Singing the Lord’s song (Ailsa Wright)

‘How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’ asked the people of Israel when they found themselves exiled in Babylon. They sat beside the rivers Euphrates and Tigris and wept at their misfortune.

Among those captured were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (later named Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego). Rather than weeping, they became fully involved in a new life in Babylon while continuing to sing the Lord’s song by following his commandments in matters of food, prayer and the worship of idols. Refusing to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s image of gold meant that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego found themselves thrown into the fiery furnace. Their faithfulness led the king to acknowledge the power of God. Daniel faced his own trial in the lion’s den in the time of King Darius. Once again, the faithfulness of an Israelite and the miraculous power of God led to the king acknowledging the God of Israel.

Those of us who are involved for some part of our lives in the digital world are indeed living in a ‘strange land’. Like those young men of Jerusalem, we are seeking to live authentic lives of faith while surrounded by a very different culture. Many see the digital world as one of corruption, full of the seamier side of life. It’s true that the various media now available are used for gambling and grooming, for planning terror and crime. There is plenty about this strange land to cause concern. The response of many, including those in the church, is to advise us to steer well clear of such a place. Digidisciples take the opposite view: Jesus sent us to make disciples of all nations, to baptise (a bit tricky online) and to teach, so he surely intended us to do this in the world of digital media.

Second Life has as many undesirable aspects to it as any other part of the digital world. It’s also a pretty strange land, where you can find yourself in earnest conversation with big cats, parrots, whales and mermaids! Into this land, Anglicans of Second Life brings the worship of God and the exploration of his teaching. Anyone who chooses to check out what we do would find themselves dealing with something fairly familiar.

Something that Second Life gives us as a real bonus is the chance to use the visual in worship far more easily than it can be done offline. With the help of our wonderfully creative churchwarden, Ana Stubbs, we take every opportunity to exploit this. Holy Week is the high point of the year and gives plenty of occasions to add special touches to enhance worship as we walk the final week of the life of the ‘Anointed One’ who came and was cut off as Daniel prophesied.

Yesterday our Palm SuPalm Sundaynday procession took place on Epiphany Island. Shouting ‘Hosanna’ and guided by palm leaves strewn on the ground, we walked from the Peace Garden to the Cathedral which was transformed with palm trees and branches. (We left the donkey outside to eat the grass). There we told the story of Jesus’ passion as generations before us in the offline world have done. Using a dramatized reading allowed us to hdonkeyear voices from around the world sharing in this powerful story.

As the week continues, we will join the disciples in the upper room for the Last Supper on Thursday. We will set the environment of Epiphany Island to midnight on Friday as we join together for a Tenebrae service. The darkness will remain until, on cue, at the end of the Easter Vigil on Saturday, the sun will rise and we will celebrate by visiting the empty tomb in the Peace Garden. This is how we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land.

About Ailsa Wright

Lay Pastor of Anglicans of Second Life, teacher, counsellor. Living in Wakefield in West Yorkshire, England.