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Hallo again to all.

This past Tuesday was the anniversary of the death of the Right Reverend G W Doane, II Bishop of New Jersey and the Episcopal Visitor to Anglicans Online. We have his portrait on our desks, and we now and again ask ourself 'What would GWD think?'

Every year, on the 27th of April, from noon until 1pm, the bells at St Mary's Church in Burlington, New Jersey, are rung in remembrance of Bishop Doane, who died during that hour just shy of 150 years ago. Often we can manage to be there to hear those bells and to put flowers on his grave, but not every year. From time to time the workaday world of the living bumps to another day our prayers with that dead bishop. We know that he will wait for us, but we do like to hear the bells toll...

The donors of the bells stipulated this remembrance of Bishop Doane; the sisters came from an era when remembrance of the dead was an integral part of life. Not so long ago it was common and popular to speak of the dead, to have public remembrance of past lives. There were statues of dead heroes, songs of dead poets, prayers for dead leaders.

The dead do not vote (save perhaps in Chicago or Naples), so as cities grow, the elected officials normally push graveyards to the periphery and the dead out of mind. The churchyard with its monuments to dead relatives is, in most of the populated world, a quaint memory and a footnote to the history books. Bishop Doane's wife, who died in Florence, is buried in an untended and overgrown cemetery between lanes of a major highway, passed in third gear by thousands each week and remembered by nearly none.

In the populated areas that 90 percent of the world's English-speakers call home, it is easy to go week to week without ever seeing a gravestone or noticing a memorial statue in a public park. Our trips to church do not take us through a churchyard. Outdoor sculpture is no longer memorial but artistic; an abstract Calder mobile instead of a Railton memorial. Postage stamps are more likely to have pictures of birds or flowers than the remembered dead. Every town had a memorial with the names of fallen soldiers of the Great War; you need an expert to find memorials for the fallen in Iraq or the Falklands. In the States this week there was a huge outcry because a well-known newsreader read aloud the names of soldiers killed in Iraq. A half century ago this would have been expected; now some see it as subversive.

We must confess that a good deal of our sense of being Anglican comes from communion with the dead. The 'Communion of Saints' is very real to us. We have knelt at the graves of bishops, prayed near relics of saints and ancient popes, and tried to imagine, as we plodded up the steps to a cathedral in the summer heat, the millions of feet that had plodded that way before us, to see the same crypt said to contain the same bones that we were there to see.

How many bishops alive today assume that someday a statue of them will be erected? Even the most memorable of our contemporary bishops is unlikely to have a monument in a public place. More and more in modern society, the dead are simply 'gone'. We must work to remember them, because the society we live in does not provide tools for remembrance. But as Christians we remember. We re-member, ' for all are one in Thee, for all are Thine, alleluia!'

    Though still I dy, I live again;
Still longing so to be still slain,
So gainfull is such losse of breath.
I dy even in desire of death.
    Still live in me this loving strife
Of living Death and dying Life.
For while thou sweetly slayest me
Dead to my selfe, I live in Thee.*

See you next week.

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

Last updated: 2 May 2004

*Richard Crashaw, 1613-1649

A thin blue line
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