(E)pistle: The Power of Pageantry

“When it comes to ceremony, we Anglicans do things right.” 

I was mindful of these words I once heard from a wise old rector as I watched both the pageantry surrounding the death of Queen Elizabeth and the service of solemn remembrance on the anniversary of 9/11 broadcast from the National Cathedral in Washington. 

It seems that even in our Republic, Americans turn in times of national mourning and jubilation to the services and ceremonies of the Church of England.  On those occasions when words fail, we naturally turn to ceremony. 

New ordinands will experience this hunger for ceremony in their local parishes.  They will be asked to preside at civic events, such as invocations at town council meetings, blessings of centennial galas, ribbon cuttings for new public buildings.  One rector I know is even the presider for the “blessing of the hounds” that marks the beginning of the annual fox hunting season! 

I would give that invitation a pass. 

If a terrible tragedy should strike the community, it is often the local Episcopal church that will have the resources for public mourning. Our tradition gives us the words for such occasions, words found in the Prayerbook, which often go back hundreds of years and provided comfort to our ancestors. Our tradition also gives us actions–those non-verbal expressions found in our liturgy that reflect our deepest feelings when words fail.  

Yes, those of us in the Anglican tradition do have a rich treasure, one which has the power to touch people in deeply powerful ways.  We gladly share this heritage with others, not only on solemn occasions, but on daily joyful ones as well, such as whenever the People of God gather to give thanks with bread and wine.  


Photo: Funeral of Matthew Shepard at Washington National Cathedral,  NPR.

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