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Hallo again to all.

Regimental chapelWe have puzzled in conversation with friends of late about the placement of national flags in church sanctuaries. In a religion where

In Christ there is no east or west,
In him no south or north,
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth

what does it mean to have a nation-state's banner cheek by jowl with a Christian altar, as is often the case especially in North America?

We have teased out a number of threads of thought on this wise:

Flags are sacred symbols of belonging, loyalty, devotion, sacrifice, legitimate pride. Their presence in churches is an indication of the blessing of every people under heaven—a signal of our diversity under heaven.

Flags are a divisive notation in the aftermath of Babel—showing the ongoing separation after Pentecost of persons by language, leaders, borders, place.

Flags can have an important place—as they have in North America particularly since the end of the Second World War—in reminding veterans of combat that they are at Home, in a place that is safe, and for which they have risked their lives in service.

Flags can be as meaningful in a parish hall as they are next to an altar, on the Gospel or Epistle side.

The discussion is fraught for many, but important for this very reason. Who are the people of God as we gather at the altar rail, week by week, to receive the Body and Blood of a Lord who abolishes human divisions? Who are we when our vision of the cross is allied with the sight of a banner whose associations may be honour, freedom, oppression, gentleness, confusion, democracy, disappointment, patriotism, alienation, and simple non-connexion? We tend to err on the side of hoping for church arrangements in which the worshiper's view of the cross is unimpeded by any obstacle at all, whether political or architectural.

The Anglican roots of flags in church come from the tradition of a regimental chapel—a place where soldiers assemble under under their colours to pray for safety, to wed, to mourn their dead, and to lift camaraderie up to God for blessing and strength. This translates poorly to the parish church where persons of every nation and tongue gather betimes to listen to God's word and to participate in the sacraments. Our countries right or wrong, we would sooner see more crosses and fewer flags when we come with joy to meet our Lord.

See you next week.

Our Signatures

Richard Mammana


All of us at Anglicans Online

24 September 2017

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