Sunday, April 16, 2006

Ash Wednesday in Lui (1 March)

This day was Ash Wednesday. Yesterday as our group talked, it struck us that in the Episcopal Diocese of Lui, they don’t pay any attention to Ash Wednesday. We Episcopalians wanted to attend Ash Wednesday services, have ashes imposed, and hear those familiar words: “From dust thou art; to dust returnest.” But it is not observed in Lui – not even in the cathedral.

Others in our group helped me understand some of the liturgical differences between Missouri and Lui. In the American church – and in the West generally – we went through the Oxford movement in the early 20th century, in which the Episcopal Church reconnected with its “catholic” roots and rituals. But many provinces of the Anglican Communion are still based in the very early Anglican roots, which are decidedly Protestant – even evangelical – and anti-liturgical. Partly that’s because the missionaries who moved from the British Empire into the colonies (including Lui) were of this “Protestant” stripe.

When we worshipped in Lui, I was constantly surprised at the liturgical style. They were not merely “low-church” by U.S. Episcopal standards. They were more like Protestants or even Pentecostals. The “liturgy” (such as it was) was completely foreign to me. I did not realize there was such diversity within the churches of the Anglican Communion. And now I am less astonished at the fracture within the Anglican Communion, since the decisions the U.S. church made at GC 03.

It made me sad not to mark Ash Wednesday in Lui. If ever there was a time that I was mindful of the fact that “from dust thou art, and to dust returnest,” it was during those days in Lui. I was sad not to be able to mark that day liturgically in Lui.

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