed studies; and holds regular religious services.

The organization in question with this ruling is The Foundation of Human Understanding – The Federal Circuit panel deemed the associational test the most important. It agreed with the lower court that the foundation’s “electronic ministry” did not satisfy the test.

As the pastor serving an online congregation that does likely meet the “associational test” I was at first taken aback at a the line of demarcation from our feds. Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t need Rome to validate our little gathering of disciples. Call me old school, but the notion of federal criteria for declaring a fellowship church or not church seems a little hinky to me.

Take a look and see what you think – does your church meet these? How about my emergent sisters and brothers? And what social movements or celebrity fan clubs can you think of that might meet these criteria?

According to the IRS there are 14 criteria that determine whether or not a group is a church:

*Distinct legal existence
*Recognized creed and form of worship
*Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government
*Formal code of doctrine and discipline
*Distinct religious history
*Membership not associated with any other church or denomination
*Organization of ordained ministers
*Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study
*Literature of its own
*Established places of worship
*Regular congregations
*Regular religious services
*Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young
*Schools for the preparation of its members

The IRS generally uses a combination of these characteristics, together with other facts and circumstances, to determine whether an organization is considered a church for federal tax purposes.

Just thinkin’ out loud and would love to hear your thoughts. What criteria would you make for whether not a bevy of believers were actually a church?

cartoon: how targets are made

nakedpastor (a blog and web cartoon site – yes it’s safe for work).

via cartoon: how targets are made.

U.S. Orthodox rabbis urge community to accept gays and lesbians

Good news from the Jewish community in the US:

U.S. Orthodox rabbis urge community to accept gays and lesbians.

Sacred Space in Cyber Space

Sacred Space in Cyber Space
by Kimberly Knight
As Published in Reflections – Fall 2009, Yale Divinity School
and Quoted in Church in The Inventive Age


“We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.”
– Dorothy Day

I have the best job in the world because I get to meet that long loneliness with a new kind of community.

I am the Circuit Rider for The Beatitudes Society, but my tools are quite different than the well-worn saddle and leather-bound Bibles of my forebears. My tools are the currency of the online world – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Second Life. I enlist online resources that help clergy learn and act on pressing social issues and give them online places to meet and talk with other progressive faith leaders.

How does a seminary graduate end up as an online Circuit Rider? Answer: I genuinely believe in online community. Community is the common thread to all my work. I see it in practice at The Beatitudes Society. I also see it in practice as the pastor of an online church, Koinonia Congregational Church of Second Life.

Let me tell you about my church. Imagine a new town emerging on the outskirts of your city, a planned village filled with all manner of retail, rolling golf courses, night clubs, and civic arrangements necessary to organizing a small city. You’d also expect to find houses of worship where the new town’s citizens can connect with God and with each other. So it is with the new metropolis of the internet: churches are springing up every day online, and I am one of the ministers.

At our church this past Easter morning, for instance, folks wandered in, picked up their bulletins and settled into their seats. They chatted quietly about their lovely dresses and crisp Sunday suits while the music welcoming the Risen Lord floated lightly overhead. This group has been worshipping together for two years, and the joy was palpable. When it came time for the passing of the peace, people greeted one another from Germany, England, California, Mississippi, Georgia, and Toronto. They hadn’t traveled from those places; they were still at home in all those places, but making church online – worshipping, studying, praying, crying and laughing together from all corners of the globe.

Avatars and Atonement

Koinonia Church is an actual congregation meeting in online space — a virtual reality world derived from the revolutionary software program called Second Life, which allows users to socialize and use voice and text chat. Koinonia uses Second Life to create a safe environment where people can learn about the Christian faith and experience a loving Christian community.
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Our Stories, God’s Story – Koinonia StoryQuest

Last night was the kick-off of our summer StoryQuest, a Second Life Vacation Bible School experience at Koinonia. Unlike first life VBS we will gather once a week in an expanded time around our usual worship time on Wednesday evenings. Each week a different leader in the larger Koionia community (yes I realize every time I type that phrase that it is redundant) will begin by sharing a parable with those gathered and encouraging a little discussion. After folks are engaged and thinking deeply about the parable the leader invites folks to go on a field trip to some interesting location in Second Life, a location that tells a story (which most locations truly do). Hopefully participants can make some connections at the new location – either with the parable or with their own story. After a time of exploration folks are to return to Koinonia (some location in the larger sim community) and are invited to share a story of their own. Something that maybe came to mind in the reading for the evening or something that surfaced as they explored the SL location.

Last night we gathered around the fire outside Koinonia church and began our evening with Luke 13:18-21 – the parables of “Mischievous Mustard and Lasting Leaven” as Barbara E. Reid has called them in Parables for Preachers (Year C)
We had a lovely little discussion about the subversive nature of these parables and about the in-breaking of the Reign of God.

RachelvilleWe then ventured to a site called Rachelville, which is a touching exhibit built by some friends of mine in Second Life as a tribute, a memorial garden for their daughter Rachel.

Stories Without BordersWe returned to the fire ring and told stories then I offered them the link to a fantastic sim hosting the Stories Without Borders Project

All in all, a perfect start to Koinonia StoryQuest. I hope you will join us next week as we continue to explore how our stories intertwine with God’s story.

Summer StoryQuest Begins Tomorrow

Parables and Our Story

Tonight, Wednesday July 7th begins Koinonia’s summer StoryQuest – come explore The Parables, take a SL field trip and relax under the story telling tree where folks are invited to share their own personal stories. BEGINS AT 9:30 PM EST

I hope you will join us!

Is Homosexuality an “Abomination”?

Tony Jones

via Is Homosexuality an “Abomination”?.

What Is Real?

Second Life may be an escape from our daily reality, but more often than not, for me they intersect and inform each other. It’s hard to separate the concerns I see in “first” life from those I hear and share in “second”.

Preparing for worship this week, I was again confronted with this “reality” as folks popped into Koinonia before worship to chat and exchange ideas and test out the space.

Much like first life, this conversation started simply enough with introductions and pleasantries, but soon turned into an exploration of belief and practices of the gathered community. UNLIKE first life, the questions and responses flowed quickly and with depth and introspection that as a pastor, I do not often see among first time participants.

One of the surprising blessings of second life is this random encounter with the holy through “unmasked” discussions. Think how often we “mind our words” in public settings when faith, religion or belief is brought up.  Sharing our inner ideas, theologies and understandings with total strangers, is something most of us are reluctant to do. So in a curious why, second life offers us a “mask” or more appropriately a screen to set our words before others, and test the waters of dialogue more readily.

At first some of the newer folks were hesitant to share their opinions- based on their assumptions of first life discourse- where “proving their worthiness” (knowledge and authority) are a given. Once they recognized that they too could share their insights without first having to show competency or capacity- they stepped boldly into a lively discussion on faith, making this random encounter a holy moment.

Holy moments occur when people recognize the work, spirit and action of God creating, moving and being in that time and space. It transcends the medium and practice- it simply is just another way for God to be experienced, expressed and evidenced to those who will see, hear and claim the possibility and potentiality of GOD to be present, vital and honored anywhere and everywhere.

Beloved Live!

Today marks the beginning of another way to engage others in God’s word and wisdom. Thanks to the support and technical abilities of John (Adelph Gustafon) Peterson and Kathy (Gemini Takaaki) Orebaugh- Beloved Garden’s Monday Meditation is now up and streaming live. Each Monday @ 9am pdt (slt) an opportunity to share music, prayer and reflections is available not only inworld via Second Life- but through the internet as well.  Another new offering is a summer music concert series on @ Beloved Beach:

Summer Breeze Concert Series: Friday’s 5-7 pm @ Beloved Beach Lighthouse Point. Good vibrations abound as sizzling songs and cool tunes set the tone for our summer music series @ Beloved.  Kick Off Concert July 2 5pm featuring the one and only Mr. Psychedelic! Music sure to get your feet tapping and your body moving!

To tune into these new option go to: http://m1.secondstreaming.com:9628/ or join us in Second Life.

Please note, live programing will only be available during the following times;

  • 9am pdt- Monday Meditations  weekly every Monday beginning June 28
  • 5-7pm pdt- Summer Breeze concerts on the Beach  weekly every Friday beginning July 2

We hope to have extended programing throughout the week in the near future.  For now we are trying this simple schedule out, and getting used to the flow of it.

Your input on how to expand and develop these live programs is gratefully appreciated and requested!

This presents us with an expanded capacity to reach out with others, beyond the realm of SL and the Koinonia/Beloved Community there. Something we are excited about, and working together to extend God’s grace and care to more people in ever increasing ways. God calls us to go in to all the world, and so we are heeding this call, and hoping to have some fun and grace-filled moments along the way.

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