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GleanersHallo again to all.

Some of the gentlest and most wonderful provisions of the Levitical code are mentioned almost in passing. 'When ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field' are the words of the Authorised Version. 'Thou shalt leave them for the poor and the stranger.' The next verse sets down the same practice with respect to vineyards. In this holy and ancient agrarian economy, fields and vines may be owned and tended by individuals or families, but the edges of them always belong to those who in need pass through to gather them. So God claims for the poor a constant, mandatory provision of bread and wine—daily sustenance that in a Christian context is easy to understand in a eucharistic sense.

The Law of Gleanings teaches that justice is effected, on some level at least, by the sharing of resources. Though these resources may be created and controlled by élites—agricultural, economic, spiritual, cultural—God insists in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy that they should be made available freely for those whose better estate really depends on them. Gleaning is the cornerstone of a kind of biblical social insurance guarding against the over-commodification of essential food and drink. It shows that God wills all members called to a given community, whether they are transient or long-established, to be able to be nourished—and not just to eat anything, but to eat and share the same things. It sounds to us like the economic dimensions of gleaning actually have quite a bit to do with the spiritual dimensions of communion.

Our work at AO has its less-divine focus in gleaning and gathering information resources, found at the edges of the internet.* We glean and share these resources weekly as we pass through the online manifestations of communions, provinces, dioceses, parishes, church organisations of all kinds, and various mutual admiration societies. We digest them at Noted This Week, and our volunteer staff then sort them in categories by type or geographic origin. This is the best way we know to harvest the abundant Anglican resources of the Internet in order to share them, and indeed to nourish those who make use of our work. With what sometimes feels like a handful of likeminded webmakers, we have tried our best since 1994 to make sure that Anglicanism—name and thing—is not a commodity to be controlled and dispensed, but rather something to be made more and more common.

This kind of gleaning takes time and focus, but we have the excellent help of readers who submit their new websites and updated addresses week by week.** The number of dioceses and parishes without any online presence is still surprisingly large even in the most-wired provinces of the communion, so we do not expect to run out of new things to glean for quite some time.

We do know that gleaned information alone does not create communion. We trust it can help, though, and we still believe that more accurate information will ultimately lead us to better understanding and perhaps to more authentic relationships among churches. As John Keble sang,

love too late can never glow:
The scatter'd fragments Love can glean,
Refine the dregs, and yield us clean
To regions where one thought serene
Breathes sweeter than whole years of sacrifice below.
          (The Christian Year, Sunday next before Advent)

Toward that end, we'll glean away, and we hope you will all continue to help.

See you next week.

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Last updated: 13 June 2010

* The concept is nothing new—the Church Missionary Gleaner did it long ago—but we think we have a claim to having brought it to the Internet in the first sustained way for any Christian tradition.

** The best gleaners we know are three faithful and generous people: Michel Cousins, Indran Sinnadurai, and Doug LeBlanc. They're experts at using our website submission form, and you can be, too.

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