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Hallo again to all.

Last week's letter on missing church and weekly Eucharists clearly struck a chord with our readers. Our mailbox was overflowing this week! Since we first started our Letters section twelve years ago, we cannot recall the last time we recieved this many letters with your permission to publish*. Reading your correspondence about our common experiences in seeking the sacred left us with feelings of warmth, community, and a deeper understanding of why we've never closed our Letters section, though we have occasionally considered it during dry bouts. That worship and sacrament—as well as the possibility of helping another find those things in their own life—is what draws out our readers should come as no surprise to us.

It should also come as no surprise that we love letters. Letters to the Editor, greeting cards, handwritten notes, letters to Santa, advice columns, or even, we suppose, well-thought emails connect us to each other, often through the mist of time and place. A few years ago, while working working in a diocesan archive we had the privilege of discovering a steamer trunk filled with old papers, mostly dating from the early 20th century. As far as we could tell, the papers had been bundled, put in the trunk, and had remained untouched since. The trunk had moved from place to place as the diocesan house moved, but was never opened. We delighted in reading Ember day letters from those in theological college/seminary and correspondence from clergy and faculty. We smiled as we recognised many of the difficulties that continue to face those in the ordination process—choosing which school to attend, struggling with Greek and Hebrew, and missing family and friends—and found our interest drawn to some of the controversial issues of the day. Many of these papers were preserved—flattened and fasteners including straight pins and and bent wire carefully removed, and filed, some were discarded having served their purpose.

Letters, are, of course, at the heart of the formation of our church. We can scarcely imagine what a church would look like without epistles. The circulation of the Pauline letters (and those of his contemporaries) allowed for the spread and unity of the early church, as well as allowing for theological debate. The dissemination and preservation of letters like Justin Martyr's Apology, Ignatius of Antioch's writings, and the account of the martyrdom of Polycarp° among many others have left us not only with a history but with a continuity and dialogue.

Today we typically assume, or at least desire our letters be private. Letters in the ancient world were frequently written with the presumption that the letters would be public. They were passed from person to person until they reached their destination, and would be passed around the community. We cherish the epistolary format of this essay you are reading now and our Letters section, and both are a way of maintaining a civil dialogue and continuing the tradition of public, open letters.†

In a fast paced world of constant communication—instant messaging, Snapchat, Facebook comments, Skype, Twitter, and even the phone—we had come to wonder if the letter was a lost art form. Thank you for assuring us that that is not true. Do you value letters as much as we do? What have you discovered through letters? Let us know.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

18 January 2015

*Though you did not hesitate to make your opinions on overhead projectors known.
° Not an evolution of Magikarp
† While there are many online fora for spewing one's opinion upon others, we've found they don't inspire the civility and well-reasoned positions put forth in submitted or sent letters. As a general rule, after reading an article, we never read the comments (except for when we do).

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