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Hallo again to all.

Egg and chipsIn 1986 the play Shirley Valentine opened in Liverpool. A one-woman monologue about a bored Liverpool housewife, it did well there, and moved to London's West End and Broadway, where it was not unsuccessful. It was made into a motion picture in 1989, and has recently been revived in London. While not famous or world-changing, it seems to have staying power. Shirley temporarily runs away from her drab life (and presumably drab husband) for an idyllic holiday in Greece. She ends up deciding to stay in Greece and start a new life. In the play's denouement, she explains that she is able to make a living in Greece by cooking English food for homesick English men, there on holiday, who are not interested in exploring new culinary frontiers or trying spanakopitas. They want their egg and chips. It's not just the English: we know Americans who will, in any city far from home, seek out McDonalds food rather than risk eating some odd local dish with strange taste and texture.

Through the years our various employers have sent us here and there around the world, and when we are away from home on a weekend, we face the question of finding a church to attend on Sunday. The egg-and-chips question looms: do we look for an expat church, in which people just like us cling together as a congregation of the familiar, to worship in English and perhaps talk about home-country politics at coffee hour? Or do we look for an indigenous church, with worship perhaps even in some other language (never a problem on Pentecost, but the rest of the year there are issues)?

We've often told ourselves that we want to find a church that is vaguely Anglican, in order that the worship be familiar, but not so egg-and-chips Anglican that it's just like home. Such a place never exists, of course, but it's an interesting goal. It often comes down to how tired and jet-lagged we feel. If we're adventurous and well-slept and full of energy, we'll try a liturgical church in the local language. If not, we'll sheepishly look for the English or American congregation that exists in many larger cities.

Once again, when we were least expecting it, we have encountered the impossible question of what it means to be Anglican. We're wondering for innocuous purposes (no Covenant needed here), but the answer is no easier when the question is being asked for utterly nonpolitical reasons. There are many places where real name-brand Anglican parishes don't feel, to us, even 'vaguely Anglican-like', and plenty more where other denominations offer liturgical worship that feels warm and fuzzy and familiar, even without using a Book of Common Prayer.

Anglicans Online has been publishing its News Centre for 13 years now. This means, if nothing else, that every week for 13 years we have combed through international news looking for an Anglican point of view, and then sifted through those news stories that have an Anglican point of view to decide whether or not they are of global interest. For example, all of the wrangling in the UK about the church and the Equality Act is a white-hot issue in the Church of England, but not enough to keep people awake in faraway places. We fear that the majority of discussion during those 13 years of what might or might not be Anglican has had to do with sex or gender, or with insisting that others follow your wishes about sex and gender.

In our frustration, we've decided to learn from Humpty Dumpty in Chapter 6 of Through the Looking Glass:

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less."

We at Anglicans Online hereby surrender on the issue of what it means to be Anglican, and cast our lot with Humpty Dumpty. The word 'Anglican' means what we choose it to mean, neither more nor less.* We won't insist that you choose the same meaning, because in our chosen meaning, telling other people how to live their lives is in the 21st century so un-Anglican. We suspect that to most people, 'Anglican' has the egg-and-chips meaning, the liturgical equivalent of childhood comfort food.

Surely you've noticed that Anglicans Online has always meant what we choose it to mean; we believe you have stuck with us because we choose thoughtfully.

See you next week.


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Last updated: 3 July 2011

*We'd be a little worried should the Archbishop of Canterbury decide that the 'Anglican Communion' means what he chooses it to mean, because we fear that his choice is rarely his own, but forced upon him by outside powers.

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