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Hallo again to all.

More years ago than we care to admit, on a warm sunny Saturday, we set out on our bicycles to join a group of like-minded riders who had scheduled a gentle bicycle tour of some scenic back roads. We met at a public park that was closer to the city than not, and rode together from there. The 5-hour event ended at a pleasant meadow on a riverside, within sight of a small and pristine waterfall. We all rested, congratulated ourselves on having finished the trip, ate the snacks that we had packed for ourselves, and basked in the afternoon perfection of our surroundings.

A Raleigh roadster bicycleOur reverie was interrupted when one of the tour organizers, an energetic young man in his early twenties, came over to talk to us about our bicycles. Most of the hundred or so bicycle riders had sporty ten-speed bicycles with drop handlebars and uncomfortable-looking seats and gearshift levers that were closer to the road than to the handlebars. We had Raleigh roadster bicycles (made in Nottingham when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, in proper British Racing Green) each with a wicker basket, a chrome bell on one handlebar, and a trigger-style gear changer on the other handlebar. When riding these heavy but dignified machines, we felt more like Mary Poppins than Eddy Merckx, but we didn't have to strain our necks to look at the beautiful scenery we passed.

The tour organizer, eager to understand, introduced himself and asked 'What kind of bottom brackets do these bicycles use?'. We knew that a bicycle's bottom bracket was the mechanism to which the pedals were attached, but we were a bit startled that he considered this the best way to begin a conversation. Our bicycles had solid metal shields to prevent clothing from coming in contact with the bicycle's chain, and as a result you couldn't really see any of the mechanism without taking it apart. We didn't even know what sort of answer he wanted. Should we say 'metal' or 'steel' or 'Raleigh' or 'ball bearing'? We gave him the most accurate answer, which was 'I don't know.'

He was horrified. 'How could you not know what you ride?' he said; we answered 'I know what I ride; it's a green Raleigh bicycle'. That almost made him angry, and he asked in rapid succession about other parts of the bike; in every case the answer was 'I don't know'.

We ruined his day. He couldn't imagine how anyone could be so irresponsible as not to know the brand names and technical specifications of the pieces of their bicycle. To us it was a pretty and comfortable green bicycle that never needed to be taken to the repair shop and never got mud or road tar on our clothing. And when we eventually learned all of those peculiar technical facts about the bicycle*, it didn't ride any faster or stop any quicker. We remember the slogan in the shop window 'Raleigh: the all-steel bicycle', and we had been comfortable knowing that there were no wooden or cast-iron parts.

Today is Trinity Sunday. The octave of Pentecost. Thomas Becket was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury on this day in AD 1162, and legend has it that his first significant act as archbishop was to declare that the Sunday after Pentecost be celebrated in England as Trinity Sunday. Pope John XXII (1316-1364) decreed a couple of centuries later that it be so recognized for the Universal Church.

Rubens' Holy TrinityEver since, preachers have felt obligated to attempt, at least once a year, a sermon that explains the doctrine of the Trinity, the Triune God. It's tough going if you try to understand it. One year we actually stayed awake during a Trinity Sunday sermon that was really a lecture about the difference between 'God in three persons' and 'God as three modes of the same person'. We remember that preacher saying that the three members of the Trinity are co-equal, co-eternal, and are one in essence, in nature, in power, in action, and in will.

After several decades of letting the concepts marinate, today we came to the realization that the two questions mentioned above, 'What kind of bottom bracket does your bicycle use?' and 'What exactly is the Holy Trinity?' are the same question. To ride your bicycle, you do not need to know that it is made out of Reynolds 531 tubing and has roller bearings in its hubs. For salvation, you do not need to understand the Doctrine of the Trinity. In both cases, you must accept that it is, and that people who know these things have verified that it is important and that you must have one. You needn't fear eternal damnation if you don't know know that (according to Hilary of Poitiers) 'the persons of the Trinity reciprocally contain one another, so that one permanently envelopes and is permanently enveloped by, the other whom he yet envelopes.'

These days we ride a Pashley bicycle, whose bottom bracket is 35 millimeters in diameter but which has 24 threads per inch, and whose speed can be measured in furlongs per fortnight. We've occasionally thought about buying a Pashley No. 33, and no, we don't understand why. It remains a mystery, and we're OK with that.

See you next week. In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.

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Last updated: 30 May 2010

*26-TPI bottom bracket, cottered cranks, Brooks B72 saddle, refurbishable ball-bearing pedals, and a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed AW hub.

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