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There must be a reason

Men's Abbey (Caen). Some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) by LMP+Earlier this week, a friend and I were discussing amusing laws and restrictions. He had shared a joke about someone interrupting a church service; I off-handedly mentioned that it was actually illegal.

(#176 in the Canadian Criminal Code; Obstructing or violence to or arrest of officiating clergyman [sic])

This led the conversation in the direction of weird laws and rules… for example, it’s illegal to waterski between dusk and dawn. (#250) There was a web search for weird laws. There was much laughter. And there was much contemplation about what had happened to inspire such regulations! We kept saying ‘there’s GOT to be a reason for that!’

Undoubtedly, there is.

The interupting of clergy in religious service sits under the heading of Disorderly Conduct: here in Canada we have a legal expectation to be free to worship without having our clergy detained (I suppose that after worship, if needs be). The waterski example clearly is a call for safety. So there is a reason.

The reasons can be found with a litte thinking, a little consideration, and sometimes a little research. Local laws and customs are the same – designated swimming or toboganning restrictions seem odd, but aim for safety. Provincial laws forbidding the sale of butter-coloured margarine were instituted to protect the dairy industry.

In the church, too, we have a number of traditions, canons, practices, that may seem confusing. Yet, they all have a reason, they all serve a purpose, they all have a history.

Part of the church’s reality, I suspect, is that for many people these reasons are unknown. As a society, this so-called ‘post-Christian’ society, we have lost much of the collective knowledge of Christian traditions. So some of our ways can seem as foreign/incomprehensible/silly/&c. as civil laws (no cows in the house in St. John’s? No dead horse dragging on Toronto’s Yonge St on Sundays? What?!)

Part of our opportunity, as church, is helping people to understand why we are doing what we do. Our liturgical colours don’t just change when we feel like it; our Eucharistic wine isn’t watered down because we’re cheap; the Bishop’s mitre is not just a pointed fashion statement. I could go on! And I suspect we all could – there are traditions we all share, there are unique traditions for each community and congregation. They are part of who we are, they are part of how we worship, and they are important.

And there’s a reason for them. So maybe we need to remind ourselves of what those reasons are, and share that – with regulars, and with newcomers. This learning could provide the opportunity to enrich our experience with God and with one another. It could help us to appreciate even more the rich history of our faith, the beautiful traditions of our worship, the engaging means of putting our belief into our lives.

They are our ways; they are good and holy and have stood the test of time. They may seem weird at first, but there’s a reason for them.

That reason can only help us to better embrace the experience, to enjoy the benefits of communal worship and feel more engaged into loving service. The more we know, the more we can love.

About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I’m a high-energy priest, now serving in the Diocese of Niagara, catching glimpses of the kingdom in daily life. I consider church to be a verb, and I’m passionate about prayer, eco-theology, and social justice. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, gardening and cooking, playing with my dogs, and drinking good coffee.

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8 Responses to There must be a reason

  1. Great post!

    It’s absolutely essential that we each seek to understand the significance behind what we do. Particularly in a high church setting where there is inherent artistic beauty to the sacred, there is a possibility of simply accepting some of these traditions (liturgy, vestments, chants, etc) as being done for the sake of beauty, which at best misses the history and theology behind the meaning, and at worst distracts us from tradition’s intent to point us towards God.

  2. I really like the concept of this article but after reading it twice I don’t see either a clear statement of the law or the clear rationale behind it. Rather than digress into a discussion on tobaganning I wish the author had stuck to the topic in hand. I am not certain even if she is writing about a federal, provincial or municipal law here.

    • Hi David, thanks for your feedback.
      The conversation I had had, which inspired my thinking, was based around strange laws and by-laws, at all levels of civil government. There are, I’ve learned, entire websites dedicated to finding ‘weird’ laws – things that seem humorous or odd at the start, until one does the research into it’s history and rationale. Once that is done, the law can make a lot more sense.
      So without going into all the details of those laws, my aim was attempting to realize how the church too has traditions and rituals that can seem odd – until their rationale is understood. And once we understand the reasons, we can better understand and thereby appreciate (as Matthew said above) “tradition’s intent to point us towards God.”

  3. The waterskiing example is faulty. Nothing weird about a law that protects people from themselves and others while involved in a high speed sport.

    • Michael, in my opinion you’ve proven that with understanding our laws and traditions make sense – in this case more was required than common sense re: safety – hence it being law.

  4. The best of all possible churches in the “best of all possible worlds” as Doctor Pangloss might have said. Everything happens for a reason, traditions are indispensible, etc., etc. Well, I’m not entirely convinced… except when it comes to flowing robes and vain repetitions. Definitely something Jesus approved of. We need more of these. (Luke 20:46, Matthew 6:7)

    • Roger, thanks for your comment – it’s the first time someone’s quoted Voltaire on my blogs. Sorry you were offended by the content.

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