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Hallo again to all.

It's the season when many of us older folks are thoughtful about the passage of time. In the Southern hemisphere, Spring will arrive soon: flowers, lambs, warmth, and new life. In the Northern hemisphere, it is almost time for harvest, for a new school year, for putting food by for the winter. It seems odd to be planning for one season while it's still another, but if with age comes prudence, that prudence guides us to look past the present, to take a longer view.

A scalpelRecently we had fairly major arthroscopic surgery on an ankle. Compared with surgery before the invention of the arthroscope, it seems odd to call it 'major', but while it was happening, it seemed major. One day we were walking, more or less normally; the next day the ankle was in a cast, we couldn't walk, and we wouldn't be able to walk without crutches for many weeks. Superficially it seemed quite self-destructive: paying good money to someone who would cut into a functioning—if not perfect—ankle and render it useless for the eighth part of a year. But we knew better than to view it superficially. The purpose of the surgery was to trade temporary pain, temporary immobility, temporary disruption, for long-term improvement. When the surgeon asked us the goal of the operation we said 'To be able to run and jump and dance again!'

The day after the surgery we weren't sure we would ever again be able to stand without a brace; the pain was debilitating, even with the postoperative narcotics so beloved of most modern surgeons. But taking the long view, keeping in mind the long-term goal, made it possible to focus beyond the pain. We had faith in God's power to heal, and we had faith in the surgeon's skills at putting things into a state from which God could better heal them.

Even though we publish Anglicans Online just once a week, and even though we have 'day jobs' that seem to be our actual profession, we never really stop being Anglicans Online. It's just part of who we are. So naturally as the hours ticked by and we tried to focus on something besides the aching ankle, we thought about our church. We remembered the incredible bravery of Bishop J Jon Bruno of Los Angeles, who needed to have his ankle amputated on just a few hours' notice some months back. And as we get older, more and more of our friends and Sticking plasterscolleagues have had surgery of various kinds, always with the same goal of temporary pain, temporary setback, permanent improvement.

We also thought, more abstractly, about our beloved Anglican Communion, our church, our common faith, and further injuries to the Body of Christ. Sometimes we have felt division in the church almost as stab wounds—when this parish or that priest or those bishops declare that they are angry and out of communion with another group, it's not a stretch to say that our first perception was one of cutting pain. Of course there was no actual cut, no blood, no physical pain, and a few seconds of rational thought enabled us to get loose of that metaphoric horror. But the feeling was real and the metaphor is apt: we are the Body of Christ, and that body can feel pain.

We can't help but think about the metaphor of surgery on the church. Just as Bishop Bruno is not a worse bishop and probably a better one after losing his ankle and foot, is it possible that our church would be not worse and perhaps better if some careful surgeon were to cut here and suture there? We have no specific suggestions, of course; we aren't saying that this or that part of the church needs to be excised. We'll leave that manner of condemnation to others. But, especially after our own recent ankle surgery, we understand that sometimes cutting and sewing is the right thing to do.

See you next week. Hobbling, of course, for in fact our surgery was not very many hours ago. And would you be so kind as to hand us some of that acetaminophen?

Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 21 August 2005

A thin blue line
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