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MACRAE'S MUSINGS: Blessed be the ... who?

He's an unabashed Christian, a prototypical churchie. He says so to the census-taker, vows it to his mother, to the boys at the water cooler, and to the Sons of Prometheus he joins weekly in their den over the drug store. 
He rarely misses a choir practice. He volunteers at every opportunity to serve laic pastoral and administrative offices and responsibilities. He saw to the infant baptism of his children and then later to their formal adolescent induction into the communion's confederacy, it's array of rights, privileges and obligations. As long as they've known each other, he's promoted and protected his wife's devotion to the associated Women's League, and he drives nongenarian ladies to their monthly assemblies; he hawks tickets to their annual ham and scallops supper.
He is, from all accounts, an exemplar representative of the faith. It's long blessed his family, his neighbourhood, his community and his nation endowing each with respect and nobility. He's always revelled in its fostering of justice and self-sacrifice amidst all his kin and kind. At every opportunity he takes grateful pride as it celebrates the flag and charter for which it stands.
For honest dedication one hardly expects to exceed his determined labours. His association with the institution has made him a proud man.
It's also, recently, made him a troubled curmudgeon and has filled many of his middle-aged moments with angst and puzzlement as he wonders whatever's become of those classic calls to peace, tolerance, charity, modesty, unity, hospitality and a bunch of other virtues the ancient rule book endorses. In the wee small sleepless hours of many mornings nowadays, he asks: What's it all about, Alfie?
Well, he says he never reaches any conclusions. Seldom, if ever, does he clearly identify specific reasons for the undulating mood that, one minute considers jumping ship, then the next has him clamouring back on board. His internal rants seem bound to the institution's ceding of the sacred to the secular, the pious to the profane. For one thing, he can't separate those notorious temple money changers from the parish treasurer who spends pulpit time shaking down the flock for more aid and comfort to the building fund. In a world of hunger and homelessness, he can't square the idea of the faithful being hit up by billions to restore burnt-out sanctuaries. Even though he's one of nature's most worldly creatures, he mourns the evaporation of quiet, contemplative reflection and analysis in an atmosphere of grace and dignity, all being replaces by fun and games, secular and silly. He's spent time around governing councils and conferences easily mistaken for Bay Street board meetings, noted more for corporate aggrandizement than for soul-searching, contrition and compassion; more interested in the new furnace than with the soul's survival.
All of which, he concludes, has to do with the steady parade of blameless sheep out of the barn, and he suspects responsibility and complicity lie at the feet of hallowed leaders, presbyters, prelates and shamefully on his own.
So, what's a fellow to do? Is he to pack in a half-century of affection, even that part that's more habitual than devout? Is he likely to cut his ties with the club and help the Red Cross? Is he likely to give up God for golf? Any chance he'll storm City Hall for a redefinition of worship that's quietly creative, suggesting delicate inclusion, and rejecting rivalry, discrimination and the determination to survive at all cost?
Well, he says, maybe most but probably none of the above. More likely he's betting that a lifetime of spirit-driven optimism will propel him to hope for the best and endure the worst, that somehow he'll be compelled to stomach Christendom's congratulating self-absorption, that he'll find some modest way to turn the outfit back into a place where he and others really want to be. 
So, one guesses, he ain't going to quit...though he has made plans to reroute some of his alms to mental health.
And don't expect to see him at any ham and scallop suppers.

Peter MacRae is a retired Anglican cleric and erstwhile journalist. He lives in New Glasgow.

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