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Hallo again to all.

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday, as we all were told in church. And it is Earth Day, interesting but not relevant to our thoughts today.

We suspect that Good Shepherd Sunday is more exciting in a church with a younger preacher, because an older preacher will have written many dozens of Good Shepherd Sunday sermons through the years and might feel embarrassed to recycle sermon material while being unable to think of much that is new. We saw no furtive use of mobile phones during today's Good Shepherd sermon at our parish.

After church, our mind free-associated from 'Good Shepherd' to 'Shepherd's Bush' (a residential district in London that is adjacent to the largest shopping centre in Europe). This got us to thinking about the recent death of Barbara Bush, wife of one US president and mother of another. And her funeral service, which was held at the Episcopal Church of St Martin in Houston, Texas. In terms of membership, St Martin is the largest Episcopal church in North America. But it is an Episcopal parish church in the Diocese of Texas; formally responsible to the Rt Revd C Andrew Doyle, Bishop of Texas, and not to any government.

We don't know anyone who received an invitation to attend that funeral, but it was televised worldwide and the crew handling the broadcast did a very good job.

Two agents of the US Secret Service stand watch over Barbara Bush's coffin during her funeral service at the Episcopal Church of St Martin in Houston, Texas
It was easy to watch the funeral service on television and imagine that we were there.

Barbara Bush's funeral was essentially a state funeral, even though she was not technically entitled to one. She was blessed and interred as a member of the Body of Christ, the same as any of us would be, but her funeral was attended by many important people in the world of USA government and politics including four former US presidents. As a result, there were elements of the liturgy that distressed members of the St Martin parish (almost none of whom were invited to attend). Military and political symbols and flags dominated church symbols and flags; for example, during the retiring processional there were national and state flags but no religious flags. These various actions will not shorten anyone's life span nor cause bodily injury, but they have become the focus of complaints, mostly by people who did not vote for either Bush president.

In a country with an established church, having a state funeral in an Anglican church is the norm, because in essence all churches are government buildings and British clergy are approximately government employees. (We know it isn't quite like that, but the details are both subtle and irrelevant). In the United States, where the closest thing to an established church is the Southern Baptist Convention, liturgically inclined people sometimes catch themselves wishing for at least one established church building so that events like this could be held there.*

That's not going to happen, but it does make us think and wonder about the long-term future of government funerals in England. There have been noises about disestablishment coming from London for generations, and it might even happen some day. After it happens, there will no longer be established churches or church buildings, which means that issues like this one ('where should we hold Barbara Bush's funeral?') will start to happen in the land of Westminster Abbey and Windsor Castle. The last state funeral held in the UK was for Winston Churchill in 1965. They are not common occurrences. Margaret Thatcher's funeral in 2013 was held at the Cathedral of St Paul in London, and was ceremonial but not official.

We very much hope that there is less class structure and fewer rules in the next world.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

22 April 2018

*Imagine an Anglican-style church building owned and operated by the US National Park Service. St Smokey Bear?

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