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Hallo again to all.

In the church calendar we are now well into Ordinary Time. Perhaps that explains why our thoughts today turn to ordinary things. Some Kalendars assign today to St Columba; others to Ss Primus and Felician (we had to look them up, too). But today is not the Feast of anything, nor is it part of the Octave of anything. It is an ordinary Sunday in Ordinary Time.

After church today, while waiting in line for some biscuits and coffee, we overheard a conversation between two people of a certain age. One of them had evidently done something embarrassing, and told the other 'I hope my friends don't find out.' The listener replied 'Do you mean your friends here at church?', to which the original speaker said 'I don't really have any friends here at church.'

That made us so sad, but it also made us think and wonder. We've read about village life in past centuries in which family, church, and public house were the core of friendships and social life. If you had some wonderful news to share, such as 'The lambs were born and they all look healthy' or 'Robbie has been accepted as apprentice to the whitesmith', who exactly did you share it with? Surely family. Surely neighbors, for they knew of your pregnant ewe and of Robbie's hard work to prepare. Surely your priest, for you wanted him to know all of your good news. Surely everyone you would see at church next Sunday. And perhaps that was all, because they would tell everyone else.

Now perhaps you drive half an hour to get to church, and you have no sheep, and the neighbors aren't sure whether you have any children, let alone whether one of them is learning C++ programming. You have electronic links to your distant family and occasionally fret that your mother rarely returns your email.

Let us say that you are so exuberant about some joyful news that you feel the need to tell your friends. What do you do? Post it on Facebook? Text it to a dozen people? Call friends on the telephone one by one to let them know? Send email with a long "To" list? Put a sign on your office door? Blog it? Make a quick YouTube video and get them the link? We think the chances are pretty good, though, that you don't share your good news by taking it to church with you on Sunday and telling all of the people who greet you. Gone are the days when you could drop in to the public house and tell your news to all of the people there and be confident that it would quickly reach everyone who mattered to you.

Now let us say that you find yourself in an urgent situation at a dark time and need to reach out to someone for help. You might have family close, or you might not. If you have true friends at church you could call one of them. If you know your neighbors well enough to make such a call, you might call one of them. We fear that if you have used technology to connect with your friends, they might live so far away or have such separate lives that they aren't able to respond to a plea for help. If your Facebook friend lives in Uzbekistan, she might respond quickly to your joyful news but be unable to help you in the middle of the night with something urgent. Unless you are blessed with a friend who will drive down to help you even though he lives 150 miles away, you are more likely to meet real people face to face at church than on Facebook.

Perhaps you do have 500 friends on Facebook, but how many of them would drive you to the hospital in the middle of the night or come over to help you get a bat out of your bedroom or see to a problem with your furnace on a cold winter night when you are working in another country?

We are grateful for our friends at church. We've never needed to ask them for emergency help because we have family closer and solid friends nearby, but we're confident that if we asked, one of them would be able to respond. It is, after all, our church family.

See you next week. And you, and you, and you too.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

9 June 2013

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