Two weeks ago I was honored to accompany one of the ushers at the Washington Cathedral for the Evensong and reception recognizing volunteers at the Cathedral. Don Matthews was honored for fifty-five years of service. It is an amazing accomplishment. Don continues his ministry at St. Peters, Lewes, the village by the bay and the big waters. He is among the faithful ministers of the altar, historian, usher and a caretaker in the house of the Lord. His ministry is among the "things Anglican" that remind us that service in the Lord's house is high among what makes for our perfect freedom.
While there I took pictures of several things more or less pertinent to this blog and perhaps of interest to readers of Preludium:
The cathedra, with its inscriptions carved in the Glastonbury stone chair, an adaptation of the Chicago- Lambeth Quadrilateral: "Holy Scripture and Apostolic Creed + Holy Sacrament + and Apostolic Order." The reference to "Apostolic Creed" and "Apostolic Order" accent further then does the Lambeth Quadrilateral the claims to authority of both creed and order. The Chicago version of the Quadrilateral refers only to the Nicene Creed. The Lambeth version refers to "The Apostles' Creed as the Baptismal Symbol." Both versions refer not to "Apostolic order," but to "the historic Episcopate." Inscribed into the cathedra, perhaps a stronger claim to Apostolic power was in order. It looks like a very uncomfortable seat.
Things Anglican include odd ways of remembering: The stone for the cathedra comes from Glastonbury Abbey. Gladstonbury is a sometimes mystic source of connection between Anglicanism and the Cup used at the Last Supper.
In front of the cathedra, inlaid in the stone floor is a version of the compass rose symbol of the Anglican Communion. So behind the bishop is a paraphrase of the Quadrilateral. In front is the symbol of the Communion, whose words are "The Truth Shall Make You Free."
Truth, it turns out, is not a matter that keeps us at rest, but rather motivates us to action, to places where there are no seats, comfortable or otherwise. Anglicans know that. There was an interesting meditation on the Compass Rose over at Episcopal Cafe. Read it HERE.
And then, while off to find the men's room down stairs, I saw again, carved into the stone on the stairwell, GITMO. I had seen it before but had always assumed that it denotes some stonemason, or was the stonemason's idea of some sort of masonic graffiti.
But no, it was the abbreviation that most of us never heard of before the United States government authorized extreme forms of interrogation at Guantanamo that led to the accusation that the US condones torture. It is the same abbreviation GITMO, used by the military and others in reference to Guantanamo. Dean Sayer who died recently had that stone inscribed in 1964 in honor of that unusual community. Over the years you can see the marks of people's hands who have touched the stone.
Given what has transpired there, perhaps now there ought to be a rack of votive candles that can be lit by pilgrims in penance for the national shame of having allowed this sort of interrogation to happen. Perhaps this can be a bit towards the reconciliation that needs to come.
Sometimes, it appears, we remember places and things for one reason, and then in our fallen state we find they are reminders of other more painful matters.
At Executive Council, meeting this last week in Helena, Montana, a resolution was passed concerning possible work on reconciliation with people and organizations in the Common Cause Partnership. The resolution reads as follows:
"Resolved, the Executive Council, on behalf of The Episcopal Church, expresses the heartfelt desire to seek the reconciliation we are promised in Christ our Savior, and the unity of disciples for which he prayed, through conversation with the members of the Common Cause Partnership either individually or collectively and without precondition on our part; and
Resolved, the Presiding Officers are requested to appoint a Task Force on Reconciliation for this purpose; and
Resolved, the Task Force on Reconciliation is encouraged to seek a person acceptable to all parties to facilitate such conversations in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council."
Episcopal News Service and The Living Church have commented on this resolution as have bloggers. Many of the bloggers wonder if this is all just show. Some wonder if such talks will lead to a diminution of commitment to the full participation of gay and lesbian members in the Church. Well, if it really is about reconciliation we ought none of us have any fear. If it is not, it will become dust.
Reconciliation is always possible, and in the very very long run the surety that gives us hope. Anglicans live always in such hope: The stones shout out for it, even those we sit on; the compass is always set on a path towards the vision of it; the memories of our failings fade in its light. Reconciliation stands at the far side of repentance and just actions both. In the end we are reconciled by the blood of the Lamb. Finding reconciliation is a little like seeking the Holy Grail - perhaps only a legend, but perhaps a seeking for the healing of the nations as well.