Yesterday I attending the first Quaker meeting for worship in Second Life, organized by Otenth Paderborn, a real life Quaker from the Boston-area. It was an intimate gathering of a dozen or so avatars from all over, most of whom appeared to be members or attenders of Quaker meetings where they lived in the real world. I found it to be a very interesting and enlightening experience overall.
I made a bumbling entrance into the meetinghouse at 12 noon my time. Already some eight avatars were there, waiting for the meeting to begin. I was embarassed to realize that I was wearing my katana sword, despite my admonition to others to not come armed to this peaceful community meeting. In my rush to take off the sword, I accidentally drew it, skewering one of the seated attendees. If my avatar face could turn red, it would. I detached the sword and sheepishly took a seat.
Otenth opened the meeting for worship, suggesting that we have a 30 minute meeting, with a short hymn to open and to close the meeting, and then continue with a discussion afterwards. Traditionally Quaker meeting for worship is one hour, much of that in complete silence, if you come from the "unprogrammed" tradition like I do. So 30 minutes to me seemed a bit rushed.
Otenth then streamed a lovely shapenote hymn called “Holy Manna” (from the “American Angels” CD.) It had a nice calming effect on me, and helped me "center down" as Quakers say into a more meditative and open state of mind.
Quaker Meetings for Worship are traditionally very open spaces for spirit-centered sharing, where anyone attending can speak aloud a message from the heart that they think should be shared with the community. It is completely unorganized, spontaneous and almost always quite moving.
I'm not going to divulge the content of what was spoken about during the meeting for worship. But suffice to say that watching another avatar typing a message, and waiting as their words slowly scrolled on my screen, felt very similar to the experience of listening to a Quaker speak a message in a real world meeting. I gave a short message myself, which also felt similar to giving a message in meeting.
I love the idea of just allowing another avatar to speak from their heart without interruptions or commentary. So much of Second Life discussions are like being at a cocktail party and trying to participate in three different conversations going on at the same time. Being able to just unpack some thought or idea that has been on your heart and not be interrupted is really a special thing, in any world really.
Future meetings are already in the works, if you are interested. Join the "Religious Society of Friends Quaker" group if you want to stay informed of upcoming meetings and news.