Saturday, June 13, 2015

Second Life and Real Life Meet in Cleveland!

There are so many hurting folks.  If we can just help people see that this takes church to people rather than relying on people coming to church, I think that would be something that can be seen. 

Jerome Newstart, Pastor of First UCC in Second Life


          As many of my readers who follow me regularly know (My thanks to both of you!) I’ve been spending some time with the First UCC congregation in Second Life (SL) since I encountered them when I went looking for God inworld.  (BTW She’s there, you just have to know where to look and be quiet about it.) 

          Despite Significant Other’s view that the only reason I hang around at First UCC is that they’re too nice to toss me out (They really are nice people but if I acted out I’m sure they’d toss me out.) I do hang out at First UCC a fair bit because of one major reason. 

          The reason is that First UCC is the convergence of both Second Life and Real Life.  (RL)

          First UCC is an officially recognized congregation in the United Church of Christ (UCC.)

          The programs at First UCC help children and many others with their day-to-day issues.  SL has become a portal for those who can’t access a faith community in RL.

          All are welcome here.  (Significant Other does admit that if they’re letting me stick around for that reason then they really must be nice people.) 

          Their recent recognition as an Open and Affirming (ONA) ministry is proof of that. 

So, when I recently learned that Jerome (“Jer”) Newstart, the head pastor of First UCC and Luci Drezelan, a senior staff member of the congregation, will be going to UCC’s General Synod 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio from June 26th to 30th, I wasted no time in scheduling an interview with them and Becca (“Bec”) Kellstrom, a senior pastor and board member at First UCC to discuss their plans and objectives while there. 

          (C’mon now!  Did you really think a church group was going to go to Las Vegas?)

          I met recently with Jer and Bec in his offices to talk about the General Synod and what it means for First UCC.  (Unfortunately, Luci had a last minute RL scheduling conflict and couldn’t attend.)

          My first question to them was what were Jer’s goals at General Synod 2015?

          Jer replied that there are several.

          First, attracting new volunteers, especially clergy, and members.

          Next attaining additional funding for the ministry.

          Finally, raising the awareness of First UCC within UCC.

          Jer emphasized the need for new volunteers as the needs of the congregation exceed the numbers of current staff.  (Who work very hard I can say from personal observation.)  He also hopes to meet a foundation willing to support First UCC’s work with a donation.

          I next ask about Jer’s plans to interact with the First UCC congregation while at the Synod.

          He explained that they will have two machines with which he will show the inworld campus to attendees when he and Luci are exhibiting.

          My third question is what message will they be taking to the Synod from First UCC.

          Jer replied that the basic, underlying message is that this ministry is a baby step toward new ways of thinking about and being the church in response to the way the world is moving. 

          I ask if there will be any scheduled events at First UCC for the Synod and Jer said that given the Synod’s schedule there will only be informal ones.  He hopes to do onsite training and presentations.

          Finally, I ask if there is a final message before Jer and Luci leave for the Synod.

          Bec answered saying so this is a great time for Luci and Jer to “WOW” everyone with
the info and hopefully inspire folks and then connect with the right people.

          With that, I thank Jer and Bec for their time, wish both he and Luci a safe and successful trip, and look forward to meeting with them upon their return. 

          I would ask all who read this story to drop by First UCC during the Synod and show your support for the congregation.

          If you’re attending the congregation and can help by either volunteering or making a donation please do! 

          If you’re one of the folks in these foundations that support charitable work and can influence decisions for the benefit of First UCC please do!

          In RL, I’m an errant Papist (Please no emails complaining about my use of this term!  My parish priest says it’s OK although he does wince every time that I do.) who is on the watch list of the Inquisition.  (I’ll bet you didn’t know that they never officially shut it down did you?) 

          But, I can see the value that First UCC makes to a broad and diverse community.

          Whatever you can do to help will be enough and will help people in ways that you may never know.

          You just have to do it!       

          I’d like to thank Jer and Bec for their time and assistance in helping me to prepare this story, given all that’s going on at First UCC these days, I appreciate their taking the time to meet with me! 

          And, please!  If you’re at the Synod drop by the First UCC exhibit booth and say hello to Jer and Luci.  They’ll be at Booth 834 in the General Synod Exhibit Hall.

Tell ‘em web sent you! 

(BTW Bec will be inworld during the Synod to meet visitors and to interact with Jer and Luci.  I also plan to drop by and meet visitors as well.  Please don’t use that as an excuse not to come!)

Or, if you can’t visit with us during the Synod then please make a point to drop by
First UCC later to see the beautiful grounds and gardens.

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.

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

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

          Open roads and kind fires!


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