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Hallo again to all.

Just as we sat down to write today, we received a text message from a friend—a rather new friend but a close friend, asking directly if she could please come to our house. With no thought of it, we told her to please do, and to drive safely.  Upon arrival she was greeted with a caring embrace and a hot cup of coffee.  It was not out of obligation that we greeted her but out of philia. Out of the affection we have for our friends. Unlike familial love, there is little sense of obligation, but rather a genuine desire to improve the situation of another about whom we care.

In his treatise, Spiritual Friendship, twelfth century English abbot and writer Aelred of Rievaulx writes of the fruits of friendship.

I do not presume myself to explain a thing of such importance; since nothing more holy is pursued in human experience, nothing more useful is sought, nothing found with more difficulty, nothing more sweet when it is experienced, nothing more fruitful when held. Indeed, it possesses the fruit of the present life which is now and the one that is to come. It cultivates all the virtues with its agreeableness, strikes down vices with its own virtue, tempers adversity, sets in order prosperity; thus it is scarcely possible among men to be happy without a friend. A person would be equal to a beast, who does not have someone to rejoice with him in good times, to sorrow with him in the bad, to whom he can air any troublesome thought his mind conceives, with whom he can share if anything more sublime or remarkable happens.

The philia we feel towards friends seems both close to and quite far from the 'bonds of affection' that hold together our Anglican Communion. While not neglecting the agape we hold towards each other 'loving one another as Christ has loved us,' we also feel joy in the achievements of those in Provinces other than our own, and sadness during their times of trouble or strife.  We come to their aid not out of a sense of Christian obligation, but rather a desire, or an affection to do so – that same sense of wanting to help our friends. Many are born into the Anglican Communion, but many have joined from outside, choosing not only the tenets of faith, reason, and tradition,* of common worship and a desire to be part of something bigger than the congregation, but also a genuine admiration of each other and a desire to be with each other and part of each other.

To put it simply, we like each other.  What a novel thought—80 million of us striving to be friends.

In 1874, led by Ms. Mary Elizabeth Townsend, several women and their bishop's chaplain met at Lambeth Palace. Their aim was to create a nonsectarian organization for working class women, especially those away from home, ages fourteen and over (though eventually as young as eight), supplying for every working girl of unblemished character a friend in a class above her own. The Girls' Friendly Society was formed, and began its work in 1875. The organization spread throughout the United Kingdom and is presently active in twenty countries, made of girls, their leaders, and 'sponsors' – older women, former GFS members who have since aged out of the organization.  In many provinces boys are now welcome to join, but each branch remains under the supervision of the bishop. The vision of the GFS has changed in the intervening years, with members now striving to 'bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.'

We found ourselves, recently, in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. This city has twice been in the news of late: the first for upcoming visit of Pope Francis§ and the second for the death of HitchBOT. HitchBOT was the Canadian hitchhiking robot, complete with GPS tracking and a camera, who in the last year, hitch hiked across Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands, before meeting its destruction in that city this summer, en route from Massachusetts to San Francisco, California, when it was found beheaded. Though a number of Philadelphia based groups offered to rebuild it, the creators declined.‡ It is interesting that a city named for friendship demonstrated such antipathy.  It does leave us wondering if the robotic nature of the bot contributed to the treatment or if a human would have been treated the same way.

This has been a frequently asked question of late, popping from the BBC to Slate. As robots can't feel, is it okay to mistreat them? Upon being asked if it is okay to 'kick a robot', Mr. Know-It-All of the magazine Wired answered thoughtfully:

So, what kind of robot kicker are you? Well, the fact that you'd even ask this question—that you're sensitive enough to find robot-kicking ethically dubious—assures me that you could kick a robot without that violence spilling over problematically into other dimensions of your life. But it also tells me that you wouldn't actually want to kick a robot. And neither would I.

What I'm saying here is, you're allowed to kick a robot. But don't.

We're grateful for our friends through good times and bad, and we are grateful for you, our loyal readers.

See you next week, and whatever you do, please don't kick the robot.


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All of us at Anglicans Online

30 August 2015

*Richard Hooker
†Galatians 6:2
§A bit of a response to last week’s letter, though near the heart of the event, the parish we attended assured us they will be having services as usual the Sunday during the visit.   
‡ The journey is not yet over, hitchBOT may be reborn.



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