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Hallo again to all.

London Bridge (no date)We spent last evening with a group of fellow parishioners celebrating the tentative turn of local seasons. More than one of us called the event idyllic: it had been a sunny day, and there was a cool breeze in the evening. We assembled in a barn by the edge of a coastal salt marsh, next to which four toddlers played in the lush, new-mown grass. We sang the Doxology, feasted on salads and grilled sausages, and talked about our parish community, our friendships, and the world. It was an oasis of peacefulness and decency in a news cycle dominated by Manchester, Portland, Baghdad, Kabul, covfefe, and the renegotiation of international standards.

Then came the news alerts. One by one, our phones lighted up with news of the London Bridge attack and we read with horror of a fresh act of bloodthirsty violence against innocent persons. We messaged friends in England to see if they were safe. Facebook rolled out its safe check-in, a standard feature now for international incidents that penetrate every space where we use social media. Next in sequence now come the claims for responsibility. The simultaneity of the announcement changed our gathering and somehow linked us more with one another, focusing our conversation and directing our hearts. And then we spoke of the senselessness, the frequency, the seeming ease of execution of these events, and our confusion about how they can be stopped. We imagine our conversation was repeated millions of times yesterday, and we have an unfortunate confidence that it will take place again.

Yet here we are on Whitsunday, when the Church bids us call with a joyful certainty upon the Comforter:

true peace unto us bring;
and through all perils lead us safe
beneath thy sacred wing.

In one sense, Pentecost provides the original counter-story for all of the acts of violence listed above. It is a moment when a community huddled in comfortless fear receives an instantaneous gift of mutual understanding: the intelligibility of one another's languages; along with the infusion of sevenfold fruits to guide them in their new life together: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Pentecost is called the Birthday of the Church, and it must also be a birthday of a new kind of theological understanding of human society. If the day comes with promises about being led into all truth by the Paraclete, we can have a hope that in the long span of history the primitive view of a community organised around the free pneumatic gifts will endure. Our hymnographers teach us to sing about this hope:

O guide our minds with thy blest light,
with love our hearts inflame;
and with thy strength, which ne'er decays,
confirm our mortal frame.


Heal our wounds; our strength renew;
on our dryness pour thy dew;
wash the stains of guilt away.
bend the stubborn heart and will;
melt the frozen, warm the chill;
guide the steps that go astray.
give them comfort when they die,
give them life with thee on high;
give them joys that never end.*

So—singing when speaking fails, praying when comprehension fails, following centuries of holy experience against the vagaries of organisational turbulence—we pray for the ongoing gift of the Holy Spirit in the entire human community. It is the rushing wind of an antidote to the ideologies that sow fear, destruction, division, cruelty, and every kind of malice. The songs must be the substance of our hope until they are fulfiled.

See you again next week.

Our Signatures

Richard Mammana

All of us at Anglicans Online

2 June 2017

*The lines are a mashup of ancient hymns appointed for today: Veni, Sancte Spiritus and Veni, Creator Spiritus.

A thin blue line
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