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Memento moriHallo again to all.

This week in the News Centre you'll find a story about council workers (local government employees) toppling over gravestones in England so they won't fall over and injure anyone; 'The cull of wobbly tombstones', The Telegraph calls it. This has caused much unhappiness, even among people unrelated to the dead whose headstones were so ill treated.

A solid gravestone should be a reasonable bulwark against the transitoriness of life. We may know that granite will crumble, marble become dust, but still a churchyard seems to be a space of immortality, of survivability beyond a human life.

Permanence is an elusive concept. Forget for a moment the stuff of which gravestones are made, and think only about their content: words on stone. It isn't really the words that we should like to be permanent, it's the meaning conveyed by those words. Every writer must make assumptions about the cultural and semiotic context in which the text will be read; that context can change in surprising ways. Engraving from a 1710 Prayer Book

This week we came to have a Prayer Book printed in 1710 in Oxford. Issued in the first years of Queen Anne's reign, it contains the long-vanished liturgies for the Restauration of the Monarchy ('which unspeakable mercies were wonderfully completed upon the 29th of May, in the year 1660, and in Memory thereof, that Day in every Year is ... to be for ever kept holy'), the Gunpowder Treason, and the Martyrdom of King Charles. The events that those days commemorated seemed transcendent, larger than life, and worthy of perpetual remembrance and liturgical devotion. And so they were till 1859, when they were disestablished; a kind of liturgical gravestone toppling, as it were. Perhaps it is right and proper that metaphorical gravestones in our church be toppled every few centuries.

Odd as it may sound, we think that this online medium is the most permanent of all media. Yes, your screen and your disks and your computer will eventually fail, and eventually even your ISP will fail, but if you send something that you've written to 5,000 people, there's nothing you can do to prevent those words from being eternal. Do you have anything to say that is important enough that it should last forever? Hmm. It makes the business of writing this weekly letter a bit more daunting.

Words may be eternal, but web sites come and go. We welcome to the web this week parishes in Canada, England, and the States, along with a new online archival collection from the UK. And several articles in Worth Noting are indeed that. Be sure to read about the new banners at Durham Cathedral, featured in that section.

We wish a happy Canada (Dominion) Day to all our readers in Canada, and we offer a prayer for a successful General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada this week. Do remember you can watch it live on the web. Whether it will be round in some form in 500 years, we can't quite be certain. But, DV, we know that we'll ...

See you next week.

Cynthia McFarland's signature
Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 1 July 2001