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Hallo again to all.

Flotsam and jetsam. We had cause to think of those words today as we found ourselves rummaging through the parish closet for a package we were retrieving, and then installing, so that our parish would have better wireless connectivity. Not the usual image we think of with a church. No 'holy hardware' here—no patens, no thuribles, no copes, nor yet maniples—just some bits of sleek, modern utility. Of course, they join an assortment of repeaters, routers, and other accoutrement. Money is tight, so why throw out that which works, after all?

This work did cause us to think, however, about the many ways the Christian tradition—and also Anglican tradition in particular—is a bit like our motley crew of routers, repeaters, and WiFi fabric. Or for that matter, a bit like the assorted collection of dishware that accretes in any parish kitchen from casseroles long forgotten. (Or not so forgotten. Anglicans and our brethren from many other traditions have never failed to produce memorable dishesFlotsam collected on beaches on Tern Island in French Frigate Shoals

Whatever liturgy your parish employs, there is a very good chance that you will start off with something resembling Thomas Cranmer's collect for purity. Indeed, barring the chances and changes of modernizing language, it may be almost word for word identical:

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secretes are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name: through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Of course, Cranmer was himself riffing on the Latin Sarum rite in his choice of prayer (Deus cui omne cor patet…) and thus repurposing a bit from another tradition. Our Psalms, translated from Hebrew, bear Latin titles drawn from their first phrase, and we say kyrie eleison borrowing from earlier Greek liturgies. Add to these books of common worship or new prayer books adopted in the 20th century, and the liturgy can be a whorl of ancient, medieval and modern all at once.

Flotsam and jetsam are not quite the right words though. Both refer to things lost or cast off from a ship, whereas these bits and pieces are woven quite tightly into our common life. Indeed, they affirm it in a powerful way. Sometimes there is a chance for leveling and resetting—a prayer book revision, a new lectionary. Yet, those merely draw the bits and pieces of our shared life into a new arrangement.

This is a right and good and joyful occurrence, because it tells us that our tradition is a living thing. Like a book still in active use, it is dogeared, annotated, and still not now nor ever a perfect revision. As we contemplate this, we wonder what bits of liturgy fashioned to meet our own needs and circumstances will become the familiar, comfortable phrases of a future generation? Did the person who composed the sursum corda realize that it would one day be a common touchstone in the liturgy of all of the western tradition? Probably not. Did Cranmer realize that his translation of the collect for purity would, largely unchanged, spread with the English church across the globe? Almost certainly not.

So, as we consider the parts and pieces the make up our liturgy, we hope that it endows life in our parish—with all of its flotsam and jetsam of every sort—with a dignity grounded in the Church as a living, breathing entity.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

11 August 2019

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