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Hallo again to all.

Recently, whilst travelling, we attended Sunday 'Divine Service' in a major English cathedral. Like most older cathedrals, it is simultaneously a tourist attraction and an active house of worship. While we greatly enjoyed the musical setting (Haydn's Missa in Angustiis) and the view (they don't make buildings like that any more), our reason for being there was corporate worship. Away from home, we wanted a church that would feel familiar.

In truth, it didn't feel at all familiar. We had some difficulty understanding the accents and rapid speech of the readers and the Dean; the echo of the sound around that cavernous space required very careful speaking and even more careful listening. The service involved no kneeling, only sitting and standing; we are accustomed to kneeling and the presence of kneelers. There was hardly any congregational involvement in the service; mostly we listened to the fabulous choir and orchestra and the 132-rank pipe organ. McDonald's logoThe liturgy, presumably reproduced from Common Worship, was phrased differently enough from what we use in the prayer books in our parish that we kept stumbling over it. There were three hymns sung; we knew only one of them. There were no pews, just metal chairs, so there was no place to put the service booklet while going forward to take communion, and since the chairs were set all the way to the wall, the logistics of each row returning from the altar rail after communion were clumsy, made even more so because about twenty percent of those present thought they were in an audience and not a congregation.Anglican Communion logo

Despite all of those differences, the service was lovely and it met adequately, if not perfectly, our need for Sunday worship. Quite likely the experience would have been no more different (perhaps less so) had we found a Lutheran church or a Methodist church, but this one said 'Church of England' on the sign out front, so we know we had the right brand.

As we walked back to our hotel, we thought about all of the carefully decorated shopfronts exemplifying retail branding to help one find shoes or trousers or mobile phones, using the same concept of brand loyalty that we had used to find a worship service. Would we, longtime users of Nokia mobile telephones, consider buying a Sony Ericsson or an LG or a Samsung mobile? Probably not. But what about brands of beer or mayonnaise or fountain pens or shoes or laundry soap?

We wonder if much of the current rancour in the Anglican Communion isn't in large part a consumer behaviour learnt from (over)exposure to modern retail brand management. 'We're the brand that won't tolerate unbiblical people' or 'We're the brand that is as inclusive as Jesus was'. We wonder if, say, the Nigerian church is so focused on what the US church is doing because they're afraid that the US folk are damaging their brand identity, and Nigeria needs a strong anti-gay brand identity in order to compete for souls with evangelising Muslims.

The 'Anglican Communion' brand is today about 140 years old. It's now a global brand, like McDonalds or Reebok or Guinness. Perhaps its problem is that it's too global? We don't find credible the angry demands that it remain a global brand. We're told that one can lose a McDonald's franchise if the wrong sort of cheese is put on the cheeseburgers, so worried is that company about global brand uniformity. Perhaps we need an Anglican brand in which one expects to find many different cheeses, though never a slice of Stinking Bishop.

See you next week. We'll be back in our own parish, that brand called 'home'.

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Last updated: 2 July 2006

(Click for the 30 June update on Cynthia's cancer.)

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