Hallo again to all.
Many AO readers will be aware that there is a hurricane making its way steadily through the northern half of the western Atlantic. Having already pushed a deadly path through Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas, Hurricane Sandy is now at sea, but poised to make landfall in precisely the part of New Jersey where one of AO's main servers operates. Government weather forecasters predict a storm surge and high winds of unusual proportions, with a route likely to impact the residences of three quarters of our weekly production staff. The storm may then make its way to southeastern and Maritime Canada, leaving downed trees, power outages, and floods in its wake. We've been down this road many times before, but every time it's Now it's different.
And so, for very good reasons, we have preparation for a natural disaster on our minds, rather than the Phos Hilaron, Mag and Nunc.
It's not so, however, in most of the rest of the Anglican world. Zimbabwe's Anglicans are celebrating a long-delayed legal victory with 68% humidity, clear skies and daytime temperatures in the upper 20s. There is light rain and mild wind for the Anglican Consultative Council in Auckland just now, but by Tuesday it'll be 20°C with occasional sun. It's a bit colder, more humid, and rainier in England for the good people preparing there for November's General Synod—but there's nothing at all unusual in that.
The weather that's so frightening for us this evening has no immediate impact on the lives of others around the world—even friends with whom we're in daily email contact, and who share deeply in our faith and life. Their next three days will undoubtedly have peculiar challenges and blessings suited to their own places on the globe. But concern about electrical supply, clean water, the running of trains and the post, the function of local businesses and civil institutions, the regular service of transport, etc. are not likely among these challenges for friends in places where they are already taken as normal.
Our difficulty is a particularity of the moment and the places where we live and move and have our being. We'd submit sincerely and prayerfully that meteorology here has something to teach us about theology and ecclesiology.
It's a common theme in English-speaking Christianity to speak and write about the present as a time of immediate crisis in which forces beyond our control—demographic, economic, doctrinal, diabolical, political, linguistic, sexual, cultural, liturgical, academic, legal, psychological—overwhelm the normal and effective functioning of the Church. We react with all the worry of people facing the ecclesiastical equivalent of a hurricane: reinforcing our foundations with religious sandbags, taking out insurance policies, clarifying boundaries, assessing potential negative impact of every kind, and lamenting difficulties we assume aren't problems in the same ways for people in other places or for our predecessors in other, happier and easier times.
If we apply our hearts to wisdom, though, we can see with all the clarity of weather radar that the history of the Church is for everyone who experiences it in the moment very much like the immediacy of difficult weather. We do all see the present by our best lights, but almost always as something whose solution may be found right now if only we make the best decisions or vote in the right ways. We assert a clearer doctrinal or disciplinary position, turn our refrigerator to a colder setting in order to preserve our food in the event of an electrical outage, put the rare books with rarefied theology away lest they be threatened by rising water, and work to save what we can through our own energy and effort.
On the other side of the terribly local phenomenon of weather—and on the other side of every messy thing about church history—there is the presence and comfort of God above and beyond it all. With confidence in this meteorological-theological assertion, we join our voices with the Benedicite to sing
This is the ordinary voice of the praying Church in worship during times of weather-calamity and weather-calm. It's a hymn of daily thanksgiving for phenomena that can be deadly or delightful depending on the times and places in which they occur.
The Benedicite is a difficult reminder in such a time as this that the immediate moment is not the full picture. Snow, waters, winds, darkness, lightnings, clouds, seas, floods, and everything in connection with them, are parts of the creation that always praises God. The clear records of scripture and history also show that the Church always praising God has ever had tumult, discord, difficulty, and winds of doctrine blowing to and fro, controversy without ceasing. And yet the Good News has persisted to the present through each storm—intact, safe, well above water, and giving strength and comfort to all in every place at every time.
This is the day which the Lord hath made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
See you next week.
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