Ulfilas, the goth apostle

Ulfilas was a bishop (also known as Wulfila) who translated the Bible from Greek into the language of the Gothic barbarian tribes and preached the Gospel to those tribes in the early 300s. Craig Gilman of Birmingham, UK, chose to name his Second Life avatar after the bishop, because of his nominally similar mission: bringing the Gospel to the goths of today even as he dismantles some of the misconceptions about the black-clad participants in this oft-misunderstood subculture*.

The BBC has spotlighted Gilman’s work in Second Life, where he’s made an effort to incorporate a fresh vision for liturgy and worship. Something worth noting for Second Life skeptics: His Second Life ministry is clearly a way of reaching out to people who might not otherwise go to church.

The Ulfilas service at St Hilda’s is informal in style. Out go regimented pews and in come cushions scattered in a circle and a gothic approach to worship. Craig explains that it’s partly why people are part of a subculture – they don’t want to conform to the mainstream way of thinking. Singing hymns is difficult to achieve in the online world, so contemporary goth songs are played into the church, gothic liturgy is read and prayers are used from the Goth Eucharist service.

“We concentrated on people who are hurting, depressed, or might self harm, because you get a lot of that in the goth and emo cultures. The prayers reflect that. Candle prayers we call them, where we light candles for a certain group of people, people who are depressed, suffering abuse, or are terminally ill.

“We intersperse that with some reflective music, give time for people to be quiet and pray. I use my voice with the computer microphone and speak live into the service and copy things onto notecards to give people the wording, so they can print it off after the service.”

Craig’s vision for the Christian goth church in Second life is to give it a community feel. He explains how many of the churches in Second Life emulate real churches: “I didn’t want to make it a traditional church. You don’t have to sit inside your own head in Second Life, you can pan your camera around and look from all angles, so there’s no need to have a replication of a real world church. In a virtual world you can reinvent it, so we tried to reinvent it with a gothic need.”

Visitors to the church can enjoy the impressive gothic aesthetics, contemplate in the church yard, and even socialise in the ‘Cathedral Club’, a nightclub element of the church where goth music is pumped out. “We look at ways we can show the love of God through the way that we are,” says Craig.

You can read the whole thing here.

*Editor’s note: I got my start as a journalist writing about goth music for the Philadelphia City Paper around the time of the Columbine massacre and have my own goth tendencies, so I’ve seen a lot of that misunderstanding firsthand. -HTM)

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