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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Tuesday, June 16, 2009
  Another ethical dilemma
Bryan in the comments neatly sidesteps my ethical dilemma in the post below Moral decision?. Our cat he says can be regarded as a "member of the family".

I don't want to address the complex issues of whether canines, felines etc... are more or less "members of the family" than brothers and sisters in Christ - both are only so in metaphorical (or spiritual) senses ;)
Karen villagers, mostly women and children, take refuge from the fighting inside the Thai border.
Photo from The National
Courtesy Free Burma Rangers

So here's a new dilemma, also caused by our move. The new house has no TV aerial, but has a Sky dish (for pay TV but which will capture also free to air digital TV). Should I:
  1. spend $200 for a Freeview set top box which will allow us to get free to air TV from the Sky dish
  2. spend $150 to get an aerial fitted
  3. send the money to Partners for the 4,000 villagers camping in the monsoon rains?
Incidentally if you want to donate for the 4,000 villagers chased from their homes here are links (donations are usually tax deductable in most of these countries):

Canadians wishing to obtain a receipt for tax purposes should make donations at the Partners Canada website.

Americans wishing to obtain a receipt for tax purposes should make donations at the Partners USA website.

Norwegians can find the information needed to make donations in Norway at:

Australians can find the information needed to make donations in Australia at:

UK Residents can find the information needed to make donations in the UK at:

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Monday, June 15, 2009
  Moral decision?
We faced a choice during our move that had nothing to do with packing or even the things we own (too many, but that's another story ;).

For the move, Quizzie (our cat - born a stray and somewhat nervous) went into a cattery. While she was there the vet looked her over as well as getting her vaccinations up to date. She has bad teeth and some gum disease. To fix this and to do a blood test to check on other possible health issues would cost $400 to $500 (even cleanng a cat's teth needs a general anesthetic).
At the same time, an Internally Displaced People's camp in Burma is under attack by Burmese government forces. Some 4,000 women and children have fled across the river to Thailand and there is a great need for basic supplies. So, assuming we have $500 we can spend what do we do? Prolong our beloved cat's life and make the next few years more pleasant for her? - After all we see her every day! Save the lives of a few refugees we may never meet?

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009
  Shortest acceptance speech (ever)
Bob nominated me, thanks! Great company :)

I move on Friday, and mark between packing :(

I nominate (if they have not yet been so honoured and I missed it in the recent weeks of mayhem):
  • David (even though his latest redesign makes me cross-eyed :(
  • Jim (just because it teases :)
  • Judy (in the hopes she'll start posting again ;)
PS the instructions are here, I think I fulfilled most of them, and have not mentioned my mum yet...

  The world's most peaceful country!
Jim posted a link to an article (so it must be true, because Jim W is even more truthy than Wikipedia) about A study of the world’s most peaceful countries wel, actually Jim headlined it The World’s Most Dangerous Countries: Israel is in 4th Placewhat an opportunity lost :(

The real truth is that "Out of 144 countries, New Zealand is rated as the world's most peaceful land. It is followed by Denmark and Norway." at least according to the Radio Netherlands Worldwide report. So people, you can not only study with the lowest fees and lowest cost of living in the developed world, enjoy skiing, golfing, surfing and other hobbies at prices ordinary mortals can afford. Not only study at universities that regularly get rated in the top 50 or 100 worldwide, but also live while you study in the world's most peaceful country, while enjoying scenery that inspired the movie version of Lord of the Rings. Whatever are you waiting for?

Just to get you started here is a random picture from our holiday snapshots:

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