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YEAR’S END

It has been an interesting year in Anglicanism. The focus has centered on what we mean by “communion”. Some suggest that the word means something like federation or association, something less than being a church. They cling to the concept of a national church in which nationality or a discreet history define and limit it’s being or nature. This concept creates something akin to national patriotism and at worse a form of xenophobia.

There is a long history of this form of parochialism. Parishioners distrust the diocese and even more so the national church or province while retaining a form of mystical affection for the brand name. I grew up with people who were proud to be CofE even if they rarely attended church. To them archbishops and bishops were remote figures with silly ideas about politics. Something similar exists in the Episcopal Church with a slight difference. The English Church has a more formidable story about overseas provinces than does TEC. With the exception of some central and southern American involvements and long divested missionary work in China, only Liberia and the Philippines evoked American interest. Isolationism comes easily in this huge country which until recently has been geographically and economically self sufficient, inspired by it’s own fervent belief in national destiny.

It is thus “psychologically” difficult for the American Church to do it’s theology about the meaning of communion and church other than from a geopolitical stance. Of course the issue of sexuality has made it the more difficult for TEC to examine the concept of communion and covenant from a theological and ecclesiological base. In a sense TEC dare not do it’s theology. It is easier to cling to legal provisions which stress a form of autonomy which in fact means independence.

The concept of no one interfering with our internal affairs resonates abroad in post colonial times. In a real sense the ecumenical dream founders on this rock of individuality. “That they may be one” is drowned out by “I’ll do it my way”. Nor is this a narrow vision embraced only by liberal Episcopalians. The right goes about creating it’s own rival communion made and fashioned in it’s own image, a Janus like opposite face forged in America and exported efficiently.

At this Christmastide one imagines the shepherds and the wise men squabbling about turf and independence. Would they have found the Baby?

MANAGING

When someone asked my Yorkshire grandfather how he was, he always said “managing”. Managing is an appropriate word to describe how one deals with cancer and it’s treatments. One has to manage at many levels. Going in daily for radiation disrupts the day and requires a management of daily time. It’s difficult to manage when each time one sits down sleep beckons and has to be resisted.

Earlier this week I was greeted by people who offered me their opinion on how much time I have left before I shuffle of this mortal coil. One was kind enough to say that I had six years, the other said two. Job’s comforters live. Others assure me that conventional cancer treatment doesn’t work and that I should try something else. All are concerned and care about me. And have you noticed that there is a television conspiracy?  The shows one watches suddenly include in their plots people whose lives are measured to their finality!

 

Now all this is probably to be expected and has an Advent aspect. This season bids us manage our lives in the context of mortality. He comes as a baby, He comes when we are called home, He comes again to judge “both the quick and the dead”.  We are to be ready. If I were as managed in my prayer life as I am going to daily radiation, so ready to do as I am told as I lie still on that cold table anchored in place by a mash mask as the machine zapps behind my eyes, I might get a stained glass window.  If I heeded the warnings of my friends I might grow in holiness. If I were more open to differing forms of spiritual truths I might grow in faith.

 

I know there is worse to come. Once radiation ends in early January chemotherapy will start with the risk that it will damage vital organs as well as the bad protein which pumps through my veins. I will feel sick, be sick, and have to manage all this alone. Oh pity me!!  But Advent reminds me that being a Christian is not all about the birds that sing, butterflies and peace. It is about suffering and offering personal suffering “in Christ” for others. Advent reminds us that this holy Child will suffer and that in a mysterious way all suffering offered through Christ is redemptive.

 

God help me to manage and to learn from Advent and from my condition.