The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life

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Looking both ways

On 31 January, Candlemas, Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were Psalm 24, Malachi 3:1-5, Luke 2:22-40.

The month of January is about to finish. It gets its name from the Roman god Janus. He was the spirit of doorways and archways and possibly first of all was the god of beginnings. All first days, of weeks, months, years and agricultural seasons, were sacred to him. It makes sense, therefore, that the month of January is named after him. He is shown as a double-faced head, facing two ways at once.

At the beginning of the year, we too met here in the Cathedral and faced two ways at once. We used the ancient practice of the ‘examen’ to review the year past. We then turned to face the new year by dedicating ourselves to God’s service in the words of the Methodist Covenant Prayer.

I wonder if you noticed that the introduction to today’s service also has us looking in two directions:

“Today we celebrate both the joy of his coming and his searching judgement, looking back to the day of his birth and forward to the coming days of his passion.”

“Looking back to the day of his birth”: we look back to Christmas as we come to the end of the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany. The stable, which has graced the Peace Garden in this season, disappears for another year. The angels, shepherds and wise men fade into the background.

“Looking … forward to the coming days of his passion”: Lent will soon be upon us, beginning on 10 February which is Ash Wednesday, followed by Holy Week and Easter. So soon after celebrating the wonderful story of a miraculous birth, we have to turn our attention to the suffering of the adult Jesus. It all seems to rush in too quickly. Continue reading

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A royal priesthood

On Sunday 24 January the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was celebrated in the Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. We used a worship service provided by the churches of Latvia and available from the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland website. The Bible passages chosen by the Latvian Christians were: Isaiah 55:1-3, Psalm 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18, 1 Peter 2:9-10, Matthew 5:1-16. The following sermon was preached by Helene Milena.

Today is the Sunday of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in the Northern Hemisphere. Each year resources are put together by Christians from a particular country. This year it has been the turn of Latvia.

Latvia is a small country in the north of Europe. It has only a little over 2 million inhabitants. It was occupied by the Soviet Union from 1944 until 1991. In 2004 it became a member of the European Union. Christianity arrived in Latvia in the 10th Century. During the World Wars and the Cold War Christians witnessed to the Gospel and some suffered torture, exile or even martyrdom as a result. It was Christians who helped lead the independence movement of 1991. At that time unarmed citizens manned barricades, facing Soviet tanks. Having witnessed together and suffered together, there is a deep bond between Christians of Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox traditions. Members of different churches and Christian groups put together meditations for each day of this special week.

The focus of the week is on the priesthood shared by all baptised Christians, their calling to proclaim the Gospel and to be as salt and light in the world. The Latvian church asks us to reflect on our joint vocation to be salt and light. Salt and light are essential for human physical health and the Gospel is essential for human spiritual flourishing. Continue reading

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Intoxicating grace

On 17 January, The Second Sunday of Epiphany, Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were Psalm 36:5-10, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, John 2:1-11.

A man attended a friend’s wedding in the months before his own. He was paying close attention to everything and found he really liked the choice of hymns. One particularly seemed an ideal choice for his own wedding – Number 343 ‘Love divine’. On the next visit to the priest who would conduct his wedding, the man said that he would like hymn number 343. The priest was rather disconcerted and tried to dissuade the man but he insisted. Unfortunately, the man and his friend were getting married in churches that used different hymn books from one another. The guests were rather surprised to find themselves singing:

Come, O thou traveller unknown
Whom still I hold, but cannot see;
My company before is gone
And I am left alone with thee;
With thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day. Continue reading

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I am no longer my own, but yours

On 10 January, The First Sunday of Epiphany, Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were Psalm 29, Isaiah 43:1-7, Luke 3:15-17, 21-22.

Last Sunday we remembered the Magi arriving to worship Jesus and we marked that occasion by having them arrive at our garden stable. We have entered the Epiphany season of the Church Year and today is the First Sunday of Epiphany. The meaning of the word Epiphany is manifestation, revelation or showing. The Sundays in Epiphany have readings which are designed to show us important truths about Jesus. Therefore, we should expect to be shown something of the nature of Jesus in the verses we have been given to read today.

Although last week was Epiphany, we used the service as a New Year Covenant service. In that service we concluded by using the Methodist Covenant Prayer. Over the years that we have been using this form of service, I have had several people contact me to express just how uncomfortable they feel with that prayer. I think that shows just how seriously those people are examining the words. I always warn people that many of the statements in that prayer are challenging and that not everyone will feel able to make those statements. There is no point saying something you do not mean, particularly when making such profound promises. Continue reading

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“The Found Dream of Childhood” Live Concert by Dainial

In a rare treat for the ears and eyes, a perfect marriage of sound and architecture, the 6th of December 2015 saw Epiphany Island hosting a live concert by the Irish composer and Second-Life performer, Dainial.

Dainial’s extensive composition, “The Found Dream of Childhood”, was first heard in The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life in December 2014. It was inspired by and written for the Cathedral, but Dainial’s return performance on this occasion was marked with poignancy as a commemoration of his father.

Slipping back and forth between English and Irish language, Dainial warmly greeted the avatars, faces old and new, who had gathered in the pews to hear him. He shared a little of the childhood memories of his father and explained how the work was also originally accompanied by a reel of 8mm film shot by Conradh na Gaelige, an organisation dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the Irish language, and featuring three generations of Dainial’s family. Conradh na Gaelige were trying to hold back the declassification of towns as “gaeltachts” (places where Irish was the first language spoken as opposed to English).

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The scene was set: Dainial’s avatar standing alone with a saxophone on the compass-rose pavement in front of the altar, lit by virtual moonlight through the high windows and flanked by a pair of keyboards. Beginning, very quietly with layers of of synthesised sound, he built a structure and gave it texture, then furnished it with the haunting effect of his saxophone, taking the listeners on a dreamlike journey over the next half an hour. Continue reading

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St John the Evangelist

On 27 December, The First Sunday of Christmas, Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were Psalm 117, 1 John 1, John 21:19b-25.

Today we remember St John the Evangelist. In his Gospel, John refers to himself as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’. In this statement we see that Jesus, God incarnate, was not aloof, somehow above human relationships, but very much able to relate to other humans with deep and genuine affection.

John was one of John the Baptist’s disciples. He and his brother James were the sons of Zebedee and were fishermen. It was while mending their nets in the boat with their father that the two brothers were spotted by Jesus and called to follow him. Without hesitation they did just that, leaving their father with his hired men. We know that John the Baptist pointed Jesus out and that Jesus was baptised by John, so perhaps James and John were hoping for an opportunity to get close to Jesus. Perhaps that’s why they so readily left their work and headed off to fish for people. Continue reading

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Rejoice in the Lord always!

On 13 December, The Third Sunday of Advent, Helene Milena preached the following sermon in the Anglican Cathedral on Epiphany Island in Second Life. The readings were A Song of Deliverance, Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 3:7-18.

“Rejoice in the Lord always!” commands Paul.

“Shout and sing for joy!” exhorts Isaiah.

“The chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire!” warns John the Baptist.

Today, the third Sunday of Advent, is Gaudate Sunday. It means Rejoice Sunday. The mood of Advent lightens. Even the colour of the Advent candle lightens from purple to pink. Paul and Isaiah direct our hearts to the joy of having God as the Lord who is near and who is our salvation. And then we hear what John the Baptist has to say!

John had a solemn charge, to prepare people for the coming of Jesus. There was no time to lose. Jesus was around, perhaps even hidden in the crowd listening to what John had to say. John needed to wake his listeners up, to shake them by the shoulders, to get their attention, to point out to them that God’s wrath was on its way. If those going to see the latest sensation, who was the talk of the area, expected to be praised for their attendance, they were soon challenged. I doubt if they anticipated being addressed as: “You brood of vipers!” Continue reading

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