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Hallo again to all.

This week our Letters to the Editor column received a letter from a young Hispanic woman in Miami writing with questions about her church and her future and how she might become a priest. It is a sweet letter, optimistic and open.

Given the nature of her questions, we suspect that she neither knows nor cares about the so-called 'battles' about sex and power taking place in the international arena. While some loud voices are predicting doom and division, she sees enough good in the church that she wants to be part of it, and based on what she knows thus far, being a priest is the best way to be part of it. So she wants to be a priest.

To us, this four-sentence letter—written by someone whose first language is not English but Spanish—is a sign of life and growth and renewal, of what our church needs to be. She doesn't ask whether the church permits female clergy; she assumes that it does, and asks instead where best to go to college to become one. She doesn't understand the subtle shades of meaning encoded in the words 'Anglican' and 'Episcopal', and is curious about it, but isn't going to let the answer interfere with her goal. Presumably she sees the church as something local, on the ground in her part of Miami, but knows that it is also global, enabling her to ask a question of Anglicans Online with the understanding that our answer from far away would be relevant to her parish on NE 36th St in Miami.

A child in Malawi
A child in Malawi
Photograph by the Revd Dr Malcolm C Young
It's been our experience, worldwide, that most Anglicans just don't care about all of the combat that seems to be consuming the upper reaches of the church. The church to them is a local phenomenon, of people meeting, being together, talking and singing and learning and worshipping. A priest friend just got back from a trip to Africa that took him and his family to South Africa, Malawi, Zanzibar, Kenya, and Ethiopia. In attempting to understand his trip, he has been writing about it, and in one place he wrote:

I learned that in the most important respects I am probably not personally in the Anglican Communion anyway. I don’t know Anglicans on other continents; I am not in conversation with them about faith. I am not working with them as partners in ministry. I do not worship with them or sing together or learn together. For me this kind of communion means far more than the legalistic definitions of African primates who treat Christian community on the model of some kind of international treaty or global business contract. But perhaps I should lighten up – we share the body of Christ in such amazing and surprising ways. The Holy Spirit is the basis of real communion and generates always startling connections between far distant people.*

Despite his noting that he is 'not personally in the Anglican Communion anyway', he is optimistic. Why? Because he later says that he has seen

... the beginning of a new form of communion. The priest’s sermon ... was so delicately put that even after questioning him after church I have no idea where he stands. But even this confusion is part of communion. We begin to learn something about each other when we recognize that we do not completely understand everything that someone else says.

In coming months we hope for further exploration of the concept of 'new forms of communion'. Whatever they might be, our young Hispanic letter-writer is clearly at the vanguard, and that suits us just fine: she might just be one of the leaders of the church as new forms replace the old.

See you next week.

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Last updated: 18 March 2007
*Malcolm C Young, Coming Home: February 2007.

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