Hallo again to all.
Rummaging round the online Guardian (UK), we were annoyed by what appeared to a non-news link on the home page — 'Soulmates' — and we clicked on it. It was, perhaps unsuprisingly, an online dating agency. It contained the usual profiles:
'im a pretty decent kind a guy, some might even say quite amiable. I Like all the usual stuff, food, music, film, travel, hot baths, blah, blah'
(We were sorely tempted to reply: 'And with thy blah blah blah'.)
'Soulmates' is one of innumerable online portals dedicated to pairing up the species. The success or silliness of it doesn't interest us at the moment. But the idea that there is someone 'out there' who might be a match oddly connected in our mind to the fact that in a fortnight or so, the blessed dead will be all round us. We'll remember them with a liturgical single-mindedness on All Saints' and All Souls' days. Why not, we thought, an 'All Saints Dating Agency', matching the living with a partner amongst the blessed dead?
We cheerfully admit that the idea of dating the dead is, well, unusual. But every biographer (call them monogamists) and every historian (polygamists, all) spends much time in the presence of those past. Although the vast realm of the Christian dead gives great scope for finding the right partner, in these difficult days of the Anglican Communion, it might be useful to get to know someone from our own Ecclesia Anglicana.
The range of personalities of men and women — our brothers and sisters 'gone before' in this branch of the Holy Catholic Church — is startlingly wide. From quiet studious souls who dedicated their lives to liturgical scholarship to men and women who dared to cross accepted lines to follow their Lord, all are waiting for us to invite them to dinner. Often they make themselves known in a full biography, which, even if dated, will bring them to life across the table from us. Occasionally for some of our more recent heroes and saints there are volumes of letters, where the full force of personality is ours to enjoy, without an intermediary.
Not sure what type you're attracted to? Try one or two assignations, with little commitment, by sampling one of the small biographies, published through the years, of some of our most interesting Anglicans, from Christina Rossetti and Charlotte Yonge to Isaac Williams, Charles Marriott, and WE Gladstone. (Like to hear the Grand Old Man speak? Click here, but be prepared for some muddy sound in this early recording*.)
Drawn to a far-flung area of the world where our brothers and sisters have travelled and worked? On the pages of Project Canterbury — the closest we have to an Anglican Communion 'Soulmates' service — you can delve into the living past by geography. From the South Pacific to the North Pole, you can find examples of undaunted courage, sheer lovableness, and unrelenting persistence in the face of all obstacles.
Beware: Some encounters with the dead lead to a lifetime's fascination and a lifetime's work. A site devoted to the rambunctious early American bishop Philander Chase was begun in the 1990s by a young undergraduate at Kenyon College in Ohio. (So choose carefully: that first date could last a lifetime.) Other first encounters might lead to a strong antipathy, but that can be useful. WH Auden once wrote that purgatory should consist of pairings of people with radically opposite points of view, required to spend time together till they understood one another. Choosing to spend some time with someone from the past who has always seemed somewhat uncongenial, for whatever reason, could enlarge our mind and heart in the present.
'Read until you can hear people talk,' an historian once wrote. We have such good company in this blessed Communion. If you have even a spare 20 minutes this week, have a cup of tea with one of them.
See you next week. And that's a dead certainty.
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