Sunday, April 15, 2012

The challenging nature of St Matt's in Second Life (Part One)

A Christmas Service at Epiphany Cathedral 2009-12
A Christmas Service at Epiphany Cathedral
December 2009 : our last there
Chaz here.

This is a three-part reflection which is partly personal in nature; opinions expressed are necessarily my own.

St Matthew's by the Sea is now 2 1/3 years old.

It is a small, but thriving and stable prayer community with services centred around the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

One of the challenges we will probably always face is finding ourselves in the middle of two opposites -- perhaps not unusual for a group of Anglicans! Via Media after all!

On the one hand, we are quite literally a group of outcasts from Church. In the interest of "taking the high road" we don't dwell on this, but it is important not to ignore, as it was the single event that firmed up our resolution to be inclusive and thinking Anglicans. It made us who we are.

We were outcast from the Anglican Epiphany Cathedral back in January 2010.

Even though we and others considered the Cathedral our church in Second Life, the Cathedral had been taken over by more and more rigid religious fundamentalists. Anyone whom this management core didn't approve of found themselves subtly directed to the very back pews -- handily, right by the exit.

A group of us -- about half the actual active congregation -- felt strongly that today's Anglican Church, especially in SL, must be an inclusive Church for all. We worried deeply that people in SL "testing the waters" about coming back to church would be "turned off" once and for all, for good, when confronted with the behind-the-scenes reality at the Cathedral.

Matters came to a head in January 2010 over what I (Chaz) as a Canadian personally considered basic human and equality rights issues when the Cathedral management team took steps to force the resignation over gender issues of a person leading a prayer service there.

It was clearly indicated to us that the current management core would fight vigorously to prevent any "inclusive" tendencies developing at the Cathedral and that if "worse came to worse", they'd leave rather than be associated with such tendencies. Consequently, rather than fight a stressful battle that no one would truly win, about half of the active congregation took the strong hints and shuffled out the back service entrance which had been left invitingly open for us.

The ragtag band of refugees from the Cathedral, January 2010.
We formed a prayer circle in which we continued our daily evening prayers (our flagship Compline service which continues today) from the Book of Common Prayer. Within a short while, we were invited to use a private Anglican Chapel called St Matt's that an acquaintance of ours had built previously for his personal enjoyment. That person has since left SL and gone onto other challenges, but we have kept the candles at St Matt's lit and call it home now. That was 2 1/3 years ago as of now.

 Knowing the nature of our start is, I think, fundamental to understanding what (jump in here anyone) is perhaps part of our mission in SL:   maintaining a presence and a safe place for all those in SL whom the Church virtual or non-virtual has battered, bruised and rejected, as we were even by our own Church in SL. To be a voice of reason and normality for those seeking to heal the damage done to them by the Church, both RL and SL churches.

So that's the one hand -- we've been rejected by the "mainstream" Anglican church in SL -- which advertises itself as the Anglican Cathedral -- and we're not accepted there as we are.

Now, onto part two and the "other hand"! Click here for part two.

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