My Laundry “Room”

I love to do laundry outside. I had a fine excuse – a lot of caps and white things to freshen. My white apron and cape had grease and dog handling spots, and needed a bit of hand treatment.

And I washed all my white caps, because they were either dingy with sitting or dingy with use.

I found a can of spray starch, so should be able to get a good finish on these with a little iron work!

Behold the Lilies of the Field: A Plain Church for Anglicans

Keeping the Church as simple as a garden

Could it every happen?

The Anglican Church is carrying a burden of a century and a half of ceremonial left over from the Oxford Movement and the Puseyite influence. We were always a liturgical church with some ceremonial, but the mid 1800s saw the growth of interest in “restoring” Gothic and medieval motifs in a church still largely Protestant. While that can all be very exciting, with pageantry and colour and music, it has been a prohibitively expensive burden.

Vestments are expensive, unless a priest can make his or her own. (I did, and some churches own sets for the priest’s use, but this didn’t work out well for me because they were cut for men much taller or bigger than me.)  Vestments also set the priest apart from the people. I’m not sure this is good. I do not know why we continue to go around in the garb of Roman gentlemen as interpreted by a small band of mid-Victorian English churchmen. I preferred the black cassock, white surplice and black preaching stole commonly known as a tippet. I had an academic hood, but I’ve lost it and I don’t think I care to get another. The original idea was that the vestments would not distinguish the priest from other priests and ministers, and followed common collegial form. Howver, the introduction of liturgical colours and the promotion of vestments made in costly fabrics began with the Gothic Revival and we can’t seem to get away from it.

We’ve also acquired a plethora of furniture in the church – besides the altar, pulpit and stalls, we have all sorts of chairs, tables, prayer desks, lecterns, fonts, candlestands and musical instruments. I’m willing to strip the sanctuary and nave down to pews and bench kneelers, altar, bishop’s throne, credence table if needed (I’m willing to put everything on the back corner of the altar), two chairs or stalls for ministers, pulpit/lectern and a font at the door. Two candlesticks on the altar, chalice, patten, some decent linen. Prayer book and Bible. All the excess tables, chairs, candlebra, banners, processional crosses, desks and stands can go. Any literature should be in the narthex, not ranged on pews or benches at the back of the nave.

The choir has taken the place of the ministers (deacons, readers, acolytes, assisting clergy) and sit in the clergy stalls in most churches. A choir belongs in the choir loft, if one exists, at the back of the church, or in antiphonal seating on the nave floor. They should be heard and not seen. Their job is to support the people in singing and chanting, not replace them. Anthems belong strictly at festivals and are not meant for weekly use.

As I said, the font goes at the door. If there is a paschal candle used, that is where it belongs. After Pentecost the paschal candle is used only at baptisms and funerals, and should be stored in the sacristy, preferably covered to keep it from fading or yellowing. Many paschal candles now can be made with a join so that the upper portion is replaced yearly while the decorative lower part remains. This can save a lot of money over just a few years.

I dislike processions in parish churches. Processions are meant to get a lot of people in and out of clergy stalls quickly; they are not some sort of parade. Processions strictly belong in cathedrals and colleges. If vested clergy are to be seated on the nave floor in pews, they should not proceed (the verb is not “process” – procession derives from to proceed) but be seated before the procession.

The parish choir should be seated in their stalls or loft before the service begins. The ministers enter from the vestry and go to the clergy stalls or altar. The service can then begin with a hymn or opening prayers.

I have developed a dislike for organ music. Small churches just don’t need a big voiced instrument. Most Anglican churches did not have organs until later in the nineteenth century, and they replaced the small village orchestra and choir with a professionally trained musician. It was part of the professionalizing of the church, which I don’t believe has been a good trend. I would much rather hear a choir or congregation a cappella, since they then must attend to what they are singing, or with a piano for accompaniment. Choirs should not need to be robed if they do not proceed nor are visible from the nave.

I don’t approve of the modern practice of passing the peace by shaking hands. Originally, Christians greeted each other before and after divine service with a kiss. Clergy exchanged the kiss of peace before the Eucharist. Shaking hands is a secular indication that one is not armed. “I won’t use my sword on you,” is the message. I avoid shaking hands. Kiss me if you wish.

A Plain church doesn’t have to be unadorned. Distracting and sentimental artwork and objects need to be removed. Icons, stained glass windows (if they are artistically good and theologically correct), altar crosses and other tradtional ornaments should be retained. Frontals and superfrontals could be used if the altar is not itself ornamented with carving. A bunch of coloured ribbons and hangings which have no purpose are a waste of money and maintenance. I’m not fond of altar flowers. They tend to shed and stain the linen, and to be honest, I am quite allergic to some kinds of flowers, especially lilies. If lilies ended up on the altar where I was celebrating, I had to remove them. Artificial flowers have no place in a church celebration. It’s real or none.

That’s how I feel about the physical appearance of the possible Plain Anglican church. It’s the least of our worries, though. We’ve got better things to address, of course – liturgy, practice, prayer. I’ll have more to say on that some other time, if you can stand it.

Summer Fun, Plain

This is what I look like on a sunny day. I made the bonnet, but didn’t add a veil in the back, so I wear a kerchief over my neck and throat. I have developed a serious allergy to sunscreens, so cloth is what I use to keep from being burned. I had malignant melanoma about fifteen years ago; sunburn is too scary!

How Clean Laundry Can Change the World

We have laundry machines in our basement (the dank, bark, spidery basement with the mystery puddle) that require nothing more than that one of us carry laundry down two flights of stairs, sort and load the washer while trying to avoid dropping anything on the stained concrete floor, pour in detergent, set controls, and then come back in forty-five minutes to take everything wet out of the washer and load it into the dryer, remembering that little nonrecyclable chemical infused sheet that is supposed to make the clothes smell fresh and get rid of the static generated by tumbling wet fabric in a heated metal barrel. Then in another forty-five minutes, we have to return to the dank basement (no one stays down there by choice) and remove the now (or maybe) dry clothes, chemically infused so they don’t smell like hot metal, and rapidly fold them or put them on hangers so they don’t crinkle into a million wrinkles. The only clean work surface is the top of the freezer – the old workbench collapsed a century ago and sits in the corner, forlorn and covered with rusty bits of tools from past inhabitants. (No one has the courage or fortitude to disassemble the thing and haul it out.)

Or, at this time of the year, I can carry the galvanized tubs to the backyard, set up a workstation under the shady maples, attach the antique wringer, fill the tubs from the hose and add a gallon of hot water to take off the chill, hang the clothes pin bucket on the line over my head, bring the clothes down one flight of stairs, and let them soak in the nice sudsy water for a little while, then gently rub or scrub them, rinse in  the other tub, and immediately hang on the line, where a pleasant zephyr drives them almost wrinkle and odour free. (They often smell like ozone when they come in, which is a good, pure smell and means that bacteria were killed off, in a gentle, natural way, of course.)

I usually use Fels Naptha or Sunlight laundry soap bars, or even plain Ivory bathsoap, but right now we have a concentrated detergent that comes in a tiny pump bottle. One little bottle does a couple of dozen loads in the automatic washer, and I could make it go further if I did all the laundry by hand. I don’t know what it’s called, but it seems a lot of laundry brands are moving to super-concentrated. Well, why not? Why ship gallons of water in tons of plastic all over the world when the same detergent just needs to be shipped in its concentrated form in much smaller bottles? I will go back to real soap in bars soon; I prefer having the bar in my hand for scrubbing at stains and spots. Surely there can’t be as great an environmental impact from making yellow soap, wrapping it in paper and shipping that as there is in processing detergent and making and shipping plastic bottles! For those who may have a surfeit of bath soap, just grate it on a four-sided grater, using the medium-sized holes, store it in a glass jar, and add a half-cup or so to hot water before dumping in the tub. This will work in a top-loading machine, as well. The grated soap will dissolve fast in the hot water, which you then add to the water in the tub, so you don’t get lumps. My father remembers his mother doing this, when wringer washers became common, and detergent powders were advertised. He remembered it because he saw me doing it.

I found a good stain-removing stick, made locally by “Buncha Farmers.” I bought it at Len’s Mill Store. It has eucalyptus oil in it, and it will scent a room pretty powerfully if it isn’t sealed into something – I like the smell of eucalyptus, so it doesn’t bother me to have it out. I got a grease stain – like bike chain oil or worse – on one of my white aprons, and a little work with the stain stick removed it. This is a stick like a narrow bar of soap, no plastic in the packaging, and nice to work with. I feel like I’m crayoning onto the clothes.

So how is this going to save the world? I’d like to say it’s because your handwashed, sun-dried clothes will radiate light and goodwill and peace – but not everyone can see those wavelengths of moonshine.

It’s because you bought plain galvanized tubs, which last years if handled properly, can be re-used as planters, dog watererers, hay cribs, and manure haulers, and use a fraction of the materials that automatic washers use; you use 5-10 gallons of water per tub for multiple loads (presoak really grungy things); you can use natural soaps rather than detergents and not much of them, saving manufacturing and shipping waste; and a clothesline, pegs and bucket to store them are super cheap, last for years, and the sun and wind are FREE!

With a little practice, you can get through a load of laundry in about fifteen minutes. Your clothes will be cleaner, fresher, and will last longer since they aren’t getting stressed and stretched in the agitating washer and the tumbling dryer. They dry at lower temperatures, which will save elastic bands and stretchy fabrics. You can handwash just about every fabric made and save lots in dry cleaning. You won’t need fabric softeners or bleach or stain-removing chemicals. You will get a pleasant break outdoors and even small children can help with the wash.

I will address some other laundry issues soon, such as winter washing, indoor drying, and handling delicates.

Moving Away from Materialism

I don’t know if materialism as I mean it here is a philosophy. If it were, it would simply mean that one believes that things are real – have substance and “thingness,”  and don’t possibly disappear when we can’t see them, as poor old Barclay hypothesized. So that’s not what I mean.

What I mean is not just consumerism – which is part of materialism – that drive to buy and consume and accumulate – but a belief that possessions are good, and that one gains “good” from them beyond their functionality. We can’t deny that we use things, or that we need a certain number of things. We are tool-users, and there’s a reason for that. It makes our lives productive and safer. No one is proposing here that we go back to a paleolithic lifestyle, following herds of wild animals, dressed in who knows what, guarding our campfires carefully because we don’t have flint. I’m acknowledging that we need objects more sophisticated than a heavy rock.

The problem as I see it is that we have endued things with personality. Objects are not just objects – tools and conveniences – but have inherency, a status. “Valuable” is a word we attach to objects. It has value beyond utility. Its mere possession makes someone a “better” person, more worthy of admiration and flattery. (I’m going to avoid including ‘status” experiences here, a a somewhat different topic.) A person derives status from the object rather than the other way around.

Advertising creates a false status – this famous person uses this product, therefore his or her status is transferred to it; a consumer of the product can then derive some status from the product, presumably by some osmosis. In a way there is a logic to it. Tiger Woods is an excellent golf player. He chooses to use a certain kind of nine-iron because he knows what a good nine-iron is; if the consumer buys the same nine-iron, he will be using a better tool than the one he is using now. This is logical within its own little closed loop, but doesn’t take into account the facts outside the loop: Tiger Woods is paid to use that nine-iron and perhaps has not considered its full utility. Or the advertising shows him using it, but the one he uses in tournaments is different. Or it is a perfectly good and usable nine-iron, but without the inborn athletic ability and years of practice Mr. Woods has, the buyer will never realize maximum potential from the nine-iron, and may play no better than he did before.

Derived status just doesn’t work, does it?

So carrying a Coach or Gucci handbag, using l’Oreal hair dye and driving a Lexus do not confer status. They might excite envy in someone who is status-conscious, but the products themselves will not gain status for the one buying them. The Gucci bag will not get you the best table at Le Cirque. (If that is still around – I don’t know – although I just googled it and yes it is, with a huge five star boast. For those who don’t know, it is a restaurant in New York, once the hotspot for all the glitterati. A meal there would cost us a week’s wages.)

Status is illusory. I’m going to just make the bold statement – status is a lie. Advertising lies to you.

Some new products will make your life easier. If you hate ironing, the no-wrinkle shirt will please you and relieve the load of guilt you might feel when you don’t iron – but you have to take it out of the dryer while it is still warm, and you can’t hang it on the clothesline and expect that it will be wrinkle-free. It will make you do some work, too, but that might be a good exchange for you. Those all in one mop devices (rhymes with sniffer) with the disposable cloths for sweeping and washing floors might satisfy your cleaning needs, and you are comfortable with throwing out the little expensive nylon reinforced nonwoven nonrecycable sheets. You are probably not going to derive status from them; they are conveniences and you know it. (Yes, at first convenience products can endow status – in my mother’s day it was cake mixes. Forty years ago, you said something about your socio-economic bracket and the amount of social time you indulged if you were “too busy to bake.” Now you can buy cake mixes at the dollar store, and many children have never had a scratch-baked cake.)

Our culture – that of North America and Europe and the other areas of the globe we influence, which is a lot – has gone status mad. A young friend went to New York City for the first time this spring. She’s a girl from the country, but raised with television and fashion magazines. She’s no hayseed, although she isn’t experienced in the world. She had many memorable experiences in the city, and truly enjoyed her trip to all the cultural sites, but one of her most vivid memories is the other women buying rip-off designer handbags on the street from vendors selling goods packed in a shopping cart. These women were going back to small town Canada with bags that said Prada and Gucci, to a place where some of them will have to drive a tractor and sort seed potatoes. Where the heck are they going to derive this status? No one, I hope, is realy fooled that they got an authentic bag from Paris. How does this lie about status improve their lives any?

This may be materialism at its worst. It is the tremendous waste of resources that goes into making status objects, and the continued deception (most of it self-deception) that these objects confer good. It wastes the materials it takes to make the object, the cost of transporting it, the human energy of crafting and selling it, and the brain cells of the purchaser or recipient who should be thinking of more productive things than owing a fake Gucci handbag.

So having laid out my premise and perhaps having defended it, it’s time to get to the core of this argument.

People are more important than objects. Relationships with people matter more than relationships with objects.

We laugh at edgy comedy where money fixation is used as the punchline – the character who pledges his mother’s house on a short sale in the stock market, hoping to flip a stock fast enough and for enough profit to buy a new Lexus. And what if he fails? (Short sales being a gamble.) Mom will have to go live with his sister. (Cymbal crash, we all laugh.)

There’s the plot of the drama I watched last night – a Johnny Depp movie. He’s a young man in the nineteen-sixties who falls into the drug smuggling business. Despite numerous busts, despite jail time, despite getting married and having a child, he keeps going back to the fast lane. He’s got good intentions for this one last deal, but it always falls apart. He goes from the Miami palace and the jet set lifestyle to prison. On the way he alienates his parents, his first love, his friends, his wife and finally his adoring little daughter. While it is a cautionary tale, a tragedy in the classic sense, it would be tempting to a young person who might think they were smarter than old George Jung, the character Depp plays. He’s got the girls, the looks, the clothes, the toys, the drugs and alcohol. It’s party life. Even if he had succeeded, and had escaped the law, where would that life get him eventually? The same alienation, the same poor health, the same lack of self-understanding. And death.

Maybe we aren’t interested in the fast lane. But we can be just as material, just as grubbing, to get the things we want.

The church often wants to marry culture. It’s a mismatch. Jesus told us it would be. Anyone who can read the gospel with an open mind can see that. Although we have to live in this world, we are not of this world.

I believe the only way to defeat this materialism is to live entirely in God, following the way of Christ, which is a way of realtive poverty and a way of self-denial. For some, that may mean the poverty of a dedicated life religious, with no possessions at all except the clothes they wear, and complete celibacy. For others, it may mean asettled family life, just enough shelter and possessions to be reasonably self-supporting, and in the chastity of marriage. There may be minor variations on these themes, but it all comes down to humbling ourselves before God and embodying that humility in our ways of earning money, our appearance, our public discourse. We need to get rid of our mirros – the glass reflecting kind and the advertising we see in print and video. Mirrors begat anxiety; we are unsure of what we offer the world. We start judging ourselves and then we judge others.

Christ lived in holy poverty and with the interdependence of His group of disciples, based on a village-agrarian culture. It is still a good model, even if our “garden” is a farmer’s market. God calls us to humility in Him because we need that humility to live with others. And although I am communciating with you via this electronic medium, it is not nearly as good as if we could live in real-time community. We ar all spending too much time bathed in the glow of plasma screens and not enough time under the sun God provided. Our words are silent on deaf ears. Although we are building productive virtual communities, we need to look to ways to make them face to face and hand to hand.

I feel the world changing. Soon I believe we will be ready to move out into a real community of voices, smells, and the sights of  three-dimensional human faces. This virtual community can become a real community. The time is shifting fast. God is working in hearts, minds and through our hands.

Liturgy and Change

Other branches of the Anglican Communion have already gone through this turmoil: Do we replace the traditional Book of Common Prayer? And those who have know the arguments pro and con. The Anglican Church of Canada has already sought a compromise, and brought out the  big green Book of Alternative Services a couple of decades ago. But the little red book is still used in many churches, and it is normative for the church, even if many parishes just don’t use it.

The biggest issue is whether we give up the pseudo-Elizabethan language. Honestly, this is just the hot button; that is not the real issue. The mock-Elizabethan is not good Elizabethan. It reinforces a false piety in some people, that we need a special language to talk to and about God. Now, I use Plain speech sometimes, and like it, but it is only appropriate among Quakers and when I want to give someone a good stern talking-to. It sounds serious.

Didn’t we just hear about the disciples receiving the Spirit and running out in the streets speaking the Good News in many vernaculars? Sounds like the Holy Spirit is there with us when we talk to people in a language they know.

But language is not the real issue. The real issue is the theology of the “old book” versus the “new book.” The Book of Common Prayer is a theology of repentence; the Book of Alternative Services is a theology of salvation. The old is “Forgive us our sins” and the new is “Alleluia!”

To everything there is a season. Honestly, though, we aren’t done with repentence. I believe we need to confess and repent more than ever. Turning from repentence too soon is a way of hiding from our sin and complicity. The quick and easy corporate confession allows no room for personal and private reflection. (This is also true of the traditional prayer books – there isn’t much emphasis on holding our shortcomings before God.) Some modern Orthodox prayer books have long liturgies of self-examination and confession, and we in the Anglican Church really need these right now. We are too often the power people, the dominating culture, and power and dominance are always grounds for temptation to sin. Anglicans need to learn humility, corporately and individually.

The emphasis on “Alleluia” before repentence, confession and penance has lead, along with the culture of self-esteem, to the promotion of our individual skills and arrogances. I do not want to hear applause in a church! I see way too much promotion of performance – choral and solo singing, preaching, and liturgical presentation as a form of entertainment. The church is not in competition with cultural entertainment; it is an antidote to the passive, please-me selfishness of society.

A new prayer book will have to be balanced between confession and praise, I believe. It doesn’t matter if it ever includes mock-Elizabethan; that is just a red herring. What matters is how it presents our relationship to God. I think we need less liturgical form, rather than a whole new variety. Let’s shut up for a while and listen to the Holy Spirit.

For it matters more what we do outside the church throughout the week than what we do in church on Sunday morning. God knows us through our work, not our words.

Friday, Food Waste!

One. Slimy. Carrot. Yuck.

But I caught it before it infected the others, who went to a happy new home in the crisper. I hadn’t enough room in the drawer, and I’d left the carrots in a plastic bag. I do know better.

We did finish a lot of fruit – I used lemons for lemon curd, which has lasted all week. The clementines were eaten for breakfast over a couple of days. I had pork curry in the freezer, and I added green peppers, cabbage and onions to it and served it over rice.

We’ve got other things in the freezer to use in the next two weeks – chicken and stuffing, stew and spaghetti and meatballs. I’ve got one orange which will go into orange cupcakes and the cut lemon will be the flavouring for the frosting. A cut head of cabbage and more carrots will be tomorrow’s coleslaw to go with barbeque.

Mother Kay will be travelling next month, and then I’ll use my dried beans and split peas, which she simply cannot abide. We like beans ourselves, baked or in a soup.

I learned this week that radish and turnip greens can be used like beet and mustard greens – cooked lightly, dressed with butter or olive oil and malt vinegar. Pick them young or use your thinnings from the garden.

I started a container garden in my old dented washtub, having obtained a shiny new one from the TSC. I planted two bargain tomato plants and two dwarf sage. I’ll get some more herb seedlings at the farmer’s market on Saturday.