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Friday, June 26, 2009
  Virtual sacraments or real sacraments at a distance?
Communion To Go by jasoneppink
Talk about "virtual church" becomes really focused when the Eucharist becomes the focus of discussion. What is a eucharist celebrated in a virtual environment (for example Second Life)?

In a short essay, reproduced on Mark Brown's blog, Paul Fiddes provides a typically ellegant and thought provoking answer, summarised like this:
An avatar can receive the bread and wine of the Eucharist within the logic of the virtual world and it will still be a means of grace, since God is present in a virtual world in a way that is suitable for its inhabitants. We may expect that the grace received by the avatar will be shared in some way by the person behind the avatar, because the person in our everyday world has a complex relationship with his or her persona.
The discussion of this radical proposal by Second Lifers in the comments is as fascinating as Paul's neat "solution" to the theological issues. Wilfried for example was quick to object to the reification of the avatars that Paul seems to suggest. Rather, "We do not pray indirectly, through the avatars; the avatars are simply useful in providing an enhanced feeling of proximity..." In short Second Life is not a "virtual world" but a communications medium, presumably like any other. So, the question ceases to be: Is "virtual communion" a real communion? But becomes: Can communion opperate at a distance? Just like the question of whether a pastor can celebrate communion with congregants over a telephone or radio link - e.g. when the recipient is serving in the International Space Station.

For Wilifried Second Life is NOT a virtual world. I agree. It is a means to make virtual presence richer, but the presence is a phenomenon of the "real world". Such presence can be local, when two or more people are present to each other in the same room. It can also be more distant, as when one of the persons is on a raised platform at some distance from the others, as in a typical church. Or more distant still, as mediated by a telephone rather than by direct sight and sound (or in the case of the church building direct sight and an electronic sound system). Other cases can easily be imagined on this spectrum. At what point does presence cease to be real and become virtual?



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Thursday, June 21, 2007
  The Second Life Cathedral goes mainstream
18th-june-07_013.jpgIn a post "You Talk - PodBible interactive" I mentioned that Mark Brown (the CEO of Bible Society in NZ) had become some kind of Anglican Bishop of Second Life well, now Wired blog has featured the story: "Anglican Second Life Inhabitants Construct Medieval Cathedral".

As you may NOT remember when Wired Blog posted about Librivox, my Stalky and Co. quickly passed 1,000 downloads despite its size and obscurity! So, I hope Mar and his Cathedral staff are well prepared for all those virtual tourists who will soon be winging their way Ephany Islandward ;-)

PS, even if you are not a virtual tourist, do visit Mark's blog, it is more colourful than its name ;-)

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Thursday, January 25, 2007
  Religion & Internet
Stephen pointed to the Religious Studies Review issue on Religion and the Internet (he also kindly emails me about such things which I greatly value, this time he gives a hat tip to When Religion Meets New Media a blog I don't [yet?] subscribe to...)

He also pointed to the 2005 Concilium on "Cyberspace – Cyberethics – Cybertheology". So, it is only fair to add the 2005 issue of Colloquium, to which he and I both contributed! It also has the advantage of putting all the articles online (and at least for now!) open access:

Back to the Future: Virtual Theologising as Recapitulation
Tim Bulkeley

Theology as Virtualising Enterprise
Peter Horsfield

New Zealand Christian Churches Online: Websites, and Models of Authority and Participation
Mary Griffiths and Ann Hardy

Metaphysics, Ontology and the Structural Design Process: Creating a Space for Virtual Converstational Christian Presence
Iain Doherty

Resident Evil: Horror Film and the Construction of Religious Identity in Contemporary Media Culture
Paul Teusner

Hacking with the Divine: A Metaphor Theology-Technology Engagement
Stephen Garner

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