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Hallo again to all.

'Why do y'all accept and practice pagan practices in your church? Please don't lie to me and answer No....I just want to know WHY?'

While the majority of the letters we receive here at Anglicans Online are thoughtful, well composed, and interested in discourse, we do, at times, receive letters like that one (which we have tidied for grammar and clarity). Typically we just delete such letters. There was something about this letter, however, that stayed in the back of our mind. While we typically don't 'feed the trolls' we asked this writer what he meant specifically. He responded that 'the mere fact that you ask me what I mean by pagan is clear that you are blind and deaf and leading others astray'.

Last week we observed Candlemas. The day halfway between the shortest day of the year and the vernal equinox (in the northern hemisphere). We and about 45 others gathered in our parish on Monday night to celebrate the Presentation and bless the candles that would be used on the altar for the coming year. While in pre-Christian times a 'festival of lights' was celebrated at this same time, and many of us use Candlemas as the deadline to take down our Christmas trees, we find it a bit preposterous to believe that our whole tradition is a load of pagan hooey.

Many themes, are, of course, repeated throughout almost all traditions—celebrations of light and life, as well as spring, winter, and harvest festivals seem to permeate the human experience around the world. Perhaps there is something in the natural rhythm of the world. Recently, Br. Geoffry Tristam, SSJE, and Bishop Nick Knisley of Rhode Island in the United States, previously a physics lecturer, sat down to discuss theology and time. Though the discussion quickly moved over a variety of topics, we were struck by their comments on the relativity of time and the wholeness that many find in unplugging and rejoining the waking, sleeping, moving, and praying patterns that come along with the rhythms of the planet—an experience many guests find when visiting the monastery. As the bishop put it:

'They are experiencing an emotional reaction to something fundamental. When you change your time scale, it allows you to be more present to the Creator who made this Creation. You're living on the human scale—the time scale for which we were built. Otherwise we're living our lives at a frantic speed that doesn’t allow us to function as we are meant to. We're putting the wrong gasoline in our engine, the wrong weight of oil in the oil pan. It sort of works for a while but, you know, our parts are wearing down. The Brothers, on the other hand, have a rhythm that the great spiritual lights of humanity have discovered again and again. I think you’re living a rule of life that is baked into the nature of Creation.'

Perhaps then, rather than following pagan practices, we are instead tapping into something that God specifically made for us. Paul points out in a meeting of the Areopagus* that their worship wasn't fully off, and Augustine of Hippo looked to the Platonists in seeking incorporeal truth. The history of the Christian church is filled with looking to those who have done theology and philosophy before, to clarify our own thinking, and the spread of the Christian church was as often found in blending with local culture as it was in fighting it or trying to forcibly dominate it. Candles, for instance, have aroused passions for centuries but with different parties as the presumed offenders. Pagans, Roman Catholics, etc. In the 19th-century English laws made it a crime to put candles on the altar—though not for pagan reasons. We mention this to demonstrate the passion that this pagan/Christian/and almost everything else tool evokes.

Rather then, than  'being blind and deaf and leading others astray' as our troll suggests, we find that we are attempting to worship Christ in the way God made us in the first place, in a frenetic and challenging world, and perhaps, using historical and natural influences to aid us. What influences your worship or activity in the church? Write us a letter. And don't worry, we won't feed the trolls.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

8 February 2015

*Acts 17

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