Monday, April 24, 2017

Turnings -- a Series (I)

Spring has been slow to come to the Sierras this year. Interspersed with periods of cold and freezing, we have experienced the heaviest rainfall thus far in our recorded history. It is raining even more as I write. The official season will not end until September 30, so the new record being set will keep pushing higher until then.

The copious precipitation is keeping, and will keep, our meadows and fields greener longer than ever this year. Normally they start to turn brown in early to mid-May (which is the usual start of California's "dry" season). The wildflowers are running riot, and the birds and the bees have plenty to do before the weather warms up.

With spring this year came Easter, of course. And with Easter came some significant changes in your Curmudgeon's household.

I still link to this post on the masthead of this blog, because it describes a significant milestone for me: it marks the date I decided I could no longer be a member of ECUSA, due to the blasphemous marriage rites adopted by the House of Bishops in General Convention. Although I had been a member ever since my earliest years (I was baptized into our local parish as an infant, and started singing in the choir at the age of four), June 30, 2015 marks the date when I became a wanderer in search of a denomination. ECUSA itself was irretrievably corrupted, and the choices available within even an hour's driving time were severely limited.

I still cherish nothing but warm feelings for the parish that raised me, and as they remain fully orthodox, I have trespassed upon their generosity by continuing to attend Sunday communion there. But the dichotomy of being now a guest in what was once my home has caused the connection I felt since childhood to be lost. It used to be a coherent part of a larger body for me, but now appears (I speak only for myself) disembodied. Moreover, the parish is undergoing a transition to a new (and as yet unknown) rector, and what it will be like in another year's time is very much an open question (in which I have, for the first time, no role to play).

Meanwhile, my dear wife of forty-five years patiently suffered through this time of limbo with me, until finally she could drift untethered no longer. Following up on an interest that she had developed from our attending a conference of the American Chesterton Society, she began taking instruction last year as a candidate who would follow in the path of that great man (and his wife). At an Easter vigil ceremony on April 15 this year, she was formally received into our local Roman Catholic Church.

And so for the time being (just as the Chestertons were, because Frances was too Anglican to follow G.K. into Catholicism immediately), we are a denominationally divided household. Though we both may of course still attend services and sit and pray together, I cannot take communion any longer with my wife, as she can no longer take communion with me. (If there were an Anglican Ordinariate parish within driving distance, our joint decision might be far less difficult.)

This temporary state of affairs has spurred me to look into just why it must be so. Of course I know the historical reasons, but I know just as certainly that there will not be any denominations after the Second Coming. So if we as Christians will not look to them in the future, why exactly do we have need of them and their arbitrary boundaries now? Salvation is a matter of faith through God's grace -- even the Lutherans and the Roman Catholics have reached agreement on that much. The other things that divide us are things that the Second Coming will render irrelevant, such as the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, or the catechism, or the prayer book.

Blogging has fallen away precisely because of my preoccupation with these (for me) vital questions. With the five hundredth anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation this year, I have been spending my available time going back through the history of those momentous times, in an effort better to understand how we Christians all ended up where we are today.

Scholars appear to agree that Luther did not intend to start a new denomination, but his own temper and acerbity provoked his opponents to meeting his attacks with wounding parries of their own. Nevertheless, there was not just one Reformation between 1517 and 1648, but many, once Luther gained the princes' attention (with the help of the printing press), and once the momentum he built up then spread across national borders.

There was no one driving force behind these individual movements. Instead, it appears to be a case of many pressures having built up to the point that the customary boundaries of religion and society could not withstand the internal and external onslaughts from so many directions at once.

Likewise, as we today appear to be heading into the end times, there are many currents that threaten, just as they did in the 16th century, to overwhelm and engulf what traditional religious outposts remain to provide society's glue. The secular forces of today are allied as they have never been before by their common contempt for the principles of orthodox Christianity -- by which I mean the faith once handed down to us by the saints. For that matter, the defenders of those principles appear as few and far between.

It is too early in my explorations for me to say whether I will eventually be able to bid Anglicanism goodbye, since its spirit still runs strong in my veins -- no matter how much the weak-willed Welbys of the world appear bent on diluting it. But as I foreshadowed in many posts here long ago, the tocsin is now sounding the passing of the Church of England; its days as a single denomination are numbered. And once the mother salt loses its saltiness, of what use is it to the rest of us Anglicans?

Although I have long considered myself in the tradition of Anglo-Catholics, it is the patrimony of Cranmer, Hooker and Jewel -- and their identification with the Catholic traditions that came before -- that I cherish more than any label of the service that I attend. I respect those worthies' attempts to stay Catholic (i.e., retain the saltiness of their mother church) within the bounds that the English monarchy's own selfish desires set for them. And Sir Thomas More remains one of my great heroes precisely because he refused to yield up to the demands of his monarch his faithfulness to his church.

Luther, though, is a different story. For one thing, unlike the other heroes I have been mentioning, he was inseparable from his own ego, even while he no doubt believed in his heart he was unable to do (or stand) other than as he did. But his sheer inability to see other points of view made him into a one-note record: he either drowned you out, or drove you away, and he cared not which, just so long as you ceased offering opposition to his views. There was nothing to admire in his scorn for Erasmus, who tried so hard to keep Luther from burning all the bridges that originally tied him to Catholicism. After their final and very public rupture in 1526, the rest is history. And western Christianity has never recovered, but become only more and more splintered.

So as I continue with my readings and researches, I hope to put before you from time to time some preliminary results, as well as pointers toward future and further inquiries, along my path to a new discernment. I invite you, as always, to share your civil comments and insights as you are moved to do so by what appears here. And I thank you for your patience and indulgence as this old dog tries to find a place where he may lay his head. Please keep us in your prayers -- may God bless you all.








23 comments:

  1. I can't imagine the pain your family has suffered. When I realized I could no longer be complicit, I had at least 6 non-TEC Anglican churches within 30 minutes or so. A benefit in living in the Bible Belt. I said goodby to the priest at my final Episcopal church, and began at my new one without missing a beat. The greatest shock was the lack of any sort of "8 o'clock" communion service. :) Prayers for you both in the period of enforced "separation."

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    1. Thank you, Tregonsee, for your prayers, and for your many valued contributions to this site over the years. Replacing our 8 o'clock communion service may prove to be the hardest step, but we shall see.

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  2. Your pain is shared with others. As I posted a while back in "A Wandering Pewster I" your friend UGP is in transition as well. Fortunately for UGP, there are a few healthy Anglican options being planted within commuting range.

    "A wandering pewster I —
    A thing of lowly aspirations,
    For hymns, anthems, and sermons,
    Some loved and some endured...

    But the happiest hour a pewster sees
    Is when he's found
    Amongst a faithful crowd,
    With his Bible in his hands, yeo ho!
    And his knees firmly on the ground!

    (Chorus:)
    Then man the pews — off we go,
    As the thurifer swings us round,
    With a yeo heave ho,
    And a boat boy below,
    Hurrah for the Tiber bound!
    With a yeo heave ho,
    And a boat boy below,
    Hurrah for the Tiber bound!

    Yeo-ho, heave ho,
    Yeo-ho, heave ho,
    Heave ho, heave ho, yeo-ho!

    (Pewster)
    A wandering pewster I —
    A thing of lowly aspirations,
    For hymns, anthems, and sermons,
    Some loved and some endured.

    (Chorus:)
    Some loved and some endured
    A teary eyed goodbye,
    Goodbye! Goodby!"

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    1. Wallace Hartley, thank you for sharing your G&S adaptation here -- I have no trouble conjuring up the music to your words, as I grew up with the D'Oyly Carte versions, and they are still vivid in memory. Please convey my blessings to our mutual friend as he likewise undergoes a late-life transition in an effort to discern the things that are truly important.

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  3. This business of being moroned (to use an old Mad Magazine phrase) by the church of your birth and upbringing is a painful business. The most popular piece on my site, until recently at least, was a piece on Anglican to Catholic (and e converso) conversion. Some Anglican blogs won't allow the subject to be discussed, I have been the beneficiary of that prohibition.

    People talk about being ecumenical but the real problem is that, once you take the step, no matter how you take the step, you become an ecclesiastical orphan. The church you're in doesn't "feel right" even if its belief structure is OK and the people are good Christian people. To steal a phrase from the Canadian John Fraser, it's an ache that just won't go away.

    You are in my prayers, it is never an easy decision. Some think that there are "pat" answers to it, but there aren't.

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    1. Thank you so much for your insights into this process, Don. I have always enjoyed reading and linking to your blog, and look forward to continuing our contact as our journey plays out.

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  4. The hardships we've faced included our immaturity, finances, in-laws (both sides), and isolation (our beloved church actively promoting evil.)

    I mentioned previously on this blog that my husband and I read the Bible daily, in the mornings (before work) and evenings (at bedtime). We'd been reading 1 Timothy and the first passage (below) didn't become as clear to us until we got to reading through 2 Timothy. We read the second passage yesterday morning (just before leaving for the funeral of a good friend of ours, with whom we shared our Christmas Eve 2016 at a very beautiful, large and traditional, but blaspheming Episcopal Church.)


    ********************************

    Excerpts are sourced from The Holy Bible-The New Testament's books 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy:


    1 Timothy 1:18-20

    18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.


    2 Timothy 2:14-19


    14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

    ********************************

    Our family attends a roughly 500-member Anglican church in the "Bible Belt". We do not think that many families in our church read the Bible together. For me, the above passages speak volumes and they speak through centuries about how we've come to this place in our respective churches today. We had discussed church tradition with a priest and with a deacon one Sunday. I said that, while I personally like the style of reverent worship in our church tradition, Jesus died because he said we follow the traditions of men rather than the wisdom of God.

    Perhaps, the Bible's warnings are embodied in something that happened in my home recently. Our daughter (age 20 yrs) was trying to find the origin of the word Easter; and as far as she could find - it is derived from a pagan term. So, she suggested that it might be best to say "Happy Resurrection" to others on Easter rather than "Happy Easter". BTW: if you know something more about the term, please do share it. Out of curiosity, I sought to find a religious connection with it but I failed. Regardless, I think it might well be of no value to worry about it because the important thing is that Jesus rose from the dead to save His Lost Sheep in this world! It is for His Resurrection that we must share His Holy Scriptures with others. Perhaps then, we may give up secular terms and speak the words that the Holy Spirit puts on our hearts and lips.

    We will pray for you and your wife, to discern and do God's will.

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    1. You and your family are always welcome here, MI -- thank you for your manifold support and contributions to the dialogue. May the grace and peace of Christ bless you and your family always.

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  5. My husband and I (along with our children) moved from Presbyterian to Lutheran to Catholic over the span of several years. At the time, it was very painful leaving the denomination I grew up in. Now, I look back with different eyes. I learned that a 2,000 year old church knows more than I do. My pride took a fall, which was just what I needed. I am extraordinarily grateful for my journey. Everyone's journey is different. I wish you well on yours. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5

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    1. How nice of you to come here to read and comment, Leigh. We look forward to sharing with you our experiences of the journey that you and your family have made already, and we pray that we will gain as well the humility and wisdom that you evince so clearly. Thank you so much for your support.

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  6. For what it's worth, I was a Presbyterian when I married my Catholic wife, and, on the whole, it was never a problem. It's when kids come along that you kind of have to decide, and by that time I was Catholic, and my guess is that your kids are now out on their own, so, to begin with, I'd say, no hurry. Better for husband and wife to be in accord, but not good to change just for that reason.

    I became a Catholic because, on those things where Presbyterians and Catholics disagreed, I found I agreed with the Catholics. That didn't change the fact that I was baptized by Presbyterians, that my faith and character were formed in the Presbyterian Church (with an obvious boost from devout Presbyterian parents), and that probably 95% of what I now believe as a Catholic I came to believe as a Presbyterian. So I guess the point is I don't see the change so much as a conversion, and I have no reason to keep some chip on my shoulder about Presbyterians.

    (My third year in law school I audited a course in John Calvin at the nearby Divinity School, and discovered that fifties and sixties American Presbyterianism wasn't exactly Calvinism. It didn't make me leave then, because I wasn't particularly drawn to Calvin once I read him. But he's provocative, and, in fact, I still enjoy reading him.)

    Anyway, your question raises for me whether it would be easier for me, today, to become Catholic, than thirty-five years ago.

    In some ways it would be harder. The terrible neglect at the heart of the child molestation scandals left a mark on the whole Church, and there's not much to say about it other than that its a matter of shame that won't go away in my lifetime. Yes, in some sense it only confirms Christian anthropology, the susceptibility of the best to the worst, the depth of the root of sin in those considered most holy. But still it never stops hurting to be sneered at for it.

    And on the whole I think the whole web culture makes everything worse--and I'm a blogger who tries to address religious subjects. But the internet seems to encourage hatred and alienation. Among Catholics there are bitter factions. You would think that all Catholics either hate Francis and miss Benedict or love Francis and say "good riddance" to Benedict. The notion that God has something to say through both, and we should look for that rather than pitting one against the other, as in our endless political brawls, seems overlooked.

    I'm sure I needn't tell you that the Church is in the pew and in the community rather than on the web or in the evening paper. Not that we don't want to project the perfect, knowledgeable, saintly image.....

    My feeling is that I've gained as a Catholic without losing what was important as a Presbyterian. But I'm still more comfortable parsing out a biblical passage in Greek than saying a Rosary.

    Hope this is helpful without being pushy or smug. Occupational hazard, I suppose. Hope you are doing well. I always enjoy your writing, even if of course I don't always agree.

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    1. rick allen, even when we disagree here we have managed to maintain mutual respect and brotherly feelings. I am deeply touched by what you have shared, and I will never take your friendship for granted. May the peace of Our Lord be always with you.

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  7. Your reasons are my reasons…but you say it so much better. While in the "Inquirers Class" my Priest said he'd never had anyone ask so many questions or read all the books he recommended. So, when I finally decided, at age 27, I was "all in"…and stayed there…and I'm still there. I went to the first Plano meeting. My church left me, and it was a painful parting. (still is) One week I was a very active member, the next Sunday I was home, grieving. The friends who had knelt next to me for all those years seemed to think I was having a temper tantrum.
    I spent several weeks reading, on the net, the "Statement of Faith" of every church in town, then had several conversations with the pastor of the Lutheran MS. I was welcomed there and offered Communion, but I couldn't bring myself to join.
    The next year I moved to another state, where my son lived and where there was a "Continuing Anglican Church", where I fit right in. Five years later, for health reasons, I moved again, near a daughter. While I was able, I went to ACNA, CANA…all Nigerian and Kenyan…very welcoming. The theology was rightšŸ˜‡. I moved a few miles and
    The priest still visits me occasionally. When I am able, I go to a small Lutheran MS. The pastor is 91 years old…still very active…and he visits me every week, and I hear the whole sermon. If I ask, he will bring me Communion.
    I am thankful.
    But I am nearly 86 years old, and I feel sad that no one will take up the BCP and read the Burial Service over my remains.
    Were it not for The Immaculate Conception, The Assumption of Mary and the Infalibility of the Pope, I would be RC !
    Is one of the Continuing Anglican in your area? If so, give them a chance. Perhaps Middle America is more blessed with opportunities.
    I pray that you will find your church home. May God bless you.

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    1. Maxine Schell, thank you so much for sharing your own experiences here. Ours have not been as painful, and we know we have been blessed to have had the friends we formed along the way. We will keep you in our prayers as well, and hope that those who remain concerned to see that you receive God's Word and sacraments each week will also see to it that your eventual (but no doubt still distant) departure from this world is marked and commemorated in a form that would make you proud. Talk to those with whom you are still close, and explain your wishes -- I am sure that they will see they are carried out. May the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be always with you and upon you.

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  8. AH, I'm moved to joyful tears. Thank you also for publicly sharing your brilliant legal mind and personal church trials here. I'm humbled to read this blog and the comments posted to it; I'm also thankful that you've brought so many other blogs and notable people to my attention.

    I think that the dialogue, on the topics shared here, radiates light where there is darkness.
    ******************
    I must amend my previous comment with this: Our thoughtful daughter was basically thinking about saying "Happy Resurrection" in the place of "Happy Easter" when secular distortions, such as bunnies, dominate our Holy day. So, when we're confronted with non-Christian distractions, her point was to say things that would help or teach others to know and celebrate our risen Lord. This idea of hers does not disagree with my point, which is that it's important to do God's will when speaking to others.

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  9. I have been extremely fortunate because, in 2002, I found a continuing Anglican parish here in my city. We use the 1928 PB. Originally ACA, we migrated to the REC when our then-bishop pushed joining the ordinariate, something neither our rector nor the majority of the parish were willing to do. No matter what ACNA decides with reference to ordaining women priests, the REC won't. We'll just see what happens.

    There is a very large ACNA parish in our area which reminds me a bit of what you say about Luther, Mr. Haley. They preach Reformed theology aggressively and love the 1979 book on which their services are rather loosely based.

    In a small town in the Midwest years ago I gave the RC option a try. Our daughters were small, the tiny ECUSA parish was unsuitable for a number of reasons, and Baptist neighbors were telling the girls they weren't really Christian since their baptisms were in their infancies. Based on my husband's Catholicism, we attended a large parish in town. I tried, I really did. I found, sadly, that the sloppy liturgy, the lousy music (truly awful), the lack of sound preaching, and even the peculiar Sunday School classes our daughters attended were too much for me. When we moved here I found an ECUSA parish with an 8 a.m. Rite I service, and then my beloved 1928 parish -- and since we moved into our own building, we have an 8 a.m. communion. I am blessed.

    May God grant Mrs. Haley a better experience than mine, and may God support you and guide you, Mr. Haley, as you think on these things. I look forward to the continuation of the series, and pray for your discernment and peace.

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    1. Katherine, thank you so much for your contributions here, and for your support of our current explorations. We have been on a retreat of sorts from our secular duties, in order better to assess our spiritual directions and aspirations. But now we are back home, ready (and refreshed) to resume the quest for a denomination in which we may both participate as full and willing members.

      I cannot say just yet where all of this is leading us, because all I can do is follow the prospects that are offered, and test whether they are in the same vein as the original salt that nourished us from our earliest years. When I have a better sense of the direction in which we are moving, I will put up the second post in this series. Meanwhile, I thank you for your continuing support and prayers.

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  10. Dear Allen: I've followed your blog and your contributions to Anglican TV for a number of years but i don't think I've commented.
    I left the Episcopalians in 1986 after the ordinations of women and have only observed its demise from a distance since then. In 1987 I was received into the Orthodox Church and it was quite a jump! Icons, Incense, so much singing, fasting, confession before communion etc. but I think that jump has made me more of a man.
    I found it rather hard to change so much of my inner life in my 50s, and now I'm 81 and not as flexible as i was then. so Orthodoxy is my final home, I think. Yes, we are not perfect (nothing that partakes of earth is ever so) but the beauty of the services and all else compels me to just want more of it.
    I hope your conundrums are solved.
    And it is hard to overcome the Reformation as I will know.
    James Morgan
    Jim of Olym
    Auriel is my wife by another name...

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    1. Auriel Ragmon, I have long valued the wisdom and long-range perspective that you have shared here. I have looked seriously into the Orthodox Church, but the options where we live are very limited, in the same manner that available Anglican denominations are. I find it totally acceptable that you have come to terms with Orthodoxy after a long search, given that it was one of the serious and practical options available to you.

      The more I read of the Reformation, the more I am convinced that the separation of Catholic from Protestant was driven more by political and secular forces than by religious ones. Not only that, but we continue to suffer from the consequences that began with the Reformation's elevation of solo above in commune. Five hundred years later, we are enduring the quagmire that comes from millions of egos acting as though each was sovereign.

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  11. As a Roman Catholic priest I feel no triumphalism after reading this post. I feel only sadness that godly and faithful people find that their deepest intuitions about the faith are dismissed by others and the end result is that they are deprived of their spiritual home. I was helped personally by many Anglicans of profound and thoughtful faith, and I am perplexed and dismayed by the continuing self-destructive drift of that great tradition.

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    1. Terry Tee, thank you so much for your kind words. My wife and I have been profoundly helped and encouraged by the devoted support we have received from our Roman Catholic friends as we both struggled to find a new home in peace with our Savior Jesus Christ. I have shaken the dust from my sandals in respect to the now hopelessly compromised Episcopal Church, but I am still exploring the options that Roman Catholicism affords for us renegades.

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  12. We are essentially astronauts who have been cast adrift when "somebody" inside the capsule snipped the cables when we were outside doing repairs to the capsule. But, the joke is that there is no joke, no trick, no winner, in any of this. We are bound by a Catholic, traditionalist viewpoint and belief structure. We need not apologise, but rather redouble our commitment to living our proud, albeit quirky faith.
    For some reason, my mind goes to the point of the Tridentine Mass. Every time the Roman Catholic Rite is offered to the congregation in central Monterrey, Nuevo Leon in Latin and with all the old rigamarole and hocus - pocus the pews fill with younger people who have neglected the Roman and / or Christian Church for years. By younger, I mean ages 18 through 50. Men....blue collar men....young professionals, all kinds of people. Modish young women from the upper-class, with the high heels and latest styles, and university students. It is as they say in Spanish...."un trolebus"....a trolley-bus of passengers.

    We go about our days, becoming fewer now, simply avoiding conflict with the fact that the Churches, both Anglican and Roman, are essentially hijacked and held hostage by secular humanism.

    I shall remain here among the people for whom I have considerable respect, admiration, and friendship. In a way, we are our own Church....our own Parish and Diocese....and thereby we remain good sheep (not perfect), but good sheep following a perfect Shepherd. Here, on this cyber-island, we have our own Rabbi who can provide better counsel than any other.

    We have certain anchorage for any storm, and our beliefs, traditions, and Faith are strong. The water is now wine.

    El Gringo Viejo

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    1. DCN, you are one of the most consistent and (hence) valued contributors to this site, and I hope that wherever our current paths may be leading us, we may continue to remain in touch.

      I have a presentiment that it may become increasingly important for the nascent community that has assembled around this blog to strengthen its bonds of affection and mutual respect for the traditions that it seeks to uphold.

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