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Hallo again to all.

The New Yorker magazine had an occasional section called 'There Will Always be an England', featuring incidences of charmingly odd behaviour by people, animals, birds, and other denizens of, well, England. We're happy that the 22 September issue of Country Life magazine is a more splendid example of the TWABAE phenomenon. Boldly proclaimed across its cover is 'Who Is Britain's Most Loved Parson?', with the lead article featuring the results of a poll taken amongst readers to determine the vicar held in the greatest affection. We're delighted that the Reverend Richard Morgan of the parish of Therfield (Diocese of Rochester) was a clear winner and that a gallimaufry of others came in close behind. Alas, Therfield parish has no website (nor do any of the other winners' parishes) that we could find, so we can't point you to the winning parsons and their churches.

The Revd Richard Morgan
Parish of Therfield, Hertfordshire

However, it isn't so much the actual content of the story, but the fact that the story exists at all, that makes us smile and gives us, strangely enough, hope in these rather grim and difficult days in our Communion. It's not surprising that the Church of England 'by law established' occupies a place unlike any other in the Anglican Communion, so long has it been woven into the land and consciousness of the country. Even though Sunday attendance figures can be arrestingly low, the parish church still plays — if not a starring role — a key role in rural life and a significant bit part even in more urban areas. This makes the search by a glossy magazine for a popular and well-liked parson possible. To imagine such a thing in the United States or Australia seems, well, far fetched. The relationship of the Anglican church in those countries is vastly different and to transplant the contest would be a sorry failure.

The Revd Christopher Mulholland
Parish of Shepton Magna, Wiltshire

Trying to replicate the Church of England in post-revolutionary United States in 1785 would also have been a sorry failure, had the small and beleaguered band of priests left in the former colonies tried to do so. Rather they set about creating something new, determining as they did so the non-negotiable fundamentals and marks of their mother church, and then set about crafting the rest based on their place and their circumstances. Similarly with other daughter churches: each had to separate itself eventually from the pattern and practice of its mother, holding to the Catholic core, but altering the edges as needed. The bonds of affection and the Anglican mood, if you will, have held us together for centuries. Of course there have been tensions and squabbles, concerns and crises, but the Communion has emerged stronger after each one. As we wait and, to some degree or other, stew, in these post-Windsor days, we might ask whether the greatest danger to the communion is the increased pressure towards regimentation and control, something so utterly uncharacteristic of our heritage and our tradition.

We've no doubt that each Province of the Communion could come up with a contest that would be true to its unique relationship with its society. It would be delightful to see what those might be. But the spectre of a uniform, Communion-wide contest of best-loved vicars? It scares us. It's quintessentially English and utterly natural for England, even in this complex and multicultural 21st century. But in Saskatoon or San Francisco? Just doesn't feel right.

See you next week.

Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 2 October 2005


A thin blue line
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