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Hallo again to all.

A monstranceWe've heard, and sometimes even joined, countless discussions of whether it is a tragedy that the linguistic traditions of our church are fading. We recall having needed to sneak a look at a dictionary to learn the meanings of words like gradine or burse or monstrance or orphrey. And we know and socialize with a good many people who have no idea what a narthex or an aspergillum or a pyx or a reredos might be. As we grow older, the culture and language of our church feels farther and farther into the past, even though our faith is timeless and eternal.

While brooding about this (it is Lent, after all; one broods) we read an article in the Washington Post by Candy Sagon noting that the art and craft of cooking is suffering the same phenomenon. The article begins

At Kraft Foods, recipes never include words like "dredge" and "sauté." Betty Crocker recipes avoid "braise" and "truss." Land O' Lakes has all but banned "fold" and "cream" from its cooking instructions. And Pillsbury carefully sidesteps "simmer" and "sear."

While the brand names may not be familiar to those outside North America, the notion is universal. Society moves on, and language and vocabulary move with it. Mrs Beeton uses many words that remain a mystery to Nigella Lawson.*

An egg beaterMs Sagon notes that while today's cooks are more impatient, less well trained, and less experienced than were their grandparents, their goal remains the same: to feed one's family with healthy and inexpensive food prepared at home. The past wasn't necessarily better; modern scientific knowledge about nutrition, biochemistry, and medicine has led to many changes in cooking techniques and recipes.

We started to believe that the parallels between the evolution of cooking and churching were very strong until we got to thinking about it. With enough money, a family can survive without ever cooking a meal at home, and packaged food warmed in a microwave can sustain life. But we as the Body of Christ require corporate worship. Yes, in a pinch we can read the daily office in our sickbed or have someone bring us a wafer in a pyx, but to grow and nurture our faith instead of just sustaining it, we must gather in groups to worship together. The past wasn't necessarily better; generations of writers, theologians, and poets have led to many changes in our understanding of scripture and faith.

But the present is where we live, and the future is where our children will live. Timeless concepts like cooking food or worshipping God will be re-imagined every couple of generations. If we stop eating, our physical death is inevitable; everyone knows that. But if we lose our faith and stop effective worship, our spiritual death is just as inevitable; not nearly enough people know that. If you come to our church, though, you're very welcome to refer to 'that gold-coloured thing behind the altar' instead of 'the reredos'.

See you next week.

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Last updated: 19 March 2006

*We aren't sure that this is caused solely by cultural change.

(Update on Cynthia's cancer: she has finished her first cycle of chemotherapy and the incision on her spine has healed enough that she can go up and down stairs, if slowly. The rest of us will sustain Anglicans Online as long as necessary, while she heals.)

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