…Yes, Among Other Things
A little over a week, ago, Damian Thompson blogged for UK newspaper Telagraph about the royal wedding. I didn’t blog about it immediately because, well, other things came up. But it hasn’t left my mind since, as I’m more than a little invested in its subject matter.
The post, titled This is what the Church of England is for, is very complimentary towards Anglican ceremonies — and I suppose I should be grateful for that. But I can’t help but feel it’s a bit marginalizing. Here’s the bit that bothers me:
The theology of the C of E is a Catholic/Protestant compromise that can play havoc with certain sacramental services, such as Holy Communion: High and Low are miles apart. But, when it comes to state baptisms, weddings and funerals, Protestant austerity and Catholic flamboyance balance each other to perfection. It’s what the Church of England is for —
(I’m not sure what problems Mr. Thompson has in mind regarding the Eucharist, since Anglican sacramental theology is particularly robust, but don’t get me started on that.) My initial reaction to this was a knee-jerk protest: Christianity, yes Anglican Christianity, is so much more than that, I thought. I wanted to then do a post about how the episcopal faith is “for” being a light to the world, a beacon of hope in suffering, and a caretaker for believers — then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the current state of the Episcopal Church makes it impossible for me to make those claims with a straight face. So I stewed.
It was after talking with my good friend Joshua that I changed my mind, for the most part. It isn’t that Thompson is wrong, but rather I think that he misses the point as a matter of emphasis. The marriage rite is on page 423 of the Book of Common Prayer; there are a lot of prayers and rites that come before it. And the reason why the marriage ceremony is the way it is, is bound up in a lot of that prior theology. In deed, the way marriage is looked at in any given religious tradition, says a lot about that religion.
For Anglicans, much of what makes a day special is the context of its place in the calendar; even “ordinary” Sundays are counted from Pentecost. Marriages have great significance in context of the Christian view that sees the relationship between God and the Church as a type of spousal relationship — in other words, any given wedding is all the more meaningful in context of the Great Wedding at the End of the Age. And, given their place in the natural course of human life and the death-rebirth cycle, I can’t help but find it shockingly appropriate that the two great international news events of the past week were a wedding and a funeral.
So yes, Mr. Thompson, we do have great weddings. They are very much a part of what the Worldwide Anglican Communion is for, and we are preparing for one cosmically final one. Also, thank you for noticing our synthesis of High and Low; that’s very important. Our weddings owe a lot to that synthesis.
Our sacramentalism does, too. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.