Anglicans Online banner More about the gryphon
Independent On the web since 1994 More than 250,000 readers More than 30,000 links Updated every Sunday

Noted This Week
Sites new to AO

News Centre
News archive

News flash: a summary of the top headlines
Start here
Anglicans believe...
The Prayer Book
The Bible

Read letters to AO
Write to us

Resources A to Z

World Anglicanism
Anglican Communion
In full communion
Not in the Communion

Dioceses and Parishes
Hong Kong
New Zealand
South Africa

Vacancies Centre
List a vacancy
Check openings worldwide

Add a site or link to AO
Add a site to AO
Link to AO

About Anglicans Online
Back issues
Awards and publicity
About our logo

Support AO
Shop for AO goods
Help support us!
Thanks to our friends

Our search engine


Hallo again to all.

We've often noticed that Anglicans are fierce about our parish churches: fierce sometimes in criticism, but equally fierce by turn in defense of what makes our parish communities special. This can manifest itself in an odd kind of "my parish, right or wrong" attitude, especially when criticism comes from without.* Herewith a fairly trivial case in point. We've belonged to a parish that engages in a fire-worshiping ritual at the end of every service. No matter how long it takes for the acolytes to extinguish the altar candles, everyone's knees are glued to their hassocks until the last flame of the last light has been snuffed out. There is no malum in se here—it's perfectly well and good for us to reflect after corporate worship about what we have just done together and how we're going to take that out into our daily extramural life. But an absurdity begins to take root on occasion if the acolytes go off to play football in the churchyard, or forget to return to the sanctuary in a timely way—and well past the end of the last hymn and postlude, all remain in rapt adoration of the blazing candles. Though people find it strange, and no one knows when or why it started, no one dares to disobey the unspoken rule binding knees to kneelers whilst candles glow. It's just part of going to church at Christ Church, Emerald City, thank you very much.

This is one local practice we would never want to see become more widespread. Yet as funny as we find it, we have discovered that we miss it when we're at a new church where things are done differently. Home, even Home writ large in the parish church, is so often about what is familiar from repetition and proximity.

The old door of our church is on the south side of the nave, and one has to walk by the font just after entering the building. The Ecclesiologists who built our church intended this. They planned a building that spoke of, taught about, and made a meet home for people to participate in the sacraments. Thus one enters the building—like the Church—through baptism; one sits in radical equality with other believers in what were once upon a time the unusual luxury of free and open pews; and all of us face liturgical east together in hopeful attention to the risen and ascended Lord. This was architectural boiler-plate for generations of Anglicans, and it's how our building still situates and shapes our worship experience.

But there's a particular innovation in the church's layout today that would annoy a purist who woke up on the wrong side of the bed. It's a food basket placed next to the parish font, where the new birth of countless Christians began. This is an innovation whose origin we do not know. The wicker basket (here submerged under bags and boxes full of donations) is empty early each Sunday morning, having been made so by a quiet soul who takes its contents to a local food pantry without fail or fanfare. Each Sunday after Evensong it is full again, cornucopia-like. We assure you that it's not a miracle, though we've never in fact observed anyone else dropping a tin of sardines, a jar of jam, a can of soup, or a box of pasta there.

The more we've thought about this weekly ingathering and distribution of nourishment, the more we've come to think that we want the font-basket to be part of every parish where we worship. Its intentional association of holy baptism with a commitment to the feeding of the hungry is a powerful and clear expression of the mystical unity of the Body of Christ: on the holy table, in the pews where we sit and sing, and in the lives of those who starve while others feast.

This is not only because we live in the midst of real financial crisis, when some of the more topsy-turvy verses of the Magnificat are becoming economically, uncomfortably, personally true. Nor is it because our local food banks are faced with record levels of urgent demand for their assistance. It is most of all because the constant message of the holy scriptures and the traditions of those who have known them is that the Church's people are obliged, gifted, charged and equipped with every good thing for the good of God's people in the world. That includes food: heavenly, eucharistic, scriptural and preached food, to be sure; but the food that gives eyes light and limbs strength, too. (And not just at Harvest Thanksgiving.) This is no reduction of the sacrament of baptism to a rite of entry into an organization of do-gooders. Rather, it's a reminder that baptism commits us to honest and thorough acceptance of the lordship of one who taught in one of his famous Verilies that 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.'

In this season of Lent, when we prepare for baptism and think about what baptism now means for people who have already been washed in the font, our basket-by-the-font is a local particularity we would love to see push on toward universality. Give it a try, and send us pictures. We'd love to see you doing things the way we do them, at least in this small instance. And we promise we won't make you worship candle-flames.

See you next week.

Our signature
All of us at Anglicans Online

Last updated: 15 March 2009

* "My country, right or wrong" is a quote attributed to Carl Schurz (1829-1906) and often used to be descriptive of blind patriotism; if applied to parish life and understood in its correct context, though it's much better than it sounds at first. Schurz actually said this: "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right."

A thin blue line
This web site is independent. It is not official in any way. Our editorial staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact about information on this page. ©2009 Society of Archbishop Justus
. Please address all spam to