A Fallen Ranger

Some may read this and scoff. How can people mourn the death of someone they never met?

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On Saturday February 17, 194 people gathered to remember a friend who died. Almost none of them had met the man. Some only knew his name. Others were there to support their friends.

And it all happened through the Internet.


Fourteen years ago, in 2004, I started playing Until Uru. UU was the bones of what was supposed to be Uru Live, a multiplayer Myst game. It never got off the ground, but the company behind it released the code for others to run their own servers, and the game took the name Until Uru.

I’d never played an online game before. But I got connected to the Guild of Greeters, a group of players who’d taken it upon themselves to welcome new people to the game. I started hanging out with them whenever I logged in, and eventually joined their group. For years I helped new players to the game and enjoyed every minute of it. Unlike other online games, in UU, you didn’t play a character, you played yourself (“you are you”, or “URU”, as the community would say, though that isn’t what the word actually means). Eventually, when more funding became available, UU became Myst Online: Uru Live. When that was canceled, it returned as Myst Online: Uru Live Again. And the community still struggles on.

Members of the Guild of Greeters when we met at Mysterium 2006. CAGrayWolf (David) is on the bottom left.

In 2006, I had the opportunity to go to Spokane, Washington, with my cousin Max to visit the game company’s headquarters for a fan gathering. There, I finally got to meet in person many of the people I “knew” in the game. And I did know them. Online communities do connect people. We talked about life and got to know each other pretty well. I finally had faces to connect with names like Ayli, Allmyst, Devonette, Rex Havoc, Ja’de, Tyion, SuperGram, AnnaKat, Goldenwedge, Papa_Smurf, Tomala, CAGrayWolf (some I’d met earlier when the fan gathering was held in Chicago). We ate together, saw the city together, went geocaching and got lost together. It was like meeting up with friends you haven’t seen in forever, and it was an experience I’ll never forget.

And then CAGrayWolf died.

I’d only met him once in person, at that gathering. David had been sick for a long time, and we all knew it. But it’s hard to see that stuff when you only communicate in text. David had been planning the next fan gathering up until just a few days before he died. A fund was set up with a wolf rescue organization he loved so those of us who wanted to show our love and support.

Even though it was a friendship cultivated over text and the Internet, for many, the death of CAGrayWolf was difficult. Some knew him much, much better than I did. They were good, personal friends. Everyone knows what it feels like to have a friend die. It was the same way when Shadowcats died a couple years later. Richard had also been sick for a long time, and his illness finally overtook him. Their names, along with the names of other players who have died, are listed on a memorial that still stands in the Kahlo Pub in MO:ULa. People still visit that memorial to see the names of their friends they’ve lost.

This is not a phenomenon restricted to MO:ULa of course. In college I began playing a game called Lusternia. There are memorials to the players Visaeris, Vathael, and Rhaffe, who all died after I started playing. And, in Lord of the Rings Online, 194 people just gathered last week to remember Sevak, Ken, who loved his game and the community in it.

Some may read this and scoff. How can people mourn the death of someone they never met? We don’t question this when it’s a national hero or celebrity we’ve never met–everyone mourns when they die. But for some, the idea of cultivating a friendship or relationship online is ridiculous. It can’t be done. It’s not a “real” friendship, relationship, or community.

They’re wrong.

Community takes many forms. I’m thankful for the communities I’ve been lucky to be a part of–especially the online communities that connect people from all over the world. They’ve helped me through hard times, opened me up to different view points, cultures, and ideas, and challenged me. They’ve provided places to celebrate and places to mourn in ways the church has yet to fully realize in its own communities. I wouldn’t be who I am today with them and the people in them. And I’ll miss them all when they’re gone.

Rest in peace, Ken. Say hi to Richard and David for me.

Dedicated to: Sevak, Rhaffe, Vathael, Visaeris, Pehpsee, CAgraywolf, Shadowcats, Aquila, Grassie73, Sil-Oh-Wet, Myst’Aken, Terra, Ron Hayter, GLO, Jahuti, Wamduskasapa, Perlenstern, Mo’zie, jmb30321, Zardoz, JDrake, Katzi, oldmanjob, Ramsine, Cindy Farrar, Dust’ei, Gandhar, Flyboy, and Josef Riedl.

Twenty-Eight Saints: February 23 and 24

February in the United States is Black History Month. In honor of that month, each day in February will feature an African-American saint from different periods of the Civil Rights Movements in America.

February 23
Kate Brown, 1840 – 1883

Brown worked for the United States Senate washing towels and curtains as the head of the ladies’ retiring room. Not known to be a troublemaker, in 1868 she boarded a train from Alexandria, Virginia, back to Washington, D.C. Though the rail company’s charter prohibited discrimination based on a passenger’s race, the rail company police officer ordered her to board a “colored car” instead of the “ladies’ car”. Brown refused, and was beaten, thrown off the train, and dragged across the pavement. Her injuries were so severe that she was bedridden for weeks. She sued the rail company, won, and when the rail company appealed the case went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. There, Brown won her case and $1500 in damages. Though her story has been largely forgotten, one of the Congressional Black Associates’ Trailblazer Awards has now been named after her.

God of defiance, you emboldened your servant Kate Brown to stand up to injustice, even when it put her life in danger. Give us the same boldness in the face of injustice, even against threats to our lives. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

 

February 24,
Rosa Parks, 1913 – 2005

Booking photo, fair use.

The name of Rosa Parks has become synonymous with the Civil Rights movement. In Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, she refused to give up her seat to white passengers and was arrested for violating segregation law. Though she was not the first African American to refuse to give up her seat on a segregated bus, her case received wide national attention. It was the impetus for a boycott of the buses which lasted 381 days, until the segregation law was repealed as unconstitutional. Parks suffered for her civil disobedience: she lost her job and received death threats. In her later years, she worked for Congressman John Conyers, continued to fight against racial injustice, political imprisonment, disparities in higher education, and other social justice issues. When she died, was the first woman and only the third non-US government official to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.

Immovable God, with one word, “no”, your servant Rosa Parks committed an act of defiance that shook the bonds of racial injustice to their cores, eventually ending decades of legal segregation. May we, when confronted with the same choice, remain as immovable as she was. In the name of your Son, we pray. Amen.

Twenty-Eight Saints: February 21 and 22

February in the United States is Black History Month. In honor of that month, each day in February will feature an African-American saint from different periods of the Civil Rights Movements in America.

February 21
Maria W. Stewart, 1803 – 1879

Stewart was born to free black parents, and when they died when she was five years old, she was sent to live with a minister and his wife as a servant. Though she received no formal education outside of Sabbath School on Sundays, she rose to prominence as a speaker on issues such as black women’s rights. She was the first black woman to speak to a mixed-race, mixed-gender audience, and published several pamphlets and religious meditations. Though she didn’t call her speeches “sermons”, she is regarded as an exceptional preacher, constantly critiquing Southern slavery and Northern racism. She eventually took a job teaching to support herself and to give runaway slaves a chance at an education and better life. She is commemorated as a saint on several liturgical calendars.

Brave God, you lifted up your servant Maria W. Steward to preach your word and speak for the oppressed to ears not always willing to hear. Give us the same courage in the face of adversity to share your word and fight against injustice. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.

 

February 22,
William H. McAlpine, 1847 – 1905

 

McAlpine was born a slave in Virginia and remained a slave until his emancipation at the end of the Civil War. He attended Talladega College, but had to drop out because of his work as a carpenter. He joined a Baptist church and was licensed to preach in 1871. As a member of the Colored Missionary Baptist Society of Alabama, he brought a resolution to found a new school, which became Selma University, where he served as the second president and dean of the theology department. He was a close friend of Tuskegee Institute founder Booker T. Washington and organized the first Baptist Foreign Missionary Convention.

God of the church, you called your servant William H. McAlpine to preach your word and teach your children. Use us to spread your good news for all who suffer under oppression. In the name of your Son, we pray. Amen.