What is it with empty boxes?

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These are empty boxes

I’ve looked at them from every angle and I still don’t get it. Why does the Church love empty boxes? What is it about empty boxes and the church that I don’t understand? I’ve blogged about them several times  (April 9th and Nov 8th ) because they seem to me to symbolise the emptiness at the heart of Anglicanism at the moment. All “fur coat and no knickers” as I have rudely said before.

I thought no one else saw these boxes in the way I do but now, oh joy, I have an ally. And no less an ally than the redoubtable and deeply learned Father John Hunwicke.

In his blog “Father Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment” today, under the title ‘Shoe box games for adults’ he draws our attention to the new rituals designed for services during the Week of Christian Unity which begins on Wednesday, 18th January. I’ll give a flavour of what he has to say.

“This year the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity in collaboration with some Ecumenical Partners, has set out quasi-liturgical formulae for use. These forms constitute successful attempts to scale heights of risibilty which have not to my knowledge previously been attempted. This is your real hard-core Guinness-book-of-records rubbish.

“The central ritual involves the moving of stones. But, because carrying real stones might be a bit like hard work for the aged biddies of each sex who are likely to be symbolising their second childhoods by taking part in these events, the “stones” will in fact be shoe boxes covered with packing paper. No, I’m not making this up. Twelve of them. With labels. Labels naming ‘things that divide’. The ‘stones’ will be built up to make a ‘Wall of Division’ which will then be dismantled and formed into a Cross. (What happens if the officiants disagree about the neatest way in which twelve empty shoe-boxes can be arranged into a Cross, and end up in a melee of fisticuffs, is a rubrical detail which these curial nut-cases have not catered for.)”

Isn’t that lovely? And isn’t he right? Surely it’s not our bishops or theologians who believe that moving empty shoeboxes around could possibly do anything for Christian unity. However, I have to admit it was our bishops here in Wales that actually worshipped at an altar made of tatty tinsel boxes. Perhaps the Very Revd Prof Martyn Percy could add a note to his 95th Thesis. Forget empty boxes. Reintroduce the practice of filling boxes for the poor and needy. I think most people would find that a much more unifying gesture.

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