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Hallo again to all.

We find summers (with apologies to readers in the antipodes where this schedule is not the case) a fascinating time in parish life. The fall into spring always seems a full time—whether of expectation in Advent, penitential preparation in Lent, or the joy of Easter and Eastertide. Then there is the summer—ordinary time, literally counting time from Pentecost.

On a direly hot Sunday morning, seeing 'the nth Sunday after Pentecost' almost can feel like a perverse joke. These are also 'low' days in the life of a parish. The liturgy is often more sparse. Especially in buildings where there is little in the way of air conditioning, acolytes and clergy are as dressed down as the rubrics will permit. It is necessary, of course. Passing out on the altar because of being overly bundled is less heroism and more stupidity. Jesus, after all, knew that the crowds following him needed their physical needs looked after, otherwise the miracle of the loaves and fishes would be especially pointless.

Font at Canterbury Cathedral (Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Choirs are off, rectors are on sabbatical and vacations, and everyone is traveling or recovering from travel, or so it seems. Yet the world does not stop. The events of this past week in the US sent reverberations globally. Clergy grappled with the lectionary and applying it to the concerns and fears of their congregations, as our letter last week alluded. (This week in those provinces that follow the Revised Common Lectionary, it was even more providentially on point, focusing on the reunion of Joseph and his brothers in the Hebrew scriptures.)

In the midst of such a lull, we found ourselves in the center of the life of the church, at the joyous baptism of a friend's child along with one of his peers—one who happened to be black and the other white. In a church that grew increasingly full as extended family on both sides poured in, many to an unfamiliar parish, some to their home parish, summer's sleepy haze was breached. The pews were as full as a Sunday in the fall, if not quite a festal day like Easter. The rector found herself with a large audience as she expounded the Gospel.

We do not recount this as a 'kumbaya' moment. It was certainly lovely to see all shades of skin hue together in one building while the opening hymn reminded us: 'In Christ, there is no east nor west, in Him no north or south.' Nothing of that was wrong or misplaced, thoughthere can be no easy unity that glosses over ideologies that promote bigotry and hatred. Instead what struck us was the Holy Spirit moving to bring a community together through the 'unusual usual.' A baptism is wholly normal, but not always at the height of the summer season. It gave this particular parish, in this place, a break from the routine.

Similarly, it is usual for us to gather in the modern world to affirm our commitment to inclusion, to restate our common humanity, and to build community. However, the inruption of hate has made it the usual somehow outré. We suspect boredom is from time to time salutary as an opportunity to be surprised, though we do not include violence among those cases. These situations gives us a chance to evaluate what is important with fresh eyes.

So in your communities as the summer wanes and announcements include mentions of things like rally Sundays, blessings of backpacks, and the resumption of 'normal' life, we hope you find some pleasant surprises, even as we all grapple with the difficulties of the world. We also ask: what breaks in the routine times at your parish have you found particularly moving, whether during summer, winter, or in between? Write us a letter.

See you next week.


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20 August 2017

A thin blue line
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