Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Other Elbowgate

Polls are indicating that Canadians really don't care about the so-called Elbowgate incident in which a testy Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made like Gordie Howe and body-checked an NDP MP from Quebec. Elizabeth May said it was an accident, so it must be true.  In fact, it seems that more people are annoyed with the hapless MP than the dastardly PM, claiming she blew the incident out of proportion. When in doubt, blame the victim.
Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols at Westminster Cathedral in London.

Another Elbowgate surfaced this week, this one involving a fragment of an elbow bone purported to belong to Thomas Becket, who was famously murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 by those loyal to Henry II. Becket challenged the king, who was supposedly his friend, and in a time-honoured tradition the monarch had the cleric offed. Becket is recognized as a martyr and saint by both the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. This bone chip has been displayed in splendour in Hungary - I kid you not -- and will be repatriated this weekend, as sort of a cameo appearance before returning to Hungary.  According to The Guardian

For almost eight centuries, the tiny sliver of bone has been venerated by distant devotees of England’s famous “turbulent priest”. But this weekend, Thomas Becket's elbow will make a solemn, if fleeting, return from Esztergom, in Hungary, to Canterbury, the seat of his clerical authority – and the scene of his brutal murder...It will be the culmination of an extraordinary week in which Becket’s bone has toured Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Rochester Cathedral and other churches associated with the 12th-century archbishop of Canterbury.

This probably seems rather goofy to most of us, something out of Monty Python. Although, perhaps we  shouldn't be too quick to judge. Venerating relics -- bones and wooden slivers from the "true cross" -- is certainly not a Western nor a Protestant tradition. But if we're honest we tend to tend to venerate our buildings, as though they are God, rather than the places where we worship God. We spend countless millions to shore up the bricks and mortar of the places in which we assemble, often starving active ministry as we do so. It is one of my great frustrations at this stage of ministry, the seemingly unending discussions about the buildings of our United Church of Canada. Meanwhile we are fading away as an aged congregational base dies off.

Ah well, let the bone chips fall where they may.


1 comment:

Judy McKnight said...

i right you are
ii amalgamation, a necessity (we need to start thinking about this now so we can continue to do ministry in the future)