New Book Describes History-Making Church in the Virtual World

Ministry to the Avatars

The world is changing rapidly, and perhaps the most compelling evidence of this change is found in the way people use technology to access services that formerly required an in-person visit. Now, for the first time, a real church with denominational standing is as close as one’s computer.

In Ministry to the Avatars: Building a Real Church in a Virtual World, author and reverend Dr. Jerold A. Garber shares the transcendent story of First United Church of Christ Second Life—a virtual church designed and built in Second Life, a 3-D virtual world with over thirty-six million individual accounts and over one million active users each month. While it began as an experiment in faith and inclusivity, First UCC SL today has full standing in the Eastern Association of the Southern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ, and it is the first church in a mainline denomination to achieve full standing while having no physical property or location.

Since its founding, First United Church of Christ Second Life has grown into a multifaceted, vibrant ministry with a 365-day-a-year presence in Second Life, and it is also a member of the Open and Affirming Coalition of the UCC, an association of churches affirming the full inclusions of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons in the church’s life and ministry.

Garber recounts an example of the vibrant ministry possible in Second Life: “I spent countless hours listening to stories of real life exclusion, discrimination and outright cruelty. One resident avatar I know as Stacey said that real life at work had become intolerable. Alcoholic parents had retreated from really being in touch at home, and life seemed utterly bleak….

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