Rev Mark Brown writes:
Today marked a special day for me: I started a new service within the Anglican Cathedral of Second Life and to my surprise my dad showed up! It is the first time I have preached with my dad present and it was made possible thanks to the virtual setting. Though we live in different countries we were able to share the church experience.
The service happens within a virtual building (Cathedral) within Second Life. Wherever you are, assuming you have a good computer and connection, you can attend church. The service liturgy and Bible readings are typed and read out and my sermon (see below) is preached live. This is an interesting experience, I literally preach to a computer monitor; though actually I am speaking to people from around the world. And it is this unusual dichotomy that dominates the virtual experience: being both present but actually not being present. So in the image above I used the word ‘within’, was I actually within the virtual Cathedral? Well yes, but also I was standing in my kitchen at home before a monitor. I was both present and not present, depending on how you define being present. And it is in this definition that most debate exists. Are you really present when you are not physically in the same space? Can one be virtually present? I would argue we are seeing a shift from where being present is only a physical experience to one that will include electronically generated presence. It will become more the norm that community is possible without ever actually meeting. The ascendancy of facebook, the expectation of convenience, the ubiquity of mobile technology all point towards a growth in the acceptance of non-physical community.
This will place pressure on our theology of incarnation, of community, of the Eucharist as we the church wrestle with this dramatic shift. Whatever you may think (and I welcome your comments!) it was simply wonderful to lead a service that included my own father.
To check out my sermon from the service, entitled ‘What is the point of going to church?’ click the play button below (11 minutes in length).