On 29 July we held our fifth Conversation and Cake get together. 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. Here is the report from the meeting. Comments made by those present are given in italics:
As usual, the refreshments were mouth-watering and calorie-free, courtesy of Cady’s virtual culinary expertise.
We began by talking about our finances. Collecting for the payment of our next tier in May 2013 had been underway for nearly two months. June was a very good month in which we raised 11% of our annual requirements rather than the 8.5% we would hope for. That allowed the monthly target for July to be lowered. However, as the month came to a close only 18% of that target had been raised, suggesting that future monthly targets would need to be raised. Around 60% of the monthly target needs to be raised in world, with progress being shown on the donations baskets and fonts around Epiphany Island. The rest comes from Paypal donations. A drop in donations in July and August is not unusual as it is a time for holidays/vacations in the northern hemisphere, resulting in less visitors to the sim.
Evening Prayer in German, held on Wednesdays at noon SLT, had run for two weeks. In the first week there were 6 in attendance and in the second week there were 9. Those there have come from several European countries, the USA and England. The service is a translation of the Common Worship Evening Prayer. The service sheet has both German and English wording on it to help those who don’t speak German.
SpiritGate, where organisations who offer spiritual input in SL can have telehubs, filled up so fast that a new venue, SpiritGate Metaverse is now open. This can take around 200 telehubs. Anglicans of SL are represented at both. As a result of the collaboration between organisations there is some work going on to bring groups together for a Spirit Fair, from 21-23 September, around the time of the International Day of Peace. We have usually had a service for peace around 9/11 but will probably have one on the international day this year. Some thought needs to be given to what we could do at the Spirit Fair. (Early suggestions mentioned gin, whiskey and brandy!).
Several new Welcomers joined the team since the previous Conversation and Cake: Czari Zenovka, Emerald Farspire, Caelin Vanderpoole, Freezing Sorbet and MimseyBorogrove Susanowa. Their photos and some biographies are on the blog, found from The Teams page. There is still room for more of course. This news was very well received by those present. It was suggested that Barney the dog should be made an honorary Welcomer in recognition of his friendly and welcoming nature. We definitely decided that bot welcomers were not for us, though Geekesse suggested she might actually be one! Ana could detect that Geekesse is not a bot as she makes too many typos J.
Bishop Christopher had done an interview about sacraments online. His paper on the matter has been sent to us also. It runs to 11 close typed pages, looking at sacraments in the New Testament and in tradition. He lists the seven sacraments which emerged in the Western church eventually: Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination, Penance and the Anointing of the Sick especially ‘in extremis’. Baptism and Eucharist are seen as the major sacraments and are the ones recognised by Anglicans. The Church of England Revised Catechism calls Baptism and the Eucharist as Gospel Sacraments and the five others as ‘sacramental ministries of grace’. Bishop Christopher portrays the sacraments as more than symbols, or visual aids. If this were the case it would be possible to celebrate them in Second Life. However, it is stressed in this paper that sacraments need physicality and personal interaction, something that cannot be done in Second Life. Baptism needs real water to be poured or sprinkled on the person. Marriage asks the couple to hold hands, to give and receive a ring or rings. There have been televised Eucharists where people have eaten bread and drunk wine at home but this has not been considered the same as a proper communion service. So Bishop Christopher has concluded that sacraments in SL are not possible. However, there are some things we can do. We can renew baptismal vows together. We could possibly renew marriage vows between avatars representing people who are legally married in RL.
We could have a spiritual communion. This would mean a RL Eucharist being conducted with those in SL being able to listen and respond but not receive the physical bread and wine or a virtual representation of it. We have done this once before when Bishop Christopher celebrated communion at his house and others were present in the Cathedral on Epiphany. It was a powerful experience for those in world as Cady and Gareth confirmed. In Bishop Christopher’s paper he refers to this event but it may be less than clear as he mentions Willow Grange, which is his home but that wouldn’t be known by everyone, and doesn’t explain as fully as he might. Able Shepherd confirmed that spiritual communion is nothing new. It is perhaps more widely known in the RC church, less so in the Anglican church but still known.
The paper is going on this blog and is to be the basis of additions to our Vision Statement regarding sacraments. As Geekesse confirmed, this topic of online sacraments is one that many people involved in the digital world have been considering for some time.
The question was asked about whether we would respond to Bishop Christopher’s paper. He has made it clear that this is probably his last contribution to the discussion. He wrote an initial paper which the Leadership Team was able to respond to. It was also discussed at our meeting with Bishop Christopher in May 2011. As a result of that input, and that from others theologians with an interest in our ministry, Bishop Christopher revised his paper into the form we now have.
The idea of having time to discuss this paper and other theological topics received a positive response. Although Bishop Christopher would be welcome to attend any discussion of his paper, it seems unlikely that he would have time. He is busy like most bishops and has a lot of involvement with things like ARCIC (Anglican Roman Catholic International Conversation). That doesn’t prevent us discussing it. There was some discussion about the timing of such a discussion. Should it be in a Conversation and Cake event or at a separate time? It was noted that the discussion could be quite heavy. It could simply be a sharing of ideas after people have had time to read the paper, using the paper as a starting point, a time to interact on a topic of interest. As not offering sacraments is part of our Vision Statement, it would need to be clear that the discussion would not be about a change in that policy. We would be able to explore the various alternatives which Bishop Christopher suggests, some of which we have already engaged with in practice: not so far had a renewal of marriage vows; we’ve had a healing service; we have prayers of penitence in services; we have a palm procession and ashing on Ash Wednesday. It was agreed that the various services in Holy Week and Easter work well. It could be we can find some other ideas that would work. We might consider if we would like spiritual communion on occasion. Basically, though, we would be discussing the paper.
There was some concern that it might not be good to combine discussion of the paper with proposals for change in case this became an excuse for people to get on their soap boxes. It would, of course, be possible to have different sessions with different emphases. Learning from Geekesse, who has engaged with this topic before, was something that seemed important. Geekesse was concerned that as an academic she can be opinionated and might not be helpful. However, this did not seem to cause concern to the group. Others owned up to also being opinionated.
It may make sense to have questions suggested before the discussion. There was a question of whom the questions should be submitted to. Some might need specialist knowledge to answer them. They could be put on the blog for everyone to consider. This could also increase interest in the blog, which already reaches a lot of countries. There was concern that this might bring in people who want to argue with others. Any contribution on the blog is moderated so that would help. Sometimes in world we had a fair number of people who just wanted to create drama in the Bible Study but that doesn’t happen much now. Ana demonstrated how to be obnoxious and opinionated in SL, using a lot of capitals. Symeon pointed us to an excellent send up of SL churches on Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjMZ8XGmTWk
It was suggested that we consider a Saturday for these discussions. Several people miss the Saturday discussions we used to have on Epiphany. There was some concern that these turned into soapboxes in the past. These discussions should be held with a view to helping us to gain understanding. (We noted that Epiphany Island lacks its own Hyde Park Corner where those who wish can stand on their soapbox and address any who will listen.) An event where avatars take it in turns to rant to an audience, and we vote on the most entertaining or convincing 😉 was suggested. Score them zero to 10 like diving scores. Freezing is going to begin Olympic-style rant training.
There was still no agreement as to whether the discussions on Bishop Christopher’s paper should be during Conversation and Cake or at a different time. It was left to the Leadership Team to consider the logistics.
The conversation drifted via 50 Shades of Grey, to the idea of a book club which was received with some enthusiasm. Some have been involved in book clubs before and some not. This would be a possibility to consider.
Helene Milena – Lay Pastor