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An old poundHallo again to all.

Have you been to a pounding?

The word lives still in Anglican parish culture mostly along the Atlantic seaboard, and especially in places like Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas and their neighbours. It refers to the practice of welcoming a new priest into a congregation, and one gets 'pounded' when new parishioners bring a pound of something for the rectory pantry:

a pound of flour

a pound of nails

a pound of molasses or wax

a pound of linen

a pound of hemp

a pound of salt pork

a pound of paper

a pound of wrought iron

a pound of salve

a pound of raw honey

a pound of bacon

a pound of leather

Every pound is part of the pounding, and the pounding is meant to enable the new priest and family to have the necessities of daily life. Not money, but maybe including money in the earlier customs of the practice. The welcome of a person into local leadership involves a curious intimacy about the workings of one's kitchen or bedroom or closets. It says that the worshippers are quite as committed to physical sustenance and the provisions of clothing and shelter as they are to their own demands for consistent preaching or moral direction and the regular ministrations of the services in our Prayer Book.

Pounding is a custom much now in abeyance but also much enjoyed by the congregations and ministers who still practice it with lovely eagerness from time to time. (We have heard of a new priest being given a pound of pennies as well—the financial significance being very much outweighed by the sincere one.) It speaks to the mutualities of gentleness and provision that ought to obtain among all Christians in whatever hierarchical orderings they keep.

We wonder if there might be a way to give every ordinand a pounding so that the immensity of financial indebtedness might be allayed somewhat by some giftcards from a sponsoring congregation, the provision of a month's rent, the offering of a gift certificate for a stole at ordination, a cheque for a pyx to visit the sick in hospital, any caring effort to assuage the debts with which so many of our deacons and priests are now forced to begin their ordained work. Pounding is on the outs even in the places where it was once an easy turn of nature, and it ought to be on the ins. It ought to be extended as far as it may be to free men and women for the work they are called to do. Work without anxiety, care, burden, uncertainty about whence dinner and clothes will come, and how they will heat their homes. Winter is upon us, and we care for our clergy through good and thorough contracts, but not more regularly now through their tummies and their spouses and their babies' needs. We can do better by looking back and catching up.

See you next week.

Our Signatures

Richard Mammana


All of us at Anglicans Online

14 October 2018

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