When tears fall & souls weep.
When grief strikes & questions abound.
May we (who r able) respond with care
& may those who need – be embraced

(A Pres-bit|@wpgpres)

15 years give or take a few solar revolutions … that’s how long I had the privilege to call Scott a friend. Though at first I knew him by the nickname he used in our online community as tarna, once we began to work with one another and then connect on the phone, PM, IM, and through various digital media our relationship matured from digital acquaintance to friendship. Scott was one of the bravest men I have ever known. He fought with an illness so aggressive that it required frequent surgery and caused such pain that I could sometimes hear it in his voice; and, every time I phoned him, not only was I humbled but I felt that his joie de vivre was a blessing. I will miss you Scott/tarna. And for those of you for whom relationships are grounded in the digital, never listen to that voice that says such connexions are ‘less than’ or not ‘real.’ The tears I have experienced at learning of the death of my friend have been most real and I know that Scott is now free of the pain with which he choose to live with dignity.

Perhaps the first paragraph is as much a testimonial of loss as it is a catalyst for reflection about my faith and what I might need to learn, to share with the church. Faith & church: they are intimately connected, how I live out individually what I understand to be a reflection of the Holy will obviously inform the way I walk into the human institution called church.

An Analogue World

An Analogue World

My relationship with Scott was grounded in a place and in a way that some see as ‘less than’ or ‘not real.’ I have been online for the better part of 2 decades and have friends from around the world, many of whom I only know digitally. These relationships are as valuable and life-giving to me as those which I have the gift to be able to embrace with physical touch. tarna’s illness did not define him, but it allowed him to model a generosity of spirit that I know affected others. His questions of concern for others in our online community not only speaks to his own compassion for others, but mirrors how such a place creates reciprocal relationships. Where mutuality in these democratic and sometimes frenetic places becomes an expectation grounded in freedom to be who we know we want to be. Sometimes, the most authentic person we long to be flourishes in these places that are free of the addictions, distractions, dysfunctions that are our lives in the ‘real world.’ Sometimes the ‘real world’ only shadows who we know we want to be – who we truly are – and an online community can embrace the ‘real’ you in ways that are life-giving and soul celebrating. As a person of faith, therefore, Scott modelled for me in this digital environment that it’s not what you believe that matters, it’s how you treat strangers: strangers in an online community are nameless and faceless at first. They might live next door or on the other side of the globe. How you treat the nameless are the seeds of friendship and that is just one way that I will honour this friendship.

A Digital World

A Digital World

What I take to the church is this: it’s not whether or not we should be testifying and evangelising the Good News in this environments – it’s the public commons of a new age and unless we’re there engaged, then we’re obsolete. For those who will follow, this is where we’ll meet them first. What we MUST ask, therefore, is ‘why.’ If our answer is about wanting to boost numbers or some double-speak agenda of conversion and coercion, not only do I want no part of such a reply, I believe it is theologically flawed. There is an entire generation, now almost two, who have no grounding in organised religion, for whom the rituals that mark death are few and far between and who are already– appropriately so –wary of those who peddle saccharine. Judgement laden and cheap faith. If our ‘why,’ however, is about wanting to help people shine, to help people transform from what the world tells them, that bullies into a conforming and controlling consumer mould where the common denominator must deny uniqueness, then I say let’s get to the business of sharing the Good News.

In places online – from chat groups, Skype, social media platforms and a plethora of real-time communication – people are gravitating to spaces and places that promise to offer community and change. And I believe that the church that longs to help people awaken to the gift they are has something to contribute in such spaces. Whether or not we’re ready, however, doesn’t matter. It’s already happening, we just need to ask ourselves ‘why’ … the rest will be what it will be …

RIP Scott/tarna

Faith is the unspoken confidence
in a threaded reality that defies word compartments.
Belief is the construction of compartments

(A Pres-bit|@wpgpres)

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2017-09-14T16:25:52+00:00August 14th, 2013|Tags: , , , , |


  1. Daniel August 14, 2013 at 12:54 - Reply

    Of all your musings, this one hit home most, and that says something. It wasn’t just because of tarna. It was also recognizing that some of us fail to live up to our own measure in real life, but that we can find some expression of our better selves somewhere. There has to be some hope of something better somehow for every person, or there is only death, and that’s the point about tarna. He inspires people to hope for a better self both offline and in our interconnected world. I have to admit, your musing actually brought out an emotional response within me, and maybe the fact that I can have that response and even own up to it shows that there’s hope for all of us.

    • Richard October 27, 2013 at 01:21 - Reply

      Thanks Daniel. It is amazing or perhaps better yet powerful when we can take a milestone and take time and space to reflect upon it. It’s the small steps in the moments that feel momentous that might be the gauge of our own journey – does that make sense?

  2. linzer August 14, 2013 at 17:14 - Reply

    Richard you have honoured your friend Scott with that moving tribute. I am sorry for your loss yet rejoice that you experienced an enduring and life enriching relationship. Friends are so precious . I believe that losing one changes our perspective on life in ways we may not have previously thought.

    In honesty I am not at that place were I feel that digital relationships are in the same category as those in the “real” world as you put it.Perhaps that is a generational thing or I am resisting for some reason I can’t really explain. I don’t stand in judgement of those who believe otherwise however.

    • Richard October 27, 2013 at 01:21 - Reply

      Hi again linzer,

      Thanks for your affirmation and also your honesty. It may be a generational thing, it may be a contextual one, but your comfort to also name that other’s may have other experiences – for me – honours much of what I saw Scott do in his own life. It is such openness to paradox that we all grown – thank you!

  3. Daniel August 14, 2013 at 23:03 - Reply

    I agree with you, linzer, that on the whole digital relationships aren’t on parity with physical ones. However, one of my dearest friends from high school, someone with whom I shared proximity for several years of my life, is my friend now only through digital communication. Is she a digital friend or a physical one? I’ve known Richard for well over a decade. When we finally had the chance to meet in person, we did so and had a great time. Is he a digital friend because I met him online? Did he become a physical friend when I met him in person and shook his hand? If these questions sound mocking or hostile, please understand that I don’t mean them to be. In fact, they are honest questions in that I don’t have an answer in mind as I ask them. I think people with whom we share immediate proximity on a daily basis and with whom we speak regularly and in person are our closest friends. However, I’ve known many people in real life with whom I’ve shared long term friendships but whose company I’ve far less daily contact than some of the online personalities with whom I’ve talked virtually daily. Somewhere between my spouse, who is clearly my closest friend, and distant family I see irregularly and don’t truly know very well in any meaningful way are some of my digital friends. I don’t know where every person stands in relation to another, but I do believe that every digital friend I have is another physical friend waiting for me to take the time and effort to meet them, share good times, and break bread.

Your reflections are most welcome!

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