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Skating MinisterHallo again to all.

Though we have no degrees in the nascent field of Anglican anthropology, we have found our thoughts turning this week to boundaries—and the crossing or transgression thereof—in our life together.

There are some boundaries most of us cross with impunity. Geographical parish boundaries, for example, have less force in practice now where we live than other local boundaries, but we know that it was not always so, and that some delightful customs have grown up around the old need to mark parochial bounds. Other border-crossings, those of diocesan or provincial lines, are hotly contested aspects of our life, viewed as necessary by some and by others as illegal according to ancient canon and precedent.

Still other boundaries, and we here owe much in our understanding to the late esteemed Mary Douglas, mark places so pure or dangerous that we must be extremely careful in the approach to them. Sacramental borders like those of baptism, ordination and marriage—marking, as they do, transitions from one state of life in Christ to another—fall into this category. Likewise the holiest boundaries of all are those that cannot be seen without the eyes of faith. They are our movements from this life to the next through the gate of death, precious in the sight of the Lord.

Lastly, there are boundaries the transgression of which is called sin by the careful nomenclature of scripture and tradition. This week we've read in the news headlines and in freshly-published books about such boundary violations. A short review of some of the most prominent cases shows that they range from church workers' past assault on the human dignity of indigenous persons in western Canada to the inappropriate relationships and 'exploitative behavior' of a deceased and influential modern bishop. Let the few here stand for the many. It matters not whether the individuals who cross such clear and necessary boundaries are layfolk or people ordained to special ministries of service and care. The damage ripples within and without the church, and its aftermath must be either tended to or in some sense perpetuated by those who meet the heavy burden of its knowledge.

As theologians, psychologists, national governments and grown-ups of all sorts tell us, often quite rightly, many ancient landmarks are in place for our own protection as well as for the intangible good of those around us. In this light, and in view of the prominence of boundaries of all kinds—heeded and unheeded, known and unknown, respected and ignored—in the lives of common prayer and work we lead, it behooves us to learn more about these lines and our relations to them. It may be on further examination that the ice beneath our human frailty is dangerously thin. It may be, too, that the surface on which we skate ahead, keeping our balance as best we can, is through God's mercy firmer than we know. In our quest for what is good, beautiful and true in this world, and our hope for a vision of that 'blessed city, heavenly Salem' we could do much worse than turning our attention to careful study of current troubles in light of their relation to old boundaries. The safety of God's children and our faithfulness to our sundry vocations depend on it.

O Wisdom, Which camest forth out of the mouth of the Most High, and reachest from one end to the other, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

See you next week.

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Last updated: 8 June 2008

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