Saturday, December 16, 2017

How to Minister to the Needs of Others in Second Life




Let us practice the fine art of making every work a priestly ministration. Let us believe that God is in all our simple deeds and learn to find Him there.

A.W. Tozer





This story felt to me as a culmination as I wrote it.

(Significant Other while noting the importance of this story cautions me not to get too heavy.)

Almost four years ago, I wandered into a rather amazing sim in Second Life (SL).

(What Significant Other finds amazing is that they didn’t boot me out, but, I digress.)

The sim was First United Church of Christ (UCC) and it was, and still is, a Real Life (RL) church dedicated to the needs of its congregants inworld. 

Over the years, I’ve followed the journey of First UCC’s pastor, Jerome (“Jer”) Newstart, his team, and his congregation as they’ve grown from an experimental church to a
fully accepted congregation in the UCC in RL. 

I attended their services, danced at their functions, even showed up as the Fourth Doctor once, and explored their gardens and grounds.

I met some extraordinary people, one of the best builders inworld, a woman raising funds for a service dog, and another who helps raise funds for children to come to America for an education that they might not have otherwise.

I turned to them when I met others inworld who needed help in RL and was looking for assistance for them. 

They were there for me when I had some rough times in RL and needed someone to listen. 

(Significant Other nods here.)

There were many other moments too like when they declared to be an “Open & Affirming” church meaning all are welcome.  (Including yours truly.)   

OK, I’m biased.  (It’s my blog, I’m entitled!)

First UCC are great people doing great work. 

Why am I writing this story now?

Well, because Jer, the pastor, has kicked it up a notch!

He’s just written and published a book about his journey to ministry in SL and I’m going to talk about it for a bit! 

Full disclosure here, I’m also biased towards other writers especially those who get published in RL!

Jer’s book is entitled Ministry to the Avatars: Building a Real Church in a Virtual
World and recounts his personal journey to SL and the development of his congregation.

He also goes into detail about the RL legal and church requirements to establish First UCC.

Most importantly, he discusses his congregation’s outreach to those in need, particularly those from the LGBTQIA communities.  When he writes about how there are people inworld who could lose their lives in RL for whom they are, the importance and seriousness of Jer’s work is driven home starkly. 

While the book deals with a faith community in SL, it’s lessons can be applied to any community wishing to establish itself. 

Unfortunately, my crazy RL schedule precluded me from meeting with Jer inworld to discuss his book.  However, he was kind enough to answer my questions via email for this story. 

I asked why he wrote this book, his reply was:

I realized that since there is no other church in Second Life in a mainline denomination that also has real life standing, that there is really no record of the "why" and the "how" that underlies the founding of this ministry.  The book is my effort to chronicle that.  I also believe that the church needs to seriously and pro-actively look at new ways of being the church.  While there is no reason to suggest the wider church quit doing what is now does well, the numbers in re attendance are real.  That suggests we need an additional element in the paradigm that is the modern church.  So... chronicle what we did and suggest why such steps are really important in a wider view.

I then asked if writing the book changed his thinking in any way, Jer shared his thoughts:

Frankly, the ministry has been received with a warmth that is beyond my most hopeful expectations.  We have a solid base of members and friends and more discover us all the time.  I think that discovery may well be enhanced with increased familiarity on the part of the wider church.  That is happening, but, and understandably, it is a slow process.  The new is always a challenge for churches, and the out-of-the box new, well, perhaps even more so. 



My conviction that what we are doing matters to real people grows seemingly by the day.  Thanks in large part to my wonderful colleagues, both lay and clergy, I have come to realize that we need to continue to develop the scope of our offerings.  Accordingly, we have added both Bible and book study opportunities.  Our clergy believe that we ought to offer challenging but fun educational experiences.  The initial efforts have been very well received and much is in the planning stages.  A look at the calendar page on our website will reveal that there is a lot going on... at least 15 events a week in many weeks.

As for future plans for First UCC, he wrote:

We hope to expand the ministry into other virtual universes.  I have been watching the progress of the OpenSim project.  In fact we have been offered locations in other virtual worlds but are not able to staff those yet.  But we will!  Like the rest of the development of this ministry, it takes time and willing people to lead.  We'll find them, or they'll find us!  In terms of Second Life growth, we're committed to that.  Our newest offerings have begun to attract European friends and we are delighted to reach that population segment.

His final comments were:

I am convinced God led me to found First UCC Second Life.  I am equally convinced that God led incredibly talented, caring people to join the team.  The ministry is a team effort.  It could never have grown as
it has without a caring cadre of people who believe the good news of the gospel needs to be shared and that this is a wonderful, exciting new way to do that!  We've just begun really.

I recommend obtaining a copy of Jer’s book to all who either wish to his and First UCC’s story better, how a community can be established inworld, or just to learn about how the veil between RL and SL has been pierced with this church.

I’ve enjoyed my time with Jer and First UCC and reading their history, some of which was new to me, helped me to understand them and their mission better.

Ministry to the Avatars: Building a Real Church in a Virtual World can be purchased here on Amazon.  And, please don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon if you like it! 

I’d like to thank Jer for taking the time to answer my questions for this story

I’d also like to thank him, his team, and their congregation for all the hospitality and assistance that they’ve extended to me over the years.

As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I can be found on Google+ as webspelunker Ghostraven.

My flickr Photostream is located here.

On Skype I’m webspelunker Ghostraven.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com . 

            If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

            Open roads and kind fires!



Saturday, December 2, 2017

An International Christmas in Second Life


Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.

Laura Ingalls Wilder



It’s that time of the year again, it seems like it was here only yesterday!

We wonder where the past year has gone…

We look forward to the winter solstice

And, with of all of this, some of us look forward to Christmas!

(I reassure Significant Other that a certain list has been received.)

In Second Life (SL), Christmas is very much alive just as in Real Life (RL).

But, perhaps, no more so than in Mieville where the indefatigable Perryn Peterson, its Mayor, and his elves have been pulling extra shifts to get ready for the Christmas Holiday inworld!  

In Christmases past, Mieville has been host to A Christmas Carol, an Elizabethan Christmas with a frozen River Thames, and a winter wonderland to name but a few themes.   

Perryn and his band of merry elves have not been lacking for ideas for this year’s Christmas. 

Its theme is a World Winter Festival.  And, it’s all waiting for you to come and enjoy!


Come see Christmas from Mexico, Africa, Australia, Japan, Germany and North America!

There is much to see and do as always!

Visitors will be able to visit merchants in over one hundred booths and wagons peruse their goods.  There'll be entertainment, gachas, ice skating, dancing, food and drinks, and much more! 

And, of course, don’t forget the new and improved mini-hunt where each merchant will have a surprise gift hidden in their establishment for shoppers to try and find. 

Mieville wouldn’t be Mieville without new and magical attractions.

This year has almost all new buildings, gorgeous landscaping by Mike Olbracht, beautiful dance area, wintery rides and much more!  

They’ve outdone themselves as usual!

(Yes, admittedly, I’m biased.  But, given the wonderful experiences which Perryn and his team produce consistently for their visitors, I think I’m entitled!)

I heartily recommend visiting Mystic Yule in Mieville which runs from December 1st to 31st and can be located here! 

Maybe you’ll even run into me there!

I’d like to thank Perryn and his elves for another wonderful seasonal event and for
assisting me in preparing this story for all my loyal readers!  (All three of you!) 

I’d also like to thank The Companion who took all the beautiful photos used in this story and the others which can be found on this flickrpage.  

Happy Holidays to all from Significant Other and me! 

As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I can be found on Google+ as webspelunker Ghostraven.

My flickr Photostream is located here.

On Skype I’m webspelunker Ghostraven.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com . 

            If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here.

            Open roads and kind fires!







Friday, October 6, 2017

Happy Halloween in Second Life!




If in any quest for magic, in any search for sorcery, witchery, legerdemain, first check the human spirit.

Rod Serling







Halloween is one of my favorite holidays in Real Life (RL).

(No, I don’t go trick or treating anymore. Significant Other made me stop.)

Autumn is in full riot when it occurs.  Summer is a memory.

It’s then followed by my next favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, which then leads to my favorite one of the whole year, Christmas!

Of course, Second Life (SL) is no slouch either when it comes to Halloween.  In fact, it may give RL a run for its money here. 

IMHO Halloween may be the biggest holiday inworld with the biggest and baddest costumes and parties.  Not to mention all the haunted, spooky locations that pop up to be visited. 

Naturally, at this time of the year, I turn to my oldest friend inworld, Perryn Peterson, Mayor of Mieville and impresario extraordinaire of its social life to tell me what he and his merry band are up to for Halloween!

We’re not to be disappointed! 

This year’s theme is a magical town with a hint of witchcraft and magic thrown in for good measure that happens to be surmounted by an impressive castle. 

The town is called FloxWarts and the event is called FloxWarts Halloween! 


The spirit of Halloween is evident throughout the town. 

This is without a doubt the most involved town setting from the gang at Mieville.

For one, I kept getting lost.  (Significant Other says no surprise there and is willing to bet I wouldn’t stop to ask for directions either.) 

There are a myriad of streets, alleys, byways, and dead ends.

Oh, and BTW watch out for the spiders in the alleyways and the Whomping Willow.  (Just go see for yourself with that last one.)

As in all Mieville events, FloxWarts Halloween is a non-stop social whirl leading up to the main event on Halloween. 

Close to one hundred merchants are offering their wares in shops and carts
throughout the town for the shopping pleasure of visitors. 

Entertainments, gachas, dancing, amusements, food and drinks, and much more will be available to delight guests.

A pumpkin hunt, whereby players can earn points by catching small pumpkins rolling around all over the place to buy gifts, will be ongoing during FloxWarts Halloween.  (This is very similar to the acorn hunt in the last Renaissance Faire.)    

There are new merchants to add to the growing community.  A few are: Porcelan Resident, Xanna Wahwah, and Abondurant Resident aka Miss Phoebe. 

Be sure to check out the FloxWarts Express!


An amazing train assembled exclusively for this event by Troy Waxman.

(Hint: You can find it by following the little blue arrow on the floor of the main (actually the only) train station.  A must for train aficionados! 

There will be broomstick riding and unicorns!

Don’t miss FloxWarts Castle either! 

“Floo powder” will transport you around which you can find in the fireplace at the Faulty Firkin arrival area where you’ll start your journey.  Also, check out the chairs there too! 

As always, a Mieville production is fun and well worth attending.  FloxWarts Halloween is no exception!

I strongly recommend your going especially if you enjoy Halloween as much as I do. 

Further, Mieville is a wonderful community of people to go and hang out with.  

And, in case you don’t believe me, FloxWarts Halloween has been included on SL’s Top Haunted Places Tour & Hunt this year!

FloxWarts Halloween runs from October 7th to the 31st and can be located here.    

Please come and enjoy yourselves and maybe you’ll run into me!

Additional pictures from FloxWarts  Halloween can be found on this flickr page. 

I’d like to thank The Companion for once again helping me out and taking all these wonderful photos. 

I’d also like to thank Perryn for once again taking the time from his busy schedule to give a pre-opening tour and to everyone in Mieville who make wonderful events like FloxWarts Halloween happen!

As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I can be found on Google+ as webspelunker Ghostraven.

My flickr Photostream is located here.

On Skype I’m webspelunker Ghostraven.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com . 

            If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
 please click here.

            Open roads and kind fires!



Saturday, September 23, 2017

How Long Is Too Long in Second Life?






The point is to keep trying new things, meeting new people, visiting new places. Once you settle into a rut, no matter how fun that rut may seem, you stagnate. You might as well be dead.

Lenore Appelhans







This question has been in the back of my mind for a while.

“How long is too long in Second Life (SL)?”

Yes, I’m asking that question of myself.

(Significant Other blinks in surprise.)

What might be going on here?

 I guess the real question is how do we stagnate?

Doing the same thing with the same tools all the time, one asks one’s self, “What’s
the point of it all?”

Friends slowly drop away, sims close down, and all are missed.

Yes, new ones come along, and no criticism of anyone or anyplace, but it doesn’t feel the same. 

The virtual world around us in SL still imposes its strictures on us.

(Ever try to have a large crowd inworld?  Not much has changed in that regard since SL started.)

We lack an economy in SL.  I mean an actual, vibrant one.  The game Monopoly has more action than SL IMHO! 

Can we stay at the fair too long?

I don’t know.

What was once new and novel is no longer new and novel. 

Maybe SL is not meant to change but we are. 

We’re meant to grow and move on and SL is a staging area for us. 

(Significant Other cautions me that I’m starting to get philosophical here.)

Maybe the question should be, “Why stay too long in SL?”

Yes, many will say that Real Life (RL) offers the same conundrum to us.  Life
changes so what do we do about it?

But, I don’t think it’s the same thing.

While I’ve always been a proponent of SL and still am, I’ve always seen it as an extension of or complementary to RL not as an equivalent or replacement. 

I’m going to mull this one for a while and my three loyal readers may be hearing a bit more about this from me in the near future.

I’d love to know what others think about this topic!

Please send me your thoughts and comments!

(Even if it’s just to tell me to stop my virtual navel gazing and get back to work blogging about SL!)

I’ll post back the comments I receive!

Many thanks! 

As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I can be found on Google+ as webspelunker Ghostraven.

My flickr Photostream is located here.

On Skype I’m webspelunker Ghostraven.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com . 

            If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
 please click here.

            Open roads and kind fires!



Saturday, September 2, 2017

Are You Going to Renaissance Faire VII in Second Life? (I Sure Hope So!)






But life is never a material, a substance to be molded. If you want to know, life is the principle of self-renewal, it is constantly renewing and remaking and changing and transfiguring itself, it is infinitely beyond your or my obtuse theories about it.

Boris Pasternak



It’s that time of the year again!

Leaves turn color and fall to the ground. 

The days grow longer.

The oncoming crispness in the air can almost be felt.

And, my old Second Life (SL) friend, Perryn Peterson calls me.   

Perryn is the Mayor of Mieville inworld and impresario extraordinaire for all that happens there.  His merry band helps him in all his adventures and there’re a lot of those to be had!

The reason for the call is the Renaissance Faire which takes place every autumn in SL.  This year is the seventh event and it promises to be the best ever!  (Significant Other is curious where Perryn gets all his ideas from.  I attribute it to natural talent.)

Renaissance Hunt & Faire VII, to use its full title, is celebration of the Renaissance inworld (Why the Renaissance you may ask?  Well, it was certainly more fun than the Dark
Ages and Perryn would tell you its costumes were more colorful.) and the SL community.  Merchants bring their Renaissance themed merchandise and SL residents come from near and far to participate in the all the fun ‘n frolic.

This year’s theme is Kings, Queens, & Fools!

The venue for this year’s Faire has been totally redone.

And, when Perryn and his crew redo something, they really redo it!

The Faire occupies a full sim and takes full advantage of the all the new allowed prims. 

The new landing zone is in the middle of town.  From here, a visitor can meander through its streets and wander off into the countryside and down to the sea shore.  Hills, dales, and mountains await the intrepid explorer. Lush forests and meadows break up one’s walk.  Waterfalls, brooks, and streams add a peaceful serenity. 

The landscaping alone is worth a visit to this year’s Faire and It’s all the handowork of Mike Olbracht, Perryn’s SL partner.  I must stop here and call out his work.  Mike worked for weeks to create the natural settings for the Faire and he has outdone himself!  (Perryn and
Mieville have a knack for attracting some of the best talent inworld.)  Mike’s trademark inclusion of natural wildlife in on display throughout the Faire and trust me, you can’t miss them!  (Like my old friend, Donkey!)  BTW Mike is available for private assignments when he’s not working in Mieville somewhere.  Anyone thinking of doing any landscaping or terraforming inworld should definitely look him up! 

Several other Faire participants whom I’d like to call out follow with their acheivements.

Miss DragonLady Majestic, an old friend of Perryn’s, is giving away dragons which you might see some flying about down by the harbor!

The popular Rennie dances by Miss Cyneswith Luik, who isn't inworld as much since her lovely, little Real Life (RL) daughter was born, are back again.

Ktahdn Vesuvino's area, the Faire’s DJ has a spot and he'll have Music Nights there on Sunday evenings, during September.

Artorius Constantine is the brilliant designer of the Tarot reader in the Gypsy camp (my favorite spot).  He has male and female ones.  They are amazing fun!

One of this year’s new attractions to the Faire is a mini-hunt based on acorns which disappear and reappear elsewhere at the Faire.  This has been designed by Tailahr Winnikow, who is brilliant with this type of work.  Regular visitors may recall her Great Pumpkin patch from Halloween a few years ago.  When players have accumulated enough points by clicking acorns, they click a sign and it gives them all of the prizes.  (Where’s the sign?  Come on now, I can’t give away all Perryn’s secrets!)

Sadly, we remember a member of the Mieville community who passed away in RL since the last Renaissance Faire. 

Kaydge (better known as Kage), partner of Seth Stratten, made and donated a whole slew of buildings to use at the Renaissance Faire.  They are located down at the harbor.  He
died in RL not long ago, in his late forties, far too young.  His buildings and the harbor are named after him, the Kage Memorial Harbour.

Rest well old Friend and thank you for all your work and friendship over the years!  Your creations will stand in memory to you! 

As always, Renaissance Faire is lots of fun!

Another new addition this year is jumping in the leaves!  (Significant Other’s eyes roll.)

Apple bobbing is available too! 

Fortunes will be told at the Gypsy camp which looks a lot bigger this year.  I think wandering inworld is becoming more popular! 

There will be music and dancing not to mention a tavern with a barmaid who serves your drinks!  (Please remember not to touch her and to tip well!)

The Maypole and tree house are back as well.

And, of course, there will be gachas!

Renaissance Faire VII runs from September 1st to 30th and can be found here.    

Additional information can be found on their website. 

I encourage everyone who can to drop by and visit the Faire!

Whether it’s to participate in the Hunt itself, the mini-hunt, join the revelry, or just
appreciate the beautiful scenery, don’t this miss this opportunity to meet a great group of people and have some fun as autumn draws near. 

Renaissance Faire is fun and challenging, come on down!

Additional pictures of Renaissance Faire VII can be found on this flicker page. 

As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I can be found on Google+ as webspelunker Ghostraven.

My flickr Photostream is located here.

On Skype I’m webspelunker Ghostraven.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com . 

            If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
 please click here.

            Open roads and kind fires!