Hallo again to all.
Each week as we go to church to worship, live our daily lives, earn our living in the secular world, and produce a new edition of Anglicans Online, we are struck by the difference between people who are concerned about the church and people who are concerned about the faith. One recent Sunday during the confession, our mind briefly wandered in the summer heat to questioning how many of those kneeling with us in this sacred space would be worried about any sort of 'Crisis in the Anglican Communion'. We at Anglicans Online make it our business to pay attention to these issues, but we know that almost none of the others with whom we share corporate worship, with whom we intone the creeds and the psalms, cares a whit.
Each of our fellow worshippers has some personal reason to nurture their faith in an Anglican church, but none of those reasons involves the governance apparatus of the church. We know that there are churches whose vicars, rectors, wardens, PCC members, and vestry choose to bring national church politics to the parish, but we have never attended one.
Our friend and sometime columnist the Reverend Anthony Clavier wrote recently:
The visible church is an artifact of canons, conventions, synods, governance, and rules. And buildings, of course. The invisible church—call it faith—is utterly personal. We can and should nurture our faith through corporate worship, feed on the body and blood of Christ in the eucharist, and listen to readings from scripture. Ultimately, though, our faith is a personal relationship between us and God.
As we grow older, we seem to need our faith more and the church less. We quite recognise the paradox: if we don't faithfully attend church, we don't know who will help the younger generations learn and experience the living faith of their elders. And yet, if we two or three gather in a bean field, we know that God will be with us. If we all know the same liturgical words, which we learned in church in our youth, we can efficiently pray one of the offices in that bean field, but God will forgive us the inefficiency if we do not.
This week a beloved friend died suddenly. In our grief we did not find ourselves turning straightaway to 'the church', which, for us at AO, can sometimes seem more politics than poetry, close as we can be here to the strife, the press releases, and the posturing. We reached out to our faith (grown and nurtured in the church, but a bit battered there these days), to prayer, and to our passionate belief in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting. We turned to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer*:
Many beloved friends of many faithful Christians have died since those words were written, and many have wept as they listened to them. We wonder, as we read the newspapers, whether in 2049—only half a millennium after they were written—if the voice of Cranmer will be heard more in fields than in church buildings. We hope not, for we love this messy old church, this 'excellent absurdity', as someone once called it, its edifices, and even its synods, canons, and conventions. But whether church or field, we are sure it's all the same to God.
See you next week.
*Paradoxically born during politics and passion...
updated: 22 September 2002