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Hallo again to all.

In New This Week in our 'Worth Noting' section, you can read about an effort by the Anglican Church of Canada to determine what makes a church Anglican. This got us to thinking about what being 'Anglican' means to us. Is it doctrinal? Liturgical? Musical? Apostolic? Linguistic? Is an Anglican church one that uses an Anglican prayer book, or that looks like Durham Cathedral, or sings 'Jerusalem'? Perhaps something to do with gaiters? drum

We admit to having our own ideas of what we like in an Anglican church, which each week causes us to pass by the Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and Pentecostal church buildings on our way to our own parish. And we're sure that many of you have different ideas.

But we can become deliciously befuddled, because our ideas of what 'makes' an Anglican church keep changing. We do like to sing at least one hymn. We prefer the Eucharist as the principal service on a Sunday. No doubt you, like us, have attended Anglican services that have no Eucharist, no music, no pews, no vestments, and no bells or smells. In our university days we attended an Anglican noontime service in the cellar of an academic building; indeed, you can find lively parishes in unusual places. No doubt in theological colleges, prospective clergy are taught the things that a service must include before it 'counts' as a valid Anglican service, though we do remember Matt 18:20. Ginger Rogers' beating heart

Odd as it may sound, for much of our youth we concluded that one distinguishing aspect of an Anglican service was that it never had drums. We grew up on organ music in church and never felt comfortable with folk songs, electric guitar, or holding hands to sing Kumbayah. We remember hearing a charismatic evangelical pastor tell us that the right way to evangelise was to use piano and drums, to build excitement—but that it was important that the drums not be too loud. Shudder.

But ... on Easter Sunday in our parish there was a young musician with a kettle drum, and he added immeasurably to the liturgical effectiveness of the music. He grew up in our parish, was baptised and confirmed there. He knew our liturgical preferences, but he is a gifted drummer and he knew how to accompany without dominating or damaging. We were transfixed, all of us. Not a single person complained afterwards that ‘We've never done it that way before’.

But what is it with drums? Somehow they are able to help us feel closer to our ancestral past, to our God. Perhaps the very beat of the drum reaches a primordial level of our being, much in the way that scent is dependent on the olfactory capacities of the limbic brain, the oldest part of that organ. A scent can grab us and throw us back to the past, to be caught there in nearly tangible memories. Every film maker knows that a drum cadence can stir up energy and emotions without attracting attention to itself. We recall the old advice to tuck a ticking clock in a box with a new puppy or kitten, to mimic the beats of a mother's heart. Perhaps drums echo the rhythm of our own heartbeats, the pulse of our veins, and the very time signature of our lives. And hearing them might help us think more of our essential humanity and less of our individual selves.

If we could attend just one more church service before we die, we'd want the highest high-church we can imagine. Five thurifers, three masters of ceremony, the entire service sung, priests wearing stunning chasubles and copes—and no drums. But in the interim, we'll try a little harder to find some Anglican worship that includes them. In an Anglican style, of course*.

See you next week.

Brian Reidís signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 4 May 2003

*Do tell us if you have liturgical drumming in your parish, and tell us what you think of it.

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