Kipling, great poet of Empire, asked "What do they know of England, who only England know?" Now my brief on being given a spot on this blog was to give an English slant, particularly for American readers, to news of the Church. This last week, though, I have spent in Texas, and I've written about it on my Ancient Richborough musings for the sake of my fellow-countrymen. It could be, though, that a Limey has spotted one or two things about the great old U.S. of A … so, very daring, here I go. Be ready to put me right.
The end of the Trail
First, it is very big. Crossing the Atlantic in flying home from Dallas/Fort Worth to London last night, we were over land for the first half of the journey — not just across the centre of the United States as far as the Great Lakes, but then the long haul across Canada to the far reaches of Newfoundland. And although Europeans like to think they are less Provincial than many Americans, when I asked how many in a Texas audience were native born Texans, fewer than half put up their hands. If you have lived in, say, both Seattle and New Orleans, you have experienced differences as wide culturally and geographically as if you had resided in Spain and Sweden. In England we feel we care about our history; but America seems much better at celebrating its history, even if it is shorter than ours (at least so far as those with European ancestors are concerned) hence those wonderful bronze cattle!
It may be because the USA does not have a pub culture — though ours is fast disappearing — but the Church is even more of a community and social hub than it is in Britain. Perhaps it is the isolation created by great distances, and the refusal of Americans to walk anywhere, that Church fulfils such an important role — and that is true in every denomination, not just the Catholic Church or among Episcopalians. You might not call it a bun-fight, but Americans do their communal meals very seriously indeed.
It was an Anglican Use Parish I was visiting, and many in the States will not have encountered one, since they are few and far between. They gave me, though, an insight into what the Ordinariate might become in England.
St Charles, Austro-Hungarian Emperor
It will take time — but some of those Pastoral Provision parishes have been hugely successful in bringing Anglican Patrimony into the Catholic Church in America (and in the case of St Mary the Virgin Arlington, creating a shrine to the last canonised Holy Roman Emperor!).
Secret Vatican Manuscripts
We paid a visit to the Meadows Museum, set up by a family foundation in the middle of a vast Methodist University Campus. Its great strength is in Spanish art (not something English Methodists are known for) and currently it is displaying illuminated manuscripts – most of which were 'liberated' or threatened with liberation by Napoleon. It was a reminder to me that America is full of wonderful museums, galleries, orchestras, all funded by private benefactors. When are some of our fat-cat bankers going to follow that example of munificence? And when is any Government going to encourage them to do so with tax-breaks? Altogether, this was a week full of great hospitality and generosity — thank you, Fr Allan, and all your folk. Please, everyone, pray for the early erection of an Ordinariate for America.
[P.S. On my return home I found I have been cleared by the Government's Criminal Records Bureau through their Enhanced Disclosure Procedure -- and in the space for "Name of Employer" they have put OUR LADY OF WALSINGHAM. Is this a first?]
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