Time will Tell: Commentary on the Secret Eucharist

Okay, here’s the deal. This is what concerns me about the so-called “secret” Eucharist the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is reported by the London Times to have preached and presided at recently here.

1. That it was exclusive. When I was in my confirmation classes taught by John W. Howe back in the mid-1980s I was taught that worship services are open – even weddings. They are “worship” services and the point is to worship who? Not one another. They aren’t meant to be forums for the community (I guess that’s afterward over coffee). They are meant to be for worship and if someone wants to come to a worship service (yes, this even includes baptisms), they are welcome. The door is open.

Apparently, this was not the case with this exclusive Eucharist, according to the London Times (we have yet to see a statement from Canterbury – or even Jim Rosenthall – more on him in a moment). This was by invitation-only Eucharist that was meant, apparently, to be part of the “listening process” for Rowan Williams. So just exactly who was he listening to? It does not appear that the service was about worshiping Jesus (remember Him?) but on engaging in some sort of exclusive gathering of grievances. Well, we’re not sure that can be called a Eucharist. And it was not open to all. It’s like holding a Dyslexia Eucharist. One can sort of imagine what that might be like – but why would you want to put on non-inclusive so-called worship services, unless it’s for another reason entirely?

2. That it was a Political Event. One of the things we’ve learned is that Eucharists can be turned into political events. Attending one of these Political Eucharists again turns the attention away from the subject of the worship to those who are worshiping. The event itself – and participating in it – becomes a political statement. Again, as said before, there is an exclusive-aspect to these Political Eucharists, again focusing on those who attend rather than focusing on the risen Lord (remember Him?). The statement in attending a Political Eucharist is that the courageous ones are there while the ignorant or unenlightened are outside the gates, or in this case, outside the door. Or at home doing laundry.

The Political Eucharists often modify the liturgy to suit the political cause and turns it into a service of initiation. Also, the “sermon” becomes a focus to assert the political cause over the preaching of the Word. The meaning of the Eucharist also changes to signal more of an initiation into the political cause and not as sinners saved by grace. It’s a club.

3. That it was an Open Secret. Despite what the London Times wrote, it was not a secret. It reminded me of when I lived on West Granby Road, Connecticut as a child – there was something called “the Secret Path.” It ran behind all the houses and of course, everyone knew about it. That is, everyone who lived there knew about it. People driving by on the highway didn’t know about it and didn’t know they didn’t know about it because they never thought to ask. Still, all those that lived along West Granby Road may have known about it and we all called it “the Secret Path.”

That’s what this appears to be. It’s meant to have the illusion of secrecy, but it isn’t really a secret. A person just needs to care to know – and that goes back to the idea that it is an initiation into an exclusive club. And what are the Entry Fees to be invited? Well, it’s not by having dyslexia.

4. Jim Rosenthall. StandFirm learned that once their original secret hiding place was revealed they moved over to this place – and guess who offers the new space? Why, the new space is where Canon Rosenthall now performs his newly-minted deacon services. Funny how that happens. Jim Rosenthall has a way of popping up in the most interesting places and he continues to say – or people mistakenly believe – that he speaks for Canterbury. Actually, he oversees the Anglican Communion news service (wild that some thing that Katharine Jefferts Schori calls a dream and David Booth Beers calls a theory has a news service, but there we are). The lines become quite blurred when the American (yep, he’s still American) Rosenthall is around. Is it the AAC? Well, there’s Jim Rosenthall. Is it the Anglican Communion? Well, there’s Jim Rosenthall. Is it the Lambeth Conference? Well, there’s Jim Rosenthall. Is it the Archbishop of Canterbury? Well, there’s Jim Rosenthall. In fact, I saw him lurking about the National Cathedral at Katharine Jeffert Schori’s investiture, so perhaps he knows a thing or two about 815 as well. The official websites of the ACC/ACO and 815 look strikingly similar. One could make the case that all roads lead to Rosenthall.

But just for the record, Jim Rosenthall does not speak for the Archbishop of Canterbury. Not officially – off the record perhaps. Neither does this guy. The official job goes to Jonathon Jennings. Where ever he is.

That we’ve learned that Rosenthall is involved with the organizational logistics of the “Secret Eucharist” and that the London Times has all the info, well, shouldn’t we recognize that this is a strategic decision to engage in Rowan Williams in this political event? If so, why?

The obvious reason is that Rowan supports this stuff and now we know.

But could it be also that he’s gone to prepare this group for the coming Advent Letter?

Time will tell. One way or the other.