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Guest Blog: Wax Strips and Wittenberg Nails

We’re delighted that Hannah Barr, one of this year’s NonResident Members, has just been named Young Blogger of the Year at the 2017 Premier Digital Awards and to celebrate, we’re reposting her most recent piece – about waxing, reformation, and her perspective on why we pursue unity, even when it hurts. You can find Hannah’s blog at 

A friend of mine (and I genuinely do mean a friend, this isn’t a story about me that I’m embarrassed to admit is about me) was waxing her moustache. She applied the wax strip, smoothed it down, and prepared to pull. She began to pull it, decided it was too painful, so left it and went to bed. The next morning she woke up, had wax which had hunkered down and brought in several strands of hair from her head for good measure but had decided to divorce the strip of paper. That her face is now wax free (also hair free) is the result of perseverance and repeated exclamations of pain.

What is my point? Other than wanting to stress that this is not a personal anecdote because I am a boss at willingly ripping hair out of my body in acquiescence to patriarchal aesthetic standards. My point is this: unity hurts, but not as much disunity does. 

It’s Reformation Day (if you’re a church history nerd). It’s also Hallowe’en (if you’re into chocolate and exceptional grammar). This year Reformation Day is a bit of a big deal because it’s the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. There was a time when I could tell you a lot about the 95 theses, but that time was a first year undergraduate module on medieval and reformation theology and over time, the nuances of reformation history have been replaced by other, more exciting (and useful) theological facts. Anyway, long story rendered exceedingly short and majorly simplified: there was a colossal church schism in the West and, much like the schism with the East, our ecclesiology since then has been an almighty spit in the face of the call to be the Body of Christ. (I told you this was over-simplified, please don’t shout at me, I’m a theological ethicist, not a church history expert).

As it’s the 500th anniversary, there’s been much more of a buzz around Reformation Day than perhaps there usually is. Across my networks, opinion is slightly divided. My broadly Protestant Facebook friends are very happy about the Reformation and my more Catholic-leaning Twitter world is slightly less enthusiastic.

Say a miracle was to happen and Rome and everyone else reunited, and then West reunited with East, it would be amazing! Wouldn’t it? The church coming together as one body… although, if you’re an ordained woman or an ordained man who would want to say “ordained woman,” how idyllic will unity be in that instance? Can you even get unity through that chasm?

There’s a cost to unity and it can be a painful one. In genuine unity, you see that every human being is in the image of Christ, you capture just a glimpse of God’s love for them, and your care and compassion for them becomes consuming and forever unfulfilled to completion due to the postlapsarian condition. I’ve only been in the Community of St Anselm for a few weeks, but that vow I made ‘I choose you’ to my fellow community members has unequivocally become ‘I love you.’

On my lunch break, I think about the resident members sharing the peace with one another before they celebrate the Eucharist. As the majority of my colleagues come into the office around 9am, my mind is drawn to my fellow non-resident members going into their various places of work. Through Twitter, I see where in the world my Abbot is and I pray for him. My Sharing Group WhatsApp buzzes and I am reminded of these people who opened their lives to me and I to them and the humbling yet empowering privilege that is. I scroll through the notes on my phone and come across the words written down after time with my spiritual companion, words straight from God that sear through my inner being, the fire of divine love. And then I remember that even though our ultimate authority is on the throne, in this temporal realm she belongs to Rome while I belong to Canterbury, that whenever someone says ‘we all share in one bread,’ I can no longer say that without feeling crippling pain because she and I cannot share in one bread.

Unity hurts, but not as much as disunity does.

There’s a cost to unity and it can be a painful one. Ask the God who hung on a cross until he died.

I like the Eucharist a heck of a lot more than I did before I donned an alb, took a cross, and said ‘I choose you.’

Disunity destroys your ability to see the image of Christ in another. Disunity distorts what truly matters, it values things over people. Disunity revels in jealousy and greed and anger. Disunity treats the cross like a game of capture the flag. Disunity says ‘this is my body, broken for some of you.’ Disunity would have been a full stop after the gates of Eden closed. But that didn’t happen. In fact, the opposite happens. God makes us garments and clothes us. He covers our shame but we still feel acutely that shame. But I’d rather feel that than death. Disunity brings death.

Unity hurts; to turn to the person who has wounded you and say ‘peace be with you’ can be utter agony. But disunity, it might feel gratifying now, it might shirk the responsibility of reconciliation in the present, it might seem like all you are missing is a toe here and a finger there, but the end result is a pain unendurable.

Unity hurts, but not as much as disunity does.

Want to spend a Year In God’s Time? Applications for Resident and NonResident Membership in 2018-2019 open soon – subscribe to our website or follow us on Twitter @YearinGodsTime for updates. 

Praying for Primates

The Community of St. Anselm has relocated to Canterbury this week to pray for the Primates of the Anglican Communion as they meet together.

Why not join us as we simply pray for Primates

One of our Alumni wrote the following reflection last week about the experience of praying for Primates in 2015 under the title: ‘Longing for wholeness’

“In January 2016, the Community of St Anselm was invited to be a praying presence at the Anglican Primates meeting. This meeting brought together the Primates from all over the Anglican Communion for a week of conversation, prayer, disagreement and agreement in Canterbury, England. It was a powerful experience to be alongside the Bishops as they discussed contentious issues, global and regional needs and the best faithful responses as members gathered in the name of Christ.

As one person praying that week, I cannot quiet the longing within as the next Primates meeting approaches. Before this experience, I had prayed for others when they were feeling poorly, times were tough or someone was looking for clarity but I had not experienced prayer like that at the Primates meeting. It was a praying with all of myself, and I wasn’t even in the room with them. The longing for hearing the Holy Spirit’s call to peace, love and continued relationship was nearly overwhelming. It was a special experience to see leaders of Provinces from all around the world together, representing their entire community while at the same time just a person who also comes before God in humility, prayer, need and blessing. It was an extraordinary example that God is One who is incarnate and these men, human as they are, are also carrying in them, the hope of Christ’s Church today.

As the Primate’s meeting approaches, my prayer is that the Primates gathered (and any that are with them) hear and listen to the Holy Spirit guiding them. I pray they do not forget those they represent who desire peace and love, and need justice and comfort. I pray that Christ be known to each one of them and through one another. May egos be set aside for the greater vision of the kingdom of heaven which is not here yet, but that we, as Anglicans and followers of Jesus Christ, look towards and are called to work towards.”

For more information about the Primates, check out their short bios here

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