Caryn’s 23 things – and then some

Racing into Library 2.0 with LOL and others

Virtually Sacramental

There’s a fascinating discussion going on at Brownblog about the idea of virtual communion, and spreading out to consider some other sacraments.  The comments and links are all well-considered and cogent, but infused with the passion serious people can have about religion and worship.

One comment took me to a blog post by a person who’d attended a virtual funeral.  It wasn’t in Second Life, but was held over the Internet.  The attendee at this BYOE (Bring Your Own Elements) event was truly moved by the power of the liturgy, and it was indeed to her “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.”

Her Host in this case was a Trisquit, which she broke and elevated on cue when the words of consecration came over her computer, which she had set up in her own holy place where, I gather, she frequently went to pray.  Some of the other comments and links from the original Brownblog mention similar cases in which people at home have had Elements consecrated remotely, and the people involved did feel that the Sacrament was efficacious.

That reminded me of my post on Ensoulment, in which I said,

Well, for one thing, “is it possible for God” is kind of a stupid
question.  The only thing impossible for God is evil.  Even hate has a
place within God’s boundless love, and it seems to me that as long as
the question isn’t “is it possible for God to do evil?,” the answer has
to be “yes.”  All things are possible for God; if we can imagine it, we
can be assured that it’s within God’s abilities.

If God wants to give us the grace of Communion, God can do it whether we’re at church, or in the back yard, or on the computer, or wherever.  Much of the Sacrament takes place in the mind of the communicant, and is the communication between God and worshipper.

However, we humans seem to need rules, especially in our relationship with God.  Some of us have chosen a medium for worship which involves a lot of rules (or traditions, depending on how you see them), and if we don’t follow those rules/rituals/liturgy, we are no longer worshipping as we ourselves have chosen.  I’m Episcopalian largely because of the pageantry and the ritual – if I suddenly decide that I’m ok with a Eucharist given virtually to my avatar in SL, or with one consecrated over the computer or the phone, taken with no one else physically present with me, am I still Episcopalian?

A number of years ago, when I was still fairly new in the Episcopal church, I asked our associate priest, Bunker Hill, about the Eucharist.  I pointed out that Jesus had told His disciples, “As often as you do this, do it in remembrance of me.”  Didn’t that mean that *every* time we eat and drink, we should regard it as a little Eucharist?  He said, “Well, you could interpret it that way.  But that’s not how Episcopalians do it.”

I think this discussion is not so much whether a virtual Sacrament is still a Sacrament, as it is about who we are and how we want to relate to God.  If we feel that the traditional forms are still useful as a framework for this relationship, we are making our decision on that basis.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that a virtual Sacrament isn’t ever valid, for anyone, under any circumstances; it just means that it isn’t valid for us.  (Of course, it might *not* be valid for anyone – that’s what we’re trying to figure out!)

July 4, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment