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©1998 The Society of Archbishop Justus, Ltd
Hallo again to all. Cynthia has been tending to the form and typography of Anglicans Online this week (and also to most of its content), so I've taken time out from the News Centre to write the weekly letter while she works on the rest of it.
If you live in a cave, or if you live outside England, then you may not have heard that the Lord Chancellor's office has issued its report on the matter of the dismissal of the Westminster Abbey organist, Dr. Neary, by its dean, Dr. Carr. To quote from the text of the official decision, "Lord Jauncey has humbly reported to Her Majesty his determination that the Dean and Chapter were justified in summarily dismissing Dr and Mrs Neary."
I am fascinated by this decision and its meaning. I am also thrilled by the wisdom of it. The full text of the decision is somewhat hard to come by just now, and Anglicans Online have been told that the official policy is that the full text of the decision is not to be placed on the Internet. I don't think that the desire for privacy on the part of the Lord Chancellor's office and (presumably) the Abbey itself stands a chance of holding out against the bright light of the Internet. Expect an online copy within a week; when it surfaces, AO will tell you about it and (should copyright permit) add it to our archives.
If Will Shakespeare were alive today, he would probably be working on a play called The Abbey Organist, which would be a tragedy if it were written about the event itself and a comedy if about the news coverage of it.
Westminster Abbey is a magical place. Canterbury Cathedral notwithstanding, it has served as the focal point of the world's perception of Anglicanism for eight hundred years. We suspect that there are two billion people who can tell you what and where Westminster Abbey is, and we suspect that there are a few thousand who can name anyone besides Dr. Neary who has ever been its organist, and perhaps a few hundred who can name anyone besides Dr. Carr who has ever been its dean. But the institution, and the faith that it stands for, is one of the great icons of our time, right up there with St Peter's, the Dome of the Rock and the Wailing Wall.
This judgment handed down against Dr. Neary seems to me to be in the best interests of that icon and its future even if it is not necessarily in the best interests of any particular individual. The press in the UK seems to be having a hard time finding anything to like about Dr. Carr, the dean, and anything not to like about Dr. Neary, the former organist. This event has played out as a just and wise decision to uphold an unpleasant act by a man unloved by the press for performing it, at the expense of someone who is popularly recognized as a great church musician. As I said before: Shakespeare would have loved it. You can read about it in our News Centre.
On to new topics. Last week's unveiling of the Church of England's new web site focused rightfully on its content. This week we would like to point out that the domain name used by the Church of England, CofE.anglican.org, is part of the anglican.org domain that the Society of Archbishop Justus (the organisation that sponsors Anglicans Online) has worked hard for so many years to promulgate. The Church of England's press release says that the domain was established by SoAJ. That is not quite true, and the difference is important to us; the full explanation is on SoAJ's home page. We at SoAJ are one level removed from ownership of the domain in so as to prevent it from suffering the same fate as Albert Einstein's brain.
We have quite a number of new parish web pages listed this week, in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Wichita, Hong Kong, and many many places in Ireland. The Diocese of Truro has a new home page, as does the Diocese of Western New York.
There is a major new update to the Book of Common Prayer site; it has three important new editions of 16th-century prayer books. This web site is a labour of love by Chad Wohler, and you really should bookmark it if you haven't already.
The juxtaposition of two of this week's news items -- Westminster Abbey and CofE.anglican.org -- is intriguing to me. All of us who worked on the creation of the anglican.org domain and the structure behind it are in awe of the church administrators and bishops of a thousand years ago who created parishes, dioceses, churches, and church buildings that are still standing in this cyber age. There is no chance at all that one of today's computers will still be in use a thousand years from now; even ten is unlikely. But if cyberspace is to help spread the good news of Jesus Christ, it must somehow be permanent even if its individual components are not. Anyone who has been around computers for any length of time knows that permanence is in software and not hardware. Those of us who worked to create and evangelize anglican.org all have dreams that the anglican.org domain name and the cyber social structures behind it will be as long-lived, and as unifying to our church, as is Westminster Abbey.
See you next week.
13 December 1998