Pensions and passions

One of my parishioners told me a true story today, arising from a recent conversation with a friend who presumably is a rare visitor to church. The friend had attended a church service recently (not ours), and was most curious about a particular ecclesiastical tradition she believed she had encountered. She was asking what “Pension Day” means in the church? This was no less a puzzle to my parishioner, despite the undeniable reality that Anglican parishes here in Melbourne are commonly over-blessed with mature members. I didn’t hear the details of how the puzzle in this case was solved. But apparently it was Ascension Day.

This reminded me of a telephone conversation about 15 years ago. It was a wedding enquiry from a couple whose ecclesiastical acquaintance was also slight. Presumably they were working from a calendar with religious feasts marked. They were most keen to be married on Passion Sunday, on the grounds that their relationship involved a not inconsiderable amount of passion. They didn’t supply details, but I think I got the general drift. Years later Dan Brown might well have paid handsomely for such an insight. However my mind was greatly exercised in a different direction … How to explain that the “passion” the church calendar had in mind was not of the pleasurable kind.

Now .. I can but wonder what the liturgically uninitiated (most people) would make of the Feast of the Circumcision. In fact … therein lies another rich memory. When I was at college one class was studying the Jerusalem Council’s deliberations about Gentiles and the church, as recorded in Acts 15. The assignment involved a role-play debate in teams, requiring some preparation of team strategy. Thanks to a PA system with outdoor speakers and a rather strong wind, shoppers down the street were treated to a public announcement: “Would the Circumcision Party please meet at 1pm in room 4.” To my knowledge there were no enquiries.

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