One of the side-effects of the disease I have is anemia. While the iron pills I am to take daily have a certain effect it isn’t the one desired and my doctor wants me to double my intake. I resist. Now I am told that radiation will cause tiredness. If I get much more tired I will be comatose. Once I am sufficiently microwaved to shrink the nodes behind my eyes which are causing blurred vision, they will start the process of chemotherapy. On the positive side all this will pass and somewhen before summer comes I should be well again and fit to go to England, where I hope to witness my older son, a priest in the Church of England, getting his Ph.D at Durham University. I hope I shall also be able at some stage to visit my younger son Philip and his lovely wife Erin and my grandchildren in Pennsylvania. And there’s a particular consecration of a bishop I plan to witness in March.  So I have much to which I look forward.

In my dotage God was good enough to send me to a wonderful parish where I am free to indulge my unreformed tastes in liturgy and to be a pastor in an ideal diocese, with a caring bishop and colleagues who represent the different “parties” in contemporary Episcopalianism, each tempered by an active desire to live together in unity within the Communion and TEC. I am blessed. I am also blessed by the prayers of many all over the world whom I have never met in person but to whom I am linked by the miracle of the internet.

As there is no quick fix to my cancer which even when returned to its lair I shall live with for the rest of my life. I must come to terms with that fact. Similarly I must live with disunity within the form of Christianity which has been my home since I was baptized in St. Thomas’ Church, Worsborough Dale, Yorkshire in 1940 when the world was at war and my Roman Catholic father, retreating to Dunkirk, had no say in which part of the divided Church would be my home.

I am so grateful to my mother for her part in my becoming a Christian in baptism and an Anglican by allegiance. Despite her untidiness, her internal squabbles which seem to have worsened during my life I remain hopelessly in love with Anglicanism warts and all. I am unable to leave her, replicate an ideal version of her, or swim the Tiber taking my favorite aspects of her with me.

True the shrill voices of those who battle for their exclusive version of what they deem her to bother me and I am drawn from time to time to defend what I perceive to be her heritage and witness. In this, my kettle often calls their pot black. And I become weary of those whose hubris permits them to propose their own changes to her tradition. I understand how heady it must be to believe they are reformers. Iconoclasts have enormous cheek. Of course they believe God is calling them to purify the Church. Like dear old Nicholas Ridley, they enjoy  their version of smashing stained glass and destroying altars. Look what happened to him.

I was chuckling with Mark on Skype this morning about scholarly specialization which produces theologians who seek to develop doctrine while liturgical scholars seem to believe that no developments in liturgy since the third century pass muster. They remind me of my doctors who stubbornly refuse to get together on my treatment!

Yet the miracle remains that through the centuries it is not the “experts” who have preserved the Church and its mission, but the unsung work of faithful parish priests and yes even bishops who preach the Word, administer the Sacraments, pastor the faithful even at times when the Church has seemed to be falling apart. It is in this steady pastoral application that we witness Anglicanism at its best. It matters little in the long run which parties are in the ascendency,  what theologies are popular, which liturgical texts enforced, what new revelations are announced, or even what pastoral measures introduced, in the final analysis the sanctified common sense of clergy and laity prevail and oddly deal with the proposals of the earnest.

This reality summons me to patience. When I get cross about the decisions of majorities in synods and conventions, I remind myself of the freedom Anglicanism gives to parish priests and parishioners. If this is congregationalism, so be it. Of course I believe that theologically the Church is activated in its “place” as parish priests and laity surround their diocesan bishop in the unity of the eucharistic offering, as they hear and receive the Scriptures. And it matters little oddly whether the bishop as a person is holy or daft. And yet if the parochial system were replaced by one in which parish priests were bound to the personal ideas of bishops or the collective decisions of synods in conflict with the formularies or liturgy of the church, I would be in a real pickle!

If I were a prophet I would suggest that the time is coming in the West when the growth of secularism and the dwindling number of parishioners will drive away all other issues. When the Son of Man returns will he find faith on earth? Of course, but nowhere does this promise the “success” of the Church in the form of a restored Christendom. Jesus’ prediction about the experience of Christians and the Church was a good deal more gloomy. We may experience a good deal of pain and weakness before the Final Day, which returns me to radiation and chemotherapy. God is faithful.

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