In the beginning…Nitrojeenasis
It started on a whim, on a dare from a friend and colleague to check out this virtual community called Second Life, where you could fly and more excitingly, watch the United Methodist General Conference with people from all over the world without leaving the comfort of your home.
Okay so I am a sucker for the strange and exotic, especially if I don’t have to get up and do anything! I admit the idea of watching the UM General Conference was not the most enticing lure, but the idea of flying, and talking to people (I am a certifiable extrovert) any time night or day, well THAT did appeal.
I mentioned to my students and sons what I was going to do- and was met with some rather aghast and bemused responses. “Beware of furries Mom” “Jeanne! What are you doing? there’s just sex sex sex!!!” and other even more colorful comments. Oh, and lots of head shaking.
Being pretty much technology impaired and terrified, the idea of creating a virtual “me” was somewhat intimidating. I have enough trouble with the real me, so imagine the creation of my avatar! And then choose a name! What to do? Big decisions to make- new worlds to explore- once again my sense of whimsy swelled up and helped me face this challenge, and voila Nitrojeen was born.
Nitrogen as you may know is a basic element that is strong and sensitive, unpredictable if agitated, volatile perhaps, but in the right balance is beneficial. Nitro is a nickname bestowed by a colleague while I was doing medical mission work in Haiti. Jeen- the phonetic spelling of my real name. Now some of that applies to my real self and some has been applied to my virtual self- the perfect combo for this new creation.
I arrived at Koinonia trying the very cool and hip TP system (which I was happy to discover meant teleport not toilet paper!) thanks to my friend Ragamuffin. I spent a good deal of time stumbling around and flying into walls and trees-(and I still do that) but was intrigued by the space and surroundings.
I was deeply moved and excited to see the “Shower of Stoles” display, and eagerly awaited the opportunity to experience worship at KCC. Within the first few gatherings I attended I was hooked. Despite my limited abilities in manuevering around Xenia, there were plenty of friendly people to talk to and to show me the ropes.
Serving in ministry in real life can often be a draining experience, coming to Second Life to simply be a part of the community allowed me the anonymity I needed to refresh my soul. Finding Koinonia was a virtual oasis for me. There I began to see the possibilities of this medium to reach others, like me, who for one reason or another, needed someplace to find renewal, ask difficult questions, or simply seek out the comfort of the company of others.
Yes I had my shocks and scary moments when I would get caught or find myself somewhere I didn’t really want to be. Yes I wondered what I was really doing here, and if it was real. Yes I said I would try this and most likely get over it in a few months, once something “real” came along to distract me again.
What brought me back day after day, night after night, was the very real community of very real people that I had met. Clearly there was more to this Second Life stuff than I had first imagined. More than role playing or games, I began to look forward to talking to my friends “inworld” and to share worship and study with them.
If I could find this medium, learn to operate within it, I figured I needed to find a way to incorporate it into my ministry as well. Taking the plunge, Beloved Art&Soul became the first place to attempt to create a space for college students and others to explore faith and relationship with the Holy. The Beloved Art & Soul house sits on its original site, and ministry has expanded to the Garden and Lighthouse Point- providing different ways to explore, enrich and enjoy virtuality in a safe and friendly place.
The rest as they say is history (herstory) I became involved at KCC not only as a regular member, but after getting over myself and my fear of technology, began to “fill in” as needed to facilitate worship. My original whimsy led me to be engaged and involved in the community at Xenia and beyond- to experience Second Life as a wonderful gift and blessing, and to encourage others to do so as well.
And so it goes…
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