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Hallo again to all.

Quite unexpectedly, in a book that has nothing to do with the Anglican Communion or any of its parts, we came upon this gem:

'I have a friend whose grandmother used to tell her, "There's no trouble in this world so serious that it can't be cured with a hot bath, a glass of whiskey, and the Book of Common Prayer." For some people, that is truly enough. For others, more drastic measures are required'.

Thanks be to God, that simple tripartite recipe for dispatching troubles has worked quite well for us through the years. We indulge daily in the Part the First, occasionally imbibe Part the Second, and find Part the Third part of our bones.

Bath time!

As much as we'd like to think that all the troubles besetting the Communion could be solved by a great communion-wide soak in a tub (Bath of Bonhomie?), it probably won't suffice. Whiskey has undoubtedly been present in the small-group social gatherings of which we Anglicans are so fond. (Surely it was partaken of, now and then, during the late Lambeth Conference.) But if whiskey were the remedy for wrangling, we'd know it. The Book of Common Prayer is now the Books of Common Prayer, the various siblings and offshoots of a venerable parent. No matter how appropriate a more indigenous approach to prayer books may be, we've lost the once-upon-a-time commonality of the 1662 BCP. A sonic wave of 'O God, make clean our hearts within us' 'And take not thy Holy Spirit from us' probably won't work round the Anglican world as it might once have done.

So the anonymous grandmother's fine recipe for making short shrift of troubles probably won't help us in any sort of communion-wide way. For that, well, we've got reports, recommendations, statements, and signatories <cue heavy sighs>. Yet at the recent Lambeth Conference, from everything we've read, the Archbishop of Canterbury did his best to break down the unwieldy mass of the Anglican Communion into its parts: bishops. A few bishops together in a room, first thing in the morning, for the study of scripture. In those small groups, we understand, intransigence was softened and skewed perceptions righted.

Folding napkins
And then there's napkin-folding

Apparently there was some grumbling about the vagueness and diffuse nature of Lambeth, but we'll bet the intangible 'take aways' were extraordinary. Listening to stories of ministry and the challenge of context from someone a metre away must have been far more moving than hearing them over a microphone in a vast auditorium or drained of life in a sleep-inducing PowerPoint presentation. One can't forget the face of a brother or a sister just the width of a table away.

We're not suggesting that the Lambeth Conference was the equivalent of a hot bath for 650 or so bishops, but we dare to think that it may have been an attempt to wrest the conference away from the institutional back to the individual. We suspect, but have no way of proving, that large legislative bodies (synods, councils, conventions, what have you) can become occasions of sin far more easily than can a table with eight people sitting round. The lure of the microphone, the temptation of legislation, the attraction of 'winning', all these are far more in evidence in the arena than the inglenook.

We can't do away with conferences and conventions, this side of heaven. But we can find ways to create connections in our own piece of the Anglican world, connections of substance and not superficiality. We'd be the last to cavil at the true friendships and deep fellowship that can develop across the Internet, but we do worry about the one-off slams in the blogosphere and the email flame wars even amongst people of good will. We'd like to think that most of us do our best to avoid the toxic, the slanderous, and the salacious (and we're talking about the Anglican world online, for heaven's sake, not the great public marketplace 'out there').

Maybe we can better the Anglican world in our own little way by leaving off reading blogs for days at at time. By emailing less frequently. By listening more. Thinking more. Praying more.

And enjoying more hot baths.

See you next week.

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Last updated: 7 September 2008

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