The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life

Conversation and Cake #9

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Below is a report on Conversation and Cake #9 which took place from 1-2.30pm SLT on Sunday 20th January. Conversation & Cake is a monthly meeting on Epiphany Island when I share what has been happening in our ministry and listen to views and ideas from members of our community. Standard text is my input and italic text contains the additional content provided by the community in conversation.

It took some time to gather everyone so that we could begin the conversation. I blamed the cake being too tasty. Ana thought it might be better this time as she didn’t sit on it. This brought back memories of soggy cake for Freezing. Ana did manage to threaten Freezing’s cake this time when she returned to her pool with splash. He protected it by burying it deeper in his inventory.

As usual I will report on various aspects of our ministry. Do feel free to add comments, ask questions and make suggestions as we go along.

Freezing suggested discussing Klingons but was silenced by a whap from Czari who promised to keep him in order!

Beginning with finances, last month I said we were not doing too badly. I think we have to recognise that currently we are certainly not doing too well! At the end of November, which was half way through our fundraising year, we had raised 43% of our annual goal. This resulted in Cady raising the monthly target in December to L$100416. Once again we fell short of our target, meaning that the monthly goal for January is now L$107402. By the end of December we had raised 49% of our annual goal – L$531361 out of L$1068375. When I took a look earlier in the day we had raised 6% of the January target i.e. L$6937. The date is 20th January which means we would anticipate having around 40% of our target already raised. Things don’t look good but we still have until the end of May to raise what we need.

Hagestolz asked an interesting and helpful question: How much would everyone have to give to reach the target? It’s a little difficult to decide who might class as ‘everyone’. Our current membership of the Anglicans of SL group is 544, but many of those are not active or certainly not regular visitors to the sim. We have in around 20-30 people attend the main service on Sundays. The composition of that number varies so we could probably say we have around 50 regular members, and maybe a similar number who are occasional visitors. I did some rough calculations during C&C but have now returned to the budget to give a more informed answer.

Our budget for the year is $4125 US which should cover our costs with possibly a few dollars left over. We entered the year with a surplus of $75 so for ease of calculation let’s work on $4000 US for the year. If we have 50 regular members, they are the ones who are likely to donate to our ministry. That means each would need to donate $80 US over the year. That is approximately 60 Euros or 50 Pounds or 522 Swedish Krona a year.

Czari reminded us that payment can be made by PayPal as well as inworld in the donations fonts and baskets.

I was asked in a private message why we don’t move to a smaller area in SL. We have considered this but really having a full sim gives us the control we need to keep it safe from griefers and allows enough people to gather. Obviously, if we really couldn’t raise the money we need, we would have to reconsider. There was some dark muttering about the withdrawal of the discounts for non-profit organisations which has hit several groups.

The Posada was underway when we last met. I managed to get to most venues. It was wonderful to see people gathered and making friends with those they might not have chatted to at length before. We also had an opportunity to visit some lovely places. Most hosts have given me photos of the Posada which I shall gather together and pass on to Cady. She hopes to put together a bumper edition of the Posada memory book to cover both 2011 and 2012.   

As usual, Cady made the sim look suitably festive for Christmas, including creating a stable for Mary and Joseph to return to on 24th December. We also had a special service of lessons and carols on 23rd December, a Christmas Day service and a Covenant Service on 30th December when we rededicated ourselves to God’s service. I hope those who attended any of these services found them helpful. We are always happy to receive feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Czari enjoyed the whole Christmas season on Epiphany, which included hosting the Posada for the first time. I mentioned that for those in the Southern Hemisphere, the snowy look of the sim might be a little odd. Even for Czari in the Northern Hemisphere it is as she is enjoying temperatures of 81o F. She kindly used a calculator to convert for those who use Celsius, arriving at a figure of 27.2222o C, which is not far below Australian temperatures of around 30o C, a drop from the recent very high temperatures. We heard that about 100 fires are still burning in NSW. The temperature in Yorkshire was about 3o C but Jules beat that by a long way, as it is -20o C for her.

Prayer Rail_001

Votive candles with prayer rail by the west door

I sent a notice out earlier about the prayer rail which Cady has provided by the votive candles near the west door of the Cathedral. This was in response to a suggestion from

Votive candles and prayer rail - north door

Votive candles and prayer rail – north door

Harper Ganesvoort. You may have seen the picture attached to the notecard or the real thing as you entered the building. There was also support for having another set of candles with a prayer rail by the north door, a place which is perhaps more private for someone to pray or to sit in the chapel there. That has also been put in place. I have pictures available if anyone would like them. You will notice that Cady has picked up the same design as that for the altar rail in the Cathedral. It would be good to have some feedback on what Cady has produced. Any suggestions for changes?

The design was well received and Cady thanked for her efforts.  

Ana suggested a community wall showing pictures of our members. As she and Freezing have been working on several projects, this one has not progressed so far but I’m sure it will one day. Do let us know if you have further suggestions about it.

Ana has promised to get the lego bricks out sometime. Freezing will get his crayons. With the addition of crepe paper Ana reckons all will be sorted, so we shall see!

Freezing and Ana have been working on redesigning the blog. I’ve been in communication with them now and again as they have considered ideas. I have changed the categories on the blog posts so that there are not so many and have eliminated multiple categories. Any categories I have lost as a result have become tags for the posts. The proposed categories are: News with subcategories of Conversation and Cake and Finance; Resources (which includes papers that have been written); Sermons. Sadly many of the early sermons are lost as Mark Brown used audio sermons which were hosted in order to appear on the blog. I’m not sure if there is any way to retrieve them from Mark. (A heartfelt sigh from Freezing at this point). Ana and Freezing also consider that we may need more content to tell visitors about our ministry. This might be something you would like to consider. According to WordPress statistics we have received visitors from 144 countries since 25 February 2012. http://slangcath.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/2012-in-review/ Direct link: http://slangcath.wordpress.com/2012/annual-report/

Symeon was impressed. He wanted to know from which countries we get the most visitors. As he expected our largest number of visitors come from the USA – 10,692 today (21st January). Next is the UK with 4330; Australia 1290; Canada 975; Philippines 712; Netherlands 559; New Zealand 469; Germany 422; India 400. Freezing suggested that 2% of our visitors were not trolls, but assured us he was joking!

I know at least one member of our community found us through the blog. I’m sure others read what is there but cannot come into SL or don’t want to. The blog is an important vehicle for outreach.

Czari frequents the SL forums and has found that at least once a week someone asks where church services are held. She finds this VERY encouraging. Czari takes the time to respond with brief details of our church and then directs them to the blog.  As she says, “A number of years ago someone asking about church in the forums would be treated very badly….I’m honestly surprised as well as pleased to see the change.”

Ana has promised some screenshots of the new suggested design for the blog to give you an idea what is proposed and to allow further discussion about the design. Work has been going on also to try to improve the calendar and allow the noticeboards to update automatically. There was also the issue of not being able to tell if the blog had been updated recently.

I succeeded in annoying Ana by using the word ‘promised’ as she has done more than promised, she has provided the screenshots here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/anastubbs/sets/72157632567761715/

The silence while those present took a look at the design left Ana wondering if this was good or bad, while Freezing shuddered. Time ticked on and the tumbleweed blew past. Initial comments were good. Relief on the part of Ana! Appreciation was expressed by those present who recognised the work that had been done. There is time to compare the new look with the old and make comments. The whole new blog is not available publicly. It has been put together using paid for features which allow customisation and which we have not yet committed to pay for. It would be possible to find the money from the budget for Cady’s work, which is of more than adequate size. At the moment we have no date in mind for when the design will be ready to go live.

Having survived this initial look at the new blog design, Freezing headed off but not before he kicked himself for not replying to an email from Ana. As Ana said as he left: I only asked him to reply, not to kick himself!

Another suggestion last time was to rerun a survey similar to the one we did at Lent 2009. Unfortunately I didn’t ask the Leadership Team early enough to give them time to respond about whether they think this is a good idea. Last time the only objections were that the survey didn’t seem very simple and that some of the questions seemed to give inconclusive results. If we have enough Team members here we can give the idea approval or not. If we do go ahead the questions would probably need to be ready early in February ready for the beginning of Lent, although it would be possible to run the survey just in March which would mean we could consider the suggested questions at the next C&C before the survey goes live, which might be better. Any objections to or concerns about rerunning the survey? Any further suggestions, comments, questions?

There were enough Leadership Team members present to agree to the running of the survey. Able confirmed that he thought some of the questions were not very well thought out last time, leading to inconclusive results. Charlie suggested that Joyous might be of help in the design as she did a lot of the working on the results last time. There can’t be too many changes as the results need to be comparable between surveys. Ana knows about statistics and has offered to collate the information. Last time it took us too long to arrive at the results, which is a concern. Ana has an exam in April so would aim to provide the results in May.  

Ana confirmed that she anticipated providing the opportunity for comments within the survey as well as multiple choice questions. Ana was waiting for the go ahead before putting a lot of effort into the survey but will now finalise the proposed questions. She would prefer to have it ready for Lent rather than waiting and considered the Leadership Team to be enough to look at the questions (as they are likely to be the most opinionated!). At this point Czari could see something she could offer to the Leadership Team by being a member as she is very opinionated (or feisty as I call her).  Once ready, the survey will be on the blog.

In December the Standing Committee (Cady, Gareth and I) of the Leadership Team met. As you will be aware we have been building our Welcomers’ Team and our Worship Leaders’ Team. What we haven’t yet managed to do or really thought to do is to increase the support for Cady in her role as churchwarden of our ministry. She has a very important and often unseen role. The colour on the altar in the Cathedral is regularly changed with the seasons. We have different decoration on the sim according to the season also. If we do special services, like the ones around Christmas, Cady is there helping them to go well with her technical expertise. Sometimes the sim needs restarting or something like the prayer request box stops working and needs adjusting. Until recently Cady updated the prayer request box and sent out the weekly schedule. There is a need for daily attention. Add to this that Cady is currently acting as Treasurer and she runs the socials on Fridays, you can see that she carries a heavy load. Cady has been with this ministry for over five years, certainly before I had any involvement. That is a long period of dedicated service. Putting pressure on someone for such a long time is asking for trouble.

It was agreed that Cady does a great deal (although Denise suggested she might not be a very busy lady but have time on her hands J). Cady confirmed that she has been involved since the fall of ’07. Thinking of that length of time makes her drowsy. Ana and Czari were around at that time also. Some of our newer members were impressed by the time our longstanding members have been around. There have been a lot of changes in that time, many of which Cady will have helped to bring about. Charlie made a comment about how old some of our members are and was frowned at by Czari who was now trying to keep him under control. Joyous noted that not everyone is as young as she and Charlie! Czari was tempted to bring out her whapper when Charlie found Joyous’ comment amusing.

In the couple of months before our meeting, four people had independently approached me offering to help with the more technical aspects of our ministry, precisely the sort of thing that Cady looks after as churchwarden. When something like that happens I usually take it seriously as it seems to me that God is talking and wants me to take notice. So, during the meeting of the Standing Committee I suggested we form a Technical Team which would work almost as a deputy churchwarden, supporting Cady in her work and generally supporting what we do here on Epiphany, on the blog, Facebook and Twitter. This idea was agreed to by Gareth and Cady and has been brought to the Leadership Team which has agreed. I am now waiting for the Team to agree to accept the offers of help. We also need to agree a job description and what permissions the Technical Team would have. I hope we can get this in place very quickly to relieve Cady of the pressure and give her some time to chill out a bit. We will need to feel our way forward at first I think but I’m sure having extra help will make a big difference.

At Denise’s mention of Cady probably dancing a jig because she would have extra help, I mentioned that it is Joyous who normally begins the dancing at meetings. Despite encouragement she didn’t dance this time. Charlie was poked by Ana and suffered from being whapped by Czari for a comment he made. Joyous wondered if a fight between Able and Czari might be a good fund raiser.

Another change which has been agreed is something I mentioned a few C&Cs ago. We are going to try to expand the Leadership Team. There are only seven of us currently. That makes it quite difficult to have good discussions in our discussion forum. It can also lead to polarised opinions, which is not helpful at all. I have asked the Leadership Team to suggest people who might be suitable. I also invite you to either volunteer or suggest suitable candidates. We are currently updating the requirements for Team members. I know a stumbling block for many is giving their real name on the blog. Although we are prepared to deal with each person as an individual, that principle still holds. Leadership Team members discuss policy ‘behind the scenes’, deal with issues that community members bring to us and take on various responsibilities such as secretary and treasurer. Now we have C&C meetings, some of the ideas from the community are addressed directly here with the Leadership Team only ratifying some decisions. I think that’s a much healthier model than in the past.

Rhianwen was a little confused as to why anyone would not want to give their RL name on the blog. As I pointed out, some people want their RL and SL to be separate.It was agreed that the current model is better than the old one. Czari offered herself as a Sergeant at arms on the Leadership Team. Charlie seemed to think it should be ‘with arms’. This generated a warning from Czari that she had her whapper in her hand. Ana also mentioned that she was equipped for whapping (as she is a mermaid, her weapon of choice is her tail). The meeting descended into a time of disciplining Charlie. Some took the opportunity to log off as it was late. Able cowered in the corner. Charlie protested at always being the scapegoat.

Although I hope to grow the Leadership Team in numbers, I have asked all current members to consider if they wish to remain on the Team or not. All have been there for at least three years. I intend to meet with each member to discuss their decision with them by the end of the month.

Another team I would like to form is a Social Team which would make suggestions for social events to be held on the sim, or arrange visits to concerts, events and interesting sims. If that is something that interests you, do let me know.

We had a discussion about the socials. Cady said they are fun but numbers attending are low. It is too late a time for those in the UK or the rest of Europe. We had a social at a suitable time for Europe but few attended that. The time of the current social is not necessarily right for everyone in America. Numbers may not matter if the few attending are enjoying themselves that is fine. There may be a problem with the Community Center being at the back of the sim. Ana suggested it might help to advertise on the easels outside the cathedral and chapel to draw attention to the socials. Charlie remembered the art exhibition we had had some years ago.

Finally, Gjo Bing has offered his sim as a place for meditation and peace for members of Anglicans of SL. There is a LM on the noticeboard near the Peace Garden.

The offer was appreciated. I encouraged people to go and have a look at Gjo’s place.

We were joined by Augustinus Foggarty who is a member of the St Georg community. This is a Roman Catholic Church which was supported by an Archdiocese in southern Germany. The support for the project has been withdrawn now but the community is meeting once more. Augustinus shared the list of activities they have:

“We have the regular prayer as a night prayer (Compline) in St. Georg. At the moment it is on Sundays and Wednesdays at 12:00 SLT. We could change that perhaps, but I am still in progress to convince our team. :-)

There will be a form of prayer close to the Taizé prayer on at least one Thursday per month. The Taizé prayer will be in a form which is applicable to any time of day, unlike the prayer of the hours which is time specific and so awkward in SL.  

There is a new youth catechism, the YOUCAT. We will take that for a regular study group in an ecumenical sense. That will be on Thursdays, too, once a month. I think we could provide it in English and German. And see if it collides with your prayer times.

During Lent there will be another exhibition about the passion of Christ, based on scripture and on the researches about the shroud of Turin.”

As you can see from the plans Augustinus outlined, we hope to cooperate so that our groups could attend services provided at each of the two churches. This plan was very well received.

Rhianwen shared that she went to Taizé in 1970 when she was on ‘the young side’. (Mention of age drew a menacing look from Czari, probably in Charlie’s direction). This drew gasps from the gathered community. As Augustinus said, that is TRADITIONAL Taizé.

Another issue brought up was whether the suggestion box outside the Cathedral works. People also have problems with ‘touch’ not working on the prayer box, meaning they cannot add prayers or retrieve the latest request. Cady is going to take another look at the box. There are instructions in the notecard which should be given when the box is touched. Ana put a card in the suggestion box to check that it worked but was concerned that nothing indicates that it does.

The amount of ground covered in the meeting was appreciated as was the cake from Cady. Augustinus now understands the cake part of ‘Conversation and Cake’.

Please join in the conversation! Add your ideas as comments here or contact any member of the Leadership Team, or send me an email on ailsa[at]ailsa-wright.net

Helene Milena – Lay Pastor

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Author: Helene Milena

Lay Pastor of the Anglican Cathedral in Second Life. Teacher, counsellor, wife, mother.

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