How this all started – the short version
Just over 3 years ago when I had been in Second Life (SL) for barely a month I began to get an inkling of the powerful potential for ministry – real connections, real community in an online world. I am not entirely sure why it just made sense to me – it seemed completely natural while I was sure it was totally oddball.
I started with a little parcel on Skybeam Estates,
and opened a “theology pub” which is where Arkin Ariantho (founder of the Anglican Cathedral in Second Life) and I met. We were both still quite new to SL, a few weeks old maybe and we started talking and he was very excited. He saw great potentail too. At the time he was focused on non-profit work but would soon start building the cathedral on my first sim Xenia. I had been talking a lot to the owner of the Skybeam (Charlene Trudeau) about the notion of a dedicated sim and before I really even knew what I was getting into, I looked into buying a sim.
Now this his was till a little early enough in the history of Second Life when Linden Labs was still figuring out all the non-profit and educational rates. So when I contacted them via phone and talked about a nfp sim for a student doing a project and they said that they would extend the reduced pricing to me for the first sim Xenia on which Koinonia is located. I had visited some lovely worship spaces – and one of my favorites is still the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Second Life. I was truly inspired by their community – and by their grasp of just how powerful this medium could be.
Easter Sunday 2007 and we had a great group gathered.
After some time had passed and it was becoming more clear that this is a viable ministry and with the help of a colleague and friend (John who is still with us) (and we had a spiffy new sanctuary built by Troy Vogel).
Ordained ministers from the United Church of Christ and The United Methodist Church (Ian and Kathy) joined our leadership team and we offered five services a week. The Second Life bug was no-where close to wearing off and next I wanted very much to open an interfaith sim as a neighbor. A place for conversation and education – that sim is Qoheleth.
I worked hard on a grant through my church and received a one year grant from the E Rhodes and Leona B Carpenter foundation and it included money to maintain the sim for one year and a small stipend for my work as pastor of an open and affirming congregation.
All the while I was still in school full time at Candler School of Theology (I worked my new obsession into a directed study and later even an article for a Yale journal – I’ll share that with y’all later). It was clear that the money would run out of course so I opened one more sim as a somewhat commercial endeavor, but also as a chance to offer small parcels of land to folks who wanted to give SL homesteading a try. That sim is Ex Nihilo and the revenue from rent on Ex Nihilo helps keep all the current ministries afloat. All three sims are still thriving and include many different ministries. PC(USA), Spiritual Peacemakers, A Catholic Meditation Center and more. We even have neighboring MCC community and the Anglican Cathedral which quickly outgrew Xenia.
There is so much to tell – so many lovely, heartwarming, true stories to tell (including the day my partner and I were married by a UCC pastor from Massachusetts IN Second Life). I hope you will come back often and meet the people, hear the stories and be a part of Koinonia in Second Life.
Grace and peace,
Kimberly – Sophianne Rhode in Second Life
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