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Hallo again to all.

Recently we were on an airplane, flying to a distant continent to visit family and meet a new family member, 4 months old. We usually try not to start conversations with seatmates, but somehow it happened. The man in the adjacent seat was taking this trip for several reasons, but one was to shop for ribbons for his manual typewriter. He said he had a brand of typewriter for which cloth ribbons were no longer made, and he had consistently had bad experiences buying them online. We listened and filed that thought away, recalling that when we donated our own Olivetti portable electric typewriter to a charity in 1998, the young woman processing donations did not know what it was, and took a photo of it to show her friends. We hadn't realized until then that a goodly number of people, mostly writers, still prefer typewriters to word processors. We understand the notion of collecting manual typewriters, but preferring to use them for daily work was until then outside our recent experience.

We got to thinking about preference for old things. As Anglicans, we understand and often subscribe to a preference for old ways, but old things are less obvious. We all own and read actual books, and are often guilty of using fountain pens, writing paper, envelopes and stamps. We shan't further numerate the throwback items we own and treasure. Is it an affectation, a hobby, or are many of the old things genuinely better? It's hard to say.

A church consumed by a California wildfifreThis week notes the first anniversary of one of the large California wildfires that destroyed cities, homes, vineyards, and roads, and the first anniversary of killer floods in Laos caused by the collapse of a hydroelectric dam. The news of late has numerous reports and opinion pieces about the fate of Notre Dame de Paris. The Los Angeles Times published this long and carefully-researched piece about the grim fate and future of California's oceanfront communities.

Sometimes the world will change whether you want it to or not. It is not always possible to cling to the past, however pleasant the thought might be. And sometimes the new is by some metrics superior to the old—think oil-burning liturgical candles—that it is easy to overcome the distaste for newfangled things. We're quite confident that for at least a century after flint-and-steel fire-starting technology became widespread, there were many who disdained it for 'rubbing two sticks together'.

It's the long-term consequences of the all-destroying fires that really got us thinking. Fire can't destroy what we do. God remains unchanged; our faith and belief and knowledge and liturgy are indestructible. But fire destroys the places that we go and the objects that we use. If we rebuild after the fire, what do we replicate and what do we create anew? If we rebuild our church building, possibly even in the same location, do we make it the same as what it was, or do we try something new? The Diocese of Christchurch in New Zealand has been tussling with this issue for years, since an earthquake destroyed its landmark cathedral; after 9 years there is still considerable discord in that city about how best to move forward. For that matter, there is after 60 years still considerable discord about how Coventry Cathedral was rebuilt many years after it was destroyed by enemy bombs in World War II.

If the parish office of a fire-destroyed church had a manual typewriter, should it be replaced with another, or with an electric typewriter, or with an iMac? There are a thousand questions like this. The correct answer is 'It doesn't matter' or 'God does not care'*. Keep moving forward. Stained plastic is every bit as reverential as stained glass if you base your evaluation on first principles. On our most recent visit to Ely Cathedral we discovered that there were no toilets available to the public† anywhere on cathedral grounds. Sometimes being stuck in the past can be hurtful.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

28 July 2019

*We have it on good authority that one thing God does care about in this case is that if vestments are lost in the fire, they must not be replaced with cassock-albs.

†There were buildings marked 'Toilets' that looked to have been built when James Woodford was Bishop of Ely, but they were welded shut.

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