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Hallo again to all.

Ted Grant at Hyde Park Speakers' Corner, 1942In 1855 the UK Parliament passed the Sunday Trading Bill, prohibiting most commerce on Sundays. Since most working-class Britons had no other day off work to do their shopping, public protest was fierce. Riots in London seemed to centre on Hyde Park, near Marble Arch. In later years, various political organizers used that same location as a launch point for workers' protests. By 1872, the pressure for protesters to be given a 'right to speak' led to the Parks Regulation Act 1872, which delegated to park-keepers the authority to permit or deny public speaking in parks. One result of that Act, perhaps unintended by Parliament, is that the corner of Hyde Park nearest Marble Arch became known as Speakers Corner, at which (by tradition more than by law) the public had the freedom to speak on any legal topic. If you stop by Hyde Park Speakers' Corner on any day with fair weather, you'll find someone speaking to an audience that's a mixture of tourists, pickpockets, hecklers, police, and bored citizenry with nothing much better to do. The speakers rarely seem to care whether anyone in the audience is actually listening.

In years after the inauguration of Hyde Park Speakers' Corner, other London parks, other British cities, and other countries have created Speakers' Corners, though none is as fabled or famous or well-used as the original in Hyde Park.

The urge to make public statements is very strong, even if those statements have no particular audience or effect.

In this century, the urge to make public statements (even if there is no one listening) leads more to press releases, blogs, YouTube video clips, and T-shirts than to oratory while standing on a stepladder. If Ted Grant (pictured at right speaking in Hyde Park in 1942) were starting today, we suspect he'd be online sending out press releases and writing blogs claiming to be news reports. Both the Hyde Park speaker and the modern-day writer of press releases and blogs have the same goal, which is to cause the general public to pay attention to some news that they would otherwise ignore.

Mahatma Gandhi on his arrival in France in 1931 told reporters 'I believe in equality for everyone except reporters and photographers.' He obviously did not think that reporting news to an anxious public was a clear path to any form of salvation, nor did he avail himself of Speakers' Corner when he went to London. He knew when it was better to wait than to act or speak.

Reading the Gospel at opening EucharistThis week the Lambeth Conference has begun on the campus of the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, and we aren't there reporting or issuing press releases. There are enough literate bishops blogging from Lambeth to provide a good stream of primary-source material, but after reading everything we could find, we've decided that the only part worth reporting today was the Gospel dance as described here by a bishop in attendance at Canterbury Cathedral:

'... the liturgical highlight was the dancing in and out of the Gospel by members of the four Melanesian religious communities, members of the Lambeth Chaplaincy Team from the Solomons, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. (The communities are the Melanesian Brotherhood, the Sisters of Melanesia, the Sisters of the Church and the Society of St. Francis.) As is common in Malaita, they danced in the Gospel in a small wooden canoe carried by the Sisters. All were in traditional Melanesian custom dress, and though their number was small, their panpipes, song, rattles, drums and shouts filled the cathedral.... After the Gospel was read, many, including Archbishop Rowan, joined in clapping along with the dancers as they sang to a custom tune, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Only the Orthodox bishops around the Archbishop remained dour, perhaps not used to quite so much naked flesh in the liturgy. '

The Lambeth conference seems to us to be off to a good start because it is focusing on what unites us and not on what divides us. If you're following the events in Canterbury closely (which we do not advise), you will almost surely come across press releases and public speeches emphasizing differences. We recommend the Fellowes C-120C for dealing with them, and we recommend the Daily Office in their stead. If you have something you need to say to the Anglican public and you can't afford travel costs to Hyde Park, try writing a Letter to the Editor of Anglicans Online. We offer an interested global audience, and we'll filter out the hecklers for you.

See you next week.

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Last updated: 20 July 2008

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