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Liturgy in Taonga

Imogen de la Bere wrote in the magazine Anglican Taonga:

The other night I saw a post on Facebook from Bosco Peters. His website www.liturgy.co.nz/blog was about to receive its millionth hit, and he wanted his friends to make it happen so that he would be awake to witness it.

There are two things about this which are extraordinary. One is the raw fact that a liturgy website hosted in New Zealand should be so successful – I mean, how niche can you get – New Zealand, liturgy? It’s like million hits for Ethiopia, ice cream. But then, if Ethiopian ice cream were as good and as useful as Bosco’s liturgical resources, then maybe we would all be licking our Coptic cones.

The other thing that struck me was the way time and space are crunched and distorted in our internet-connected world. Bosco said he wanted to be awake when the millionth visitor struck. A world, time zones away, I wondered if I should go in, all guns blazing, UK time. What time was it in New Zealand? How long would he stay awake to see this magnificent milestone? Needless to say, the millionth hit came from far away: Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Almost Coptic in its obscurity. Unless you live in Fort Lauderdale.

The next morning a musical friend, who floats between London and Hong Kong, posted a link to a gorgeous Bach cantata for Low Sunday. It was Low Sunday. My sister, who currently lives in Hong Kong, and I both clicked on this link and listened to the same piece of music, half a world away from each other, and another half world away from where we both grew up, loving Bach and liturgy, in New Zealand.

All of this chimed with me very powerfully, because I have just made some fascinating discoveries about the villages in which we all live, no matter how large and complex our urban context.

I recently wrote and directed my first play, subject matter: faith. ( you can read all about it in exhaustive detail on http://delabere.typepad.com/ ) The central character is a charismatic priest in danger of losing his faith (if you think you recognise anyone, I will deny it). The context of the play is a theatre group, of which the priest is the lead actor. It was written for specific actors and for a specific place – an eccentric space in Sumpter Yard, St Albans nestling up by the Cathedral, where we have been kindly hosted for a while. So the text is full of in-jokes: about Anglicanism, actors, St Albans and its pubs, ruins and city walls. Unsurprisingly not everyone got all the jokes. But what floored me was how ignorant my actors were of all aspects of religion. Working on the text was like trying to explain to Ethiopians the finer points of ice cream.

From this I learnt that while Bosco’s liturgical village has grown miraculously into a city, the once great Anglican metropolis has shrunk, in the heart of Anglicanism, to a village.

But what I also learnt was that when you talk about universals, everyone understands you. Regardless of the in-jokes, local references, village cultures, everyone gets God.

Imogen de la Bere runs a blog at http://delabere.typepad.com/

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