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Source: (consider it) Thread: Agnostic and Church Attendance
Karl: Liberal Backslider
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# 76

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quote:
Originally posted by Clutch:
quote:
Originally posted by Karl: Liberal Backslider:
quote:
Originally posted by Clutch:
I still don't see how this is not still a chicken before the egg type of circular logic. Faith requires no conventional proofs to exist.

Then faith is a form of agnosticism, unless you have some other non-conventional means of knowing. If that is so, what is that non-conventional means?

I do not contrast faith with agnosticism. I contrast knowing and believing.

Merriam-Webster defins agonsitic as the following:

1
: a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (such as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god


Yep, that's me. I don't claim that God definitely exists, or that he doesn't. I work on the provisional basis that he does. If he wants me to have a stronger belief than that, the ball is in his court. And he's apparently said that himself; Faith as the gift of God? I never said I was faithless, just that I do not know that my faith is justified. So, if that's not the sort of faith God wants, we're back to the ball being in his court.


quote:
Unconventional does not equal agnostic. Therefore I'm not sure what you are trying to get across.
This bit is really bizarre. The only sense in which I've used the concept of "unconventional" is in the sense of types of evidence or reasons for belief. Where you got the idea I equated unconventionality with agnosticism I have no idea.

quote:
I can't prove it behind a feeling, which is what faith ultimately boils down to.
You seem to use "proof" and "evidence" interchangeably. If faith is just a feeling then it seems a very vague and ephemeral thing; I can have a feeling that my train's going to be late but I wouldn't be inclined to dawdle to the railway station on that basis.

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Boogie

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# 13538

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Like I said, in Church - and I go every week - I will simply think to myself 'I don't believe that' and consider what I do believe. I don't sing or say any words which make no sense to me.

I still enjoy going to Church. I enjoy the ritual (such as it is in an evangelical Methodist Church). I love the people and it's excellent practice for my Guide Dog puppy. I have a role to play (AV person). We have a daily soup kitchen in town, a weekly luncheon club and we support several charities including in Mexico, Uganda and Kenya all of which I have visited and delivered staff training.

I no longer worship God and I'm not even certain s/he exists.

Is this compartmentalism? Is it cognitive dissonance?

I don't think so.

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Garden. Room. Walk

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Bishops Finger
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Certainly sounds like honesty...

IJ

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The future is another country - they might do things differently there...

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mousethief

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# 953

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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
I am an agnostic, but only because it is scientifically or pedantically correct to be so. There must always be the faint possibility - however vanishingly small that might be - for a God to be objectively proved one day.

This is my understanding of agnosticism as well. I have heard self-proclaimed atheists loudly say "There is no god!" then when questioned admit, "Well, there has been no proof, and I don't believe what hasn't been proven." In other words they are really agnostics using "atheism" wrong. Of course the way language works, if enough people use a word wrong, eventually that usage becomes right. Which would be a pity because the current distinction between "atheism" and "agnosticism" is useful and meaningful.

Of course I have also heard people who call themselves atheists who are really and truly atheists -- they believe in their very soul of souls that they know there is no god. They are, of course, deluded -- there is no proving a negative existence claim. ("One black swan is all it takes....") I sometimes wonder if their spittle-flecked enthusiasm isn't related to the fundamentalism noted above -- they put up a very stern front because underneath they aren't really certain at all, but in the crowd they hang with, you have to pretend to be certain.

quote:
Too often though agnostic is taken to mean a sort of 50-50 stance between belief and non-belief.
Agreed. Which is very unhelpful.

quote:
Originally posted by wild haggis:
Look at doubting Peter! He wasn't excluded by Jesus. The opposite in fact.

Forgive the impudence here, but do you mean Doubting Thomas?

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
Christianity is also mythology, poetic mythology, often set to good music (we hope it is good): I think when we abandon the poetry of religion, we also abandon the sublime. Why can't an agnostic experience the sublime?

I guess we'd have to first decide on the meaning of "sublime." To me it has connotations of metaphysics. If you open a thread on this I would love to discuss the whole thing with you and everybody else!

quote:
Mightn't religion have explanatory power beyond the mere ideas and beliefs?
I'm sure I don't understand this. Explaining what? Does experiencing the sublime have explanatory powers? What do I understand better after an encounter with the sublime than before it? Again my thoughts here of experiencing the sublime are tied to the Cloud of Unknowing, in which the experience is most assuredly not explanatory, but an entity (for want of a better word) not intellectually connected to any ideas or words beyond itself.

quote:
Originally posted by mdijon:
The Bible talks about hope as well as faith, and I often find it easier to use the word "hope" rather than "faith". But they are clearly linked concepts.

Dunno if this helps but here goes. There is a line in Hebrews (I'm pretty sure) that says "Faith is the confidence in things hoped for." Frankly I found that never helped me much. Although it occurs to me right now as I type this that "confidence" here might mean not "free of doubt" but rather "willing to act on it."

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Bishops Finger
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# 5430

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Yes, Hebrews 11 v1:

'Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.'

That's from the New Revised Standard Version, but the Good News version (my personal favourite, on account of Annie Vallotton's illustrations!) says:

'To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.'

Does that help?

IJ

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The future is another country - they might do things differently there...

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
If anyone asks, I tell them. Few ask - they don't want to know my doubts much as they love me. The new minister tried for a while, giving me books etc. She's given up now, but I'm sure prays fervently for this lost sheep [Biased]

I had a friend (he has passed away now, and the bitterness of that loss still wrings my heart) who was a pagan. I don't mean a neopagan. His family remained dedicated to the old gods and old ways when Scotland was evangelized, and remained so through the long centuries right down to the 20th. (I called him a paleopagan and he thought that was hilarious.) He said that of course they went to kirk and went through the motions, because they didn't want their farms to be burned and to die on a gibbet (aren't Christians wonderful folk?). Some priests (later pastors/ministers) were deemed trustworthy enough to know the family secret; most of course were not. Those who knew did not bother the F. family or attempt to convert them. They were part of the community, and if they were anything like my friend, they were solid and compassionate people. Good folk. My friend was more "Christian" than half or more of the Christians I know.

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Tortuf
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# 3784

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Your faith journey (or, lack of faith journey as the case may be) is your own. It is really no one else's business.

So, if you want to participate in the church services, or social life, or whatever, it is not harming the believers. My personal belief is that God is not going to get bent out of shape if you participate in the Eucharist with doubts, or even disbelief.

And, if you don't believe in God what do you care if someone says this fictional character is going to get mad if you participate in a ceremony honoring someone who does not exist?

If you happen to see things while you are there that make you think this faith whiz may be worth pursuing, great. If not life will go on.

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Chorister

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# 473

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Worship of God doesn't cause me a problem, but worship of Jesus causes me huge problems - I would particularly find it difficult going to an Evangelical church for this reason. I'd have trouble singing a lot of the worship songs (Jesus, Oh Jesus, come and fill your lambs...) but also the way the theology is expressed in sermons and prayers.

I've encountered criticism on the Ship for this point of view (friendly criticism I might add), but in a more traditional CofE church nobody much minds (and indeed expects you to make up your own mind). Choral Evensong - my preferred service - seems to big up on God and the historical person of Jesus rather more than in Evangelical circles, so the theology seems more balanced.

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Retired, sitting back and watching others for a change.

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mousethief

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# 953

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quote:
Originally posted by Bishops Finger:
Yes, Hebrews 11 v1:

'Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.'

That's from the New Revised Standard Version, but the Good News version (my personal favourite, on account of Annie Vallotton's illustrations!) says:

'To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.'

Does that help?

IJ

At this point I think we'd need help from an NT Greek scholar to unpack the word "assurance."

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Bishops Finger
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Yes, as I read the verse (in both versions), the same thought occurred...

[Paranoid]

IJ

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The future is another country - they might do things differently there...

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Moo

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# 107

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
At this point I think we'd need help from an NT Greek scholar to unpack the word "assurance."

I'm not a Greek scholar, but I have some useful books. The Greek word is υποστασις

My Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament has this to say. The most common meanings of this word are 'substance', 'property','effects'. Less common meanings are 'expectations', 'a written undertaking'.

The authors go on to say:*
quote:
These varied uses are at first sight somewhat perplexing, but in all cases there is the same central idea of something that underlies visible conditions and guarantees a future possession
. They suggest that in Hebrews 11:1 the word could be translated as 'title deed'.

*Moulton and Milliken: The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament p.659

Moo

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Garasu
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# 17152

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Isn't that the 'things hoped for' part of the phrase rather than the 'assurance'?

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"Could I believe in the doctrine without believing in the deity?". - Modesitt, L. E., Jr., 1943- Imager.

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Aravis
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# 13824

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If you have agnostic patches, having the Eucharist as the main service is very difficult. In a small church, people will notice if you don't participate. Not that they will necessarily mind, but it is disconcerting that your private doubts become so immediately obvious.
Having the Eucharist as the main service also makes it difficult to invite agnostic friends to attend.

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ThunderBunk

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quote:
Originally posted by Aravis:
If you have agnostic patches, having the Eucharist as the main service is very difficult. In a small church, people will notice if you don't participate. Not that they will necessarily mind, but it is disconcerting that your private doubts become so immediately obvious.
Having the Eucharist as the main service also makes it difficult to invite agnostic friends to attend.

I couldn't agree less. To me, a sacrament is liberating at such times because the words become less important. The action is the main focus, which one can take at the level which makes sense between you and God at the time. This doesn't deal with times of deepest doubt, admittedly, but the invitation is still there, and (for me at least) far easier to deal with at such times than assault with weapons-grade doctrine or scriptural sucker punches.

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Currently mostly furious, and occasionally foolish. Normal service may resume eventually. Or it may not. And remember children, "feiern ist wichtig".

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LutheranChik
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# 9826

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I agree that a Eucharistic service is not a barrier to an agnostic's presence. Even in small chur hes it's common for people to " sit it ou"...at least in my experience. And if you don't -- "Help thou my unbelief." I suspect God cares much less about a seeking person who can't cross all the t's and dot all the i's theologically yet goes yo p to the rail than a spirutual poseur who goes through the motions for self-serving reasons.

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Moo

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# 107

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quote:
Originally posted by Garasu:
Isn't that the 'things hoped for' part of the phrase rather than the 'assurance'?

No,the 'things hoped for' derive from the word for hope. A title deed is a guarantee.

Moo

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See you later, alligator.

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Aravis
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# 13824

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Thunderbunk, I take your point and I can see that the Eucharist may be helpful for some people in that situation, but believe me it doesn't work that way for everyone.

And some churches are so keen to welcome everyone to the Eucharist that there seems to be no concept of anyone actually wanting to sit out of that bit. Once when I quietly omitted going up to the altar rail, the priest kindly brought communion over to where I was sitting. [Confused]

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L'organist
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# 17338

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Many year ago I heard a splendid sermon from a bishop - at a confirmation service - who said that anyone who claimed never to have had doubts would fall into one of three camps: (1) they were not being truthful; (2) they had a knee-jerk faith big on platitudes and short on understanding; or (3) they were a child and had yet to have to cope the harsher realities of life.

I think that holds good.

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Rara temporum felicitate ubi sentire quae velis et quae sentias dicere licet

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Bishops Finger
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Indeed it does. Well said, that Bishop!

[Overused]

IJ

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The future is another country - they might do things differently there...

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mousethief

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# 953

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quote:
Originally posted by L'organist:
Many year ago I heard a splendid sermon from a bishop {snip} I think that holds good.

Indeed, very wisely said.

quote:
Originally posted by Aravis:
If you have agnostic patches, having the Eucharist as the main service is very difficult. In a small church, people will notice if you don't participate. Not that they will necessarily mind, but it is disconcerting that your private doubts become so immediately obvious.
Having the Eucharist as the main service also makes it difficult to invite agnostic friends to attend.

In this instance Orthodox piety is a godsend. There are many reasons people might not partake of the Eucharist, and people are inclined to not notice or care whether somebody else approaches the chalice. Indeed in some Orthodox traditions you only take communion once a year (the clergy try to fight this practice but we're talking Orthodoxy here, and everything takes forever). At any rate, if you don't go up, the odds that someone thinks, "that person is having doubts about the Eucharist" are vanishingly small. Indeed the odds that they think about your not going up are slim, unless they notice and kindly bring you a piece of antidoron (semi-blessed bread).

quote:
And some churches are so keen to welcome everyone to the Eucharist that there seems to be no concept of anyone actually wanting to sit out of that bit. Once when I quietly omitted going up to the altar rail, the priest kindly brought communion over to where I was sitting. [Confused]
I'd say that was jaw-droppingly presumptuous.

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Bishops Finger
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There are one or two in our little congregation who, for reasons known to themselves, do not receive Communion. They do, however, come to the altar rail for a prayer of blessing.

Now and then, we get visitors, who might remain in their seats at Communion-time, though our custom is to extend an invitation to all to come forward for Communion or blessing. I would never, ever, be so presumptuous as to take the Sacrament to them willy-nilly...

[Eek!]

IJ

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The future is another country - they might do things differently there...

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Chorister

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# 473

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Whilst I agree that it is perfectly possible for someone to attend the Eucharist as an observer, or partial participant, it is much easier for someone to attend Evensong in this vein. I am sometimes accompanied to Evensong by someone who is not a believer, who enjoys it at the level of a concert. Other attendees might be full believers or those somewhere in between the two extremes. It really does have something for people at all stages.

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Retired, sitting back and watching others for a change.

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Gee D
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# 13815

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One of the stalwarts of our congregation, now sadly deceased, was agnostic. His wife is a firm believer. For the best part of 6 years, he would accompany her each Sunday to the main service, enjoy the music, the company and the sermon, but never take communion. He'd help serve tea and coffee on rostered days, and would work as agent for his wife in engaging strangers in conversation and making them feel welcome. Other days of the week would see him helping with the grounds, and similar tasks. The rector took his funeral and said that it was perhaps the most difficult he had ever had to take, acknowledging the deceased's non-belief while supporting his widow and family.

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Not every Anglican in Sydney is Sydney Anglican

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Boogie

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# 13538

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quote:
Originally posted by Aravis:
Thunderbunk, I take your point and I can see that the Eucharist may be helpful for some people in that situation, but believe me it doesn't work that way for everyone.

And some churches are so keen to welcome everyone to the Eucharist that there seems to be no concept of anyone actually wanting to sit out of that bit. Once when I quietly omitted going up to the altar rail, the priest kindly brought communion over to where I was sitting. [Confused]

It's normal for our minister to bring communion to the seated people they stay seated because they can't walk - not because they don't want communion.

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Garden. Room. Walk

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Baptist Trainfan
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# 15128

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Just to clarify: would your priest do that automatically to anyone who stayed seated, even if they were visitors? Or does notice have to be given before the service?

In our set up, the Deacons come round serving everyone at their seats. I always announce that anyone can receive, whether they are members of this church, another church, or of no church,and whether they feel their faith is strong or weak - and that, if they prefer not to receive, they should simply nod to the Deacon and they will go on to serve the next person.

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Gamaliel
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# 812

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In my experience, in most Anglican settings where there are likely to be visitors something is usually said to set the scene beforehand so they know what to expect at communion. I suspect the mileage does vary.

The only instances I've known of where the clergy-person will approach someone who is seated during communion would be if they knew them already and knew they were unable to come up for communion for reasons of disability or frailty - or if it'd been pointed out to them that someone was present who wanted to receive but couldn't make it to the rail as it were ...

On the Orthodox thing that Mousethief mentions - yes, I get that. I've never felt awkward not being able to receive communion in an Orthodox Liturgy, even though I might be the only person there who doesn't ... most Liturgies I've attended have involved a small number of people.

I can remember one occasion, it may have been the Orthodox equivalent of Holy Cross, in September I think, when there was clearly an expectation that people would queue up (in US parlance, line-up) to kiss the Cross and do some spiritual aerobics. The priest waited for me for a moment or two after everyone else had done it - they sort of do a prostration/bow thing that looked like a complicated manouevre to this poorly co-ordinated Prot ... and then quietly put it aside.

I'd imagine he was expecting me to join in as it had been my custom during prior visits to kiss the Cross before receiving the antidoron - people queue up for that after they've received communion.

I declined not through any Protestant squeamishness but because I wasn't sure how to do the acrobatic bit.

So, yes, on the whole I've found the Orthodox unintrusive and not at all concerned about what you do or don't do during a service - although I have heard some horror stories, mind.

That said, I once tried to lend a hand snuffing out the candles after one service using the holy candle-snuffer-outer-oxy-doron-opoupopolopodus thing they used for the purpose (ordinary items have whacky names in Orthodoxy when there are perfectly good English equivalents - such as candle-snuffer) ...

On that occasion I thought I was going to be struck down like Uzzah. Anyone would have thought the sky was about to fall in ...

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

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mr cheesy
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# 3330

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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:


In our set up, the Deacons come round serving everyone at their seats. I always announce that anyone can receive, whether they are members of this church, another church, or of no church,and whether they feel their faith is strong or weak - and that, if they prefer not to receive, they should simply nod to the Deacon and they will go on to serve the next person.

That's interesting, I'd not heard of a Baptist church before which was this open. So how would you feel about someone receiving who you knew was an agnostic and who maybe just felt that it was a thing to do in the moment?

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overheard on a Welsh bus-stop: Jesus don't care about you, he's only interested in your soul

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mr cheesy
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# 3330

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
In my experience, in most Anglican settings where there are likely to be visitors something is usually said to set the scene beforehand so they know what to expect at communion. I suspect the mileage does vary.

I've never seen anyone "pressurised" - even accidentally - to take communion. That's a very worrying report.

I've been in loads of services where the immobile have elements distributed where they're seated, but someone (sidesperson or the president) always asks them first.

Fwiw, I've always thought it much more difficult to pass when in a Baptist setting (ie one where a deacon offers the elements to congregants in their seats) than in an Anglican setting.

In fact the different attitude to HC was one of the major attractions for me of the Anglican church in the first place.

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Boogie

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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
Just to clarify: would your priest do that automatically to anyone who stayed seated, even if they were visitors? Or does notice have to be given before the service?

In our set up, the Deacons come round serving everyone at their seats. I always announce that anyone can receive, whether they are members of this church, another church, or of no church,and whether they feel their faith is strong or weak - and that, if they prefer not to receive, they should simply nod to the Deacon and they will go on to serve the next person.

Similar words are said before our communion services, without the nod bit. I'll have to ask what she does when visitors stay seated. But, when there's a baptism and half the visitors stay seated it's obvious they don't want to receive.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
It's normal for our minister to bring communion to the seated people they stay seated because they can't walk - not because they don't want communion.

Yes, this seems to be common in Methodist churches, which are keen for everyone to participate in communion.

However, I find myself wondering about the reason for the open communion table. Methodists and many others frequently take a memorialist view, so they don't see communion as a factor in anyone's salvation. Yet the urge to encourage everyone to participate suggests that there's more to it than just remembering Christ's sacrifice.

IMO the open table communion service is treated by MOTR mainstream churches as a kind of recruitment activity. We want attenders to feel that they belong to our church so they'll stay. Encouraging them to participate in one of our most ancient rituals is a way for us to tell them they do belong. It doesn't matter very much to church leaders exactly what communicants believe, because belonging and participating come before (and sometimes instead of) believing, and 'belief' itself is viewed as a shifting commodity.

As for the agnostic individuals at the other end of the ritual, what do they think is going on during this ritual? And why would those attenders who are very unconvinced about both belonging and believing participate in communion?

Few agnostics are likely to be sacramentalists, although there may be superstitious people among them who believe the elements to have a special power unrelated to official clergy pronouncements. In that case, the bland 'all are welcome' approach might not seem very convincing; you'll participate if it accords with your own specific needs of the moment, and your own brand of 'Sheilaism', but not otherwise.

Some might be in the pews in spite of themselves, vaguely attracted to spiritual things, and perhaps the aesthetics of a traditional service, but otherwise suspicious of official religion and unwilling to give the clergy the satisfaction of a crowded communion rail.

I also think that the 'all are welcome' slogan is somewhat undermined by the communion liturgy. What if you don't think the Lord always deserves our 'thanks and praise'? What if you don't believe that 'Christ is risen', or that you belong to any 'royal priesthood'? What if the notion of falling into 'sin' makes no sense to you?

Regular church folk come to realise that these ideas are negotiable, or even that they offer a sort of mood music rather than a fixed theology, but perhaps this isn't clear to less embedded attenders. The vicar might make some friendly, inclusive noises, but the printed page has more authority than s/he does.

Now, I fully accept that the above is all just conjecture, but what I'm saying is that there must be many reasons why attenders might choose not to participate in our ancient ritual. The usual assumption is that worshippers refuse because they think themselves 'unworthy', but I don't believe this is the whole truth.

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
If anyone asks, I tell them. Few ask - they don't want to know my doubts much as they love me. The new minister tried for a while, giving me books etc. She's given up now, but I'm sure prays fervently for this lost sheep [Biased]

I had a friend (he has passed away now, and the bitterness of that loss still wrings my heart) who was a pagan. I don't mean a neopagan. His family remained dedicated to the old gods and old ways when Scotland was evangelized, and remained so through the long centuries right down to the 20th. (I called him a paleopagan and he thought that was hilarious.) He said that of course they went to kirk and went through the motions, because they didn't want their farms to be burned and to die on a gibbet (aren't Christians wonderful folk?). Some priests (later pastors/ministers) were deemed trustworthy enough to know the family secret; most of course were not. Those who knew did not bother the F. family or attempt to convert them. They were part of the community, and if they were anything like my friend, they were solid and compassionate people. Good folk. My friend was more "Christian" than half or more of the Christians I know.
Did they leave any record of what they believed? So little is known about pre-Christian Celtic belief (the Church did a really good job of turning the gods into mere human folk heroes and fairies) that it would be an invaluable resource.

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quetzalcoatl
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Svitlana wrote:

quote:
IMO the open table communion service is treated by MOTR mainstream churches as a kind of recruitment activity. We want attenders to feel that they belong to our church so they'll stay. Encouraging them to participate in one of our most ancient rituals is a way for us to tell them they do belong. It doesn't matter very much to church leaders exactly what communicants believe, because belonging and participating come before (and sometimes instead of) believing, and 'belief' itself is viewed as a shifting commodity.
That's a pretty good expansion of 'praxis not doxis', which I was always told was a Jewish approach to faith. Doing not believing, I suppose. It seems very odd to reverse it, since as you say, belief is not a fixed category.

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no path

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:


In our set up, the Deacons come round serving everyone at their seats. I always announce that anyone can receive, whether they are members of this church, another church, or of no church,and whether they feel their faith is strong or weak - and that, if they prefer not to receive, they should simply nod to the Deacon and they will go on to serve the next person.

That's interesting, I'd not heard of a Baptist church before which was this open. So how would you feel about someone receiving who you knew was an agnostic and who maybe just felt that it was a thing to do in the moment?
Baptist churches do vary. Some, by Constitution and Trust Deed going back many years, have a "Closed Table" which would technically mean they were breaking the law if they offered Communion to everyone!

In answer to your question: it's between them and God, and I believe that the very act of offering or participating in Communion can say something to someone about God's grace. I'm not like the old Scottish ministers who were so concerned about people receiving "unworthily" that they "fenced the table" vigorously with the result that hardly anyone "communed"!

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Enoch
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"Having doubts" does not make someone an agnostic. Nor does a person have to screw themselves up to have lots of confident faith, otherwise they should not take communion. There are plenty of times in virtually every Christian's life when God seems far away, when the oil is low, the candle seems to be flickering, and almost going out. Those are definitely times when keeping up the steady disciplines of faith is a good thing even if they don't seem to be working.

It strikes me that an agnostic is a person whose settled position is that they do not know whether there is a God or not, consciously don't want to make up their mind, or in many cases really can't be bothered.

I have to admit that I can't really see why such a person would attend church other than for weddings and funerals. It would be odd if they did.

However they describe themselves, a person who would like to believe more is not an agnostic. They are a person whose faith is weak, uncertain or flickering. Obviously, it would be better for them if they believed more, just as it would be better for those of us whose faith is more settled, if our faith was stronger and more courageous than it is. One would hope that by attending church, their faith will grow.

I don't think it encourages that, if we redesign our services so as to avoid anything that might unsettle, stimulate or challenge those whose faith is weak.

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Chorister

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quote:
Originally posted by Gee D:
One of the stalwarts of our congregation, now sadly deceased, was agnostic. His wife is a firm believer. For the best part of 6 years, he would accompany her each Sunday to the main service, enjoy the music, the company and the sermon, but never take communion. He'd help serve tea and coffee on rostered days, and would work as agent for his wife in engaging strangers in conversation and making them feel welcome. Other days of the week would see him helping with the grounds, and similar tasks. The rector took his funeral and said that it was perhaps the most difficult he had ever had to take, acknowledging the deceased's non-belief while supporting his widow and family.

What a godly man! (He just didn't realise it.)

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Retired, sitting back and watching others for a change.

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Gamaliel
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I'm afraid I find your friend's story hard to believe, Mousethief. The idea of an unbroken succession of pagan belief persisting in Scotland is pure moonshine.

Granted, there are vestigial fragments of Celtic pagan lore within popular religion in Ireland and the Gaelic-speaking parts of Scotland but the idea of an unbroken chain of pagan belief persisting until modern times rather stretches credulity.

Heck, even in the film 'The Wicker Man' the pagans were neo.

All contemporary pagans are neo-pagan.

End of.

I'm not suggesting your friend was deliberately telling porkies, but I've known enough instances of Irish and Scots folk winding up gullible US tourists and convincing them that they still believe in 'The Little People' and so on to take your pal's story with a very large dose of salt or tot of single malt.

Sorry.

But he was talking bollocks.

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Chorister:
quote:
Originally posted by Gee D:
One of the stalwarts of our congregation, now sadly deceased, was agnostic. His wife is a firm believer. For the best part of 6 years, he would accompany her each Sunday to the main service, enjoy the music, the company and the sermon, but never take communion. He'd help serve tea and coffee on rostered days, and would work as agent for his wife in engaging strangers in conversation and making them feel welcome. Other days of the week would see him helping with the grounds, and similar tasks. The rector took his funeral and said that it was perhaps the most difficult he had ever had to take, acknowledging the deceased's non-belief while supporting his widow and family.

What a godly man! (He just didn't realise it.)
Yes indeed.

I just noticed the typo - it should have been 60 years, not 6!

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Not every Anglican in Sydney is Sydney Anglican

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
I'm afraid I find your friend's story hard to believe, Mousethief. The idea of an unbroken succession of pagan belief persisting in Scotland is pure moonshine.

Well at very least it'd have to have been passed down undetected through about 30-40 generations.

I'd guess (of course, no more than a guess) it is more likely wishful thinking begun by Victorians and passed down from that period. There was quite a lot of that kind of thing emerging around then.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
Baptist churches do vary. Some, by Constitution and Trust Deed going back many years, have a "Closed Table" which would technically mean they were breaking the law if they offered Communion to everyone!

Yeah. I wasn't thinking of "closed communion", I was mostly thinking of the various types of "open communion".

In most Anglican churches I've ever been in, there is no effort to screen people going forward for communion - whereas I've seen a variety of practices in "open communion" baptist (and baptist-type Evangelical churches). I don't think that the minister and deacons would knowingly distribute to a visiting Sikh (as a random example) who thought it was appropriate in the moment to take the elements in any of the Baptist/Evangelical churches I know of.

It is possible that Anglican presidents might not (possibly thinking about the implications for the Sikh from his own faith community), but I think it is much more likely that an Anglican church would offer the elements to anyone who looked like they wanted them than any kind of Baptist.

But it sounds like at least some Baptists have developed practices that are more like the Anglican ones in at least this respect.

quote:
In answer to your question: it's between them and God, and I believe that the very act of offering or participating in Communion can say something to someone about God's grace. I'm not like the old Scottish ministers who were so concerned about people receiving "unworthily" that they "fenced the table" vigorously with the result that hardly anyone "communed"!
Fair enough. That feels like unusual Baptist practice to me, but maybe I'm out of touch.

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Enoch
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I agree with Gamaliel about the claim that any family in Scotland remained resolutely pagan in spite of everyone and everything else around them. That's 14-15 centuries he is claiming they have kept it up for. I just don't believe it.

Mousethief was the person who made this claim still resident in Scotland or had he or his forbears migrated to the New World?

And what was it he claimed they actually believed and did all that time? I can't really imagine anyone getting away with sneaking up the glen to sacrifice the odd sheep from time to time. I'd say that any sort of paganism which doesn't involve slaughtering animals is bound to be neo.

There's a certain type of folklorist who likes to see things that they can attribute to pagan survival, whether it's morris dancing or corn dollies, but most (I'd actually say 'all') of it is wishful thinking.

John Barleycorn is a song about beer, to be sung while drinking it. That's it. Get over it.

[ 04. September 2017, 08:05: Message edited by: Enoch ]

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
I agree with Gamaliel about the claim that any family in Scotland remained resolutely pagan in spite of everyone and everything else around them. That's 14-15 centuries he is claiming they have kept it up for. I just don't believe it.

Mmm. I'm possibly arguing against myself here, but I think there is some evidence of continuation of pagan beliefs in Scandinavia so I suppose it is possible that a family in Shetland had relatives or close links to Scandinavia as recently as the 18 century.

I still think it is a bit unlikely, but I'm not sure one can be totally dismissive of the idea.

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mr cheesy
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Anyway, I'm not really sure it matters: unless the guy is being entirely disingenuous, presumably he believes that his family paganism goes back a long way in his family and that he - personally - has been shielding it whilst continuing with outward Christian religiosity for the sake of community relations.

I'm not sure it matters if the reality is that the "paganism" was really created in the 18 century, goes back to Viking beliefs from the 15-17 century or goes back a lot further.

[ 04. September 2017, 08:55: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Anyway, I'm not really sure it matters: ...

Anthropologically, yes it does matter.

We know next to nothing about how real northern European pagans thought or felt, how they saw themselves and their cosmological identity. If this were a genuine survival, then it just might contain a smidgeon of a relic of that, even if it was difficult to identify it. If it were just a neo re-creation, whether early C20, C19, or whenever, then it will contain no genuine echo. It is merely retro, formed by and in reaction to the prevailing Christian culture of the time, no more the real thing than the tat shops in Glastonbury High Street.

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Gamaliel
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There's a simple explanation, I think.

If the guy was of Scottish heritage and living in the US he may have been tempted to 'big that up' as certain among the Irish diaspora have done - or the Welsh in Pennsylvania even though they pronounce all the words incorrectly ...

[Biased] [Razz]

What I suspect has happened is that Mousethief's informant put two and two together and made five.

He'll have heard a few scraps and vestiges of ancient lore and practices - which certainly did survive in a kind of decontextualised way - and put two and two together and assumed it all amounted to some kind of seamless continuation from pagan times.

Which is bollocks.

Just because there are some throw-backs to pagan rituals and so on doesn't mean that it survived as a complete belief-system until modern times.

The most that could be hoped for would be a form of syncretism.

As a boy in South Wales I knew old people from the Forest of Dean who believed all sorts of wierd and wonderful stuff - herbal remedies, ghouls and ghosts and things that went bump in the night, the devil being seen in a fiery chariot riding across the sky ...

Go back a few hundred years and there'd have been a lot more of that.

Heck, I read the other day that it was estimated in 1935 that a certain community in the West of Ireland had preserved more oral tradition and folklore than the rest of Western Europe combined ...

So, no, I'm not doubting that elements of pagan customs survived and were absorbed into Christianity - but the idea that paganism continued in some parallel form outwith a largely Christianised society is stretching it a bit. And then some ...

Sorry Mousethief. I don't doubt your friend was/is an impressive guy but he doesn't Pass Go, he doesn't collect his £200 ...

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Let us with a gladsome mind
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mr cheesy
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OK, you've made your point (numerous times now), how about we stop judging someone who isn't here to defend themselves.

Anthropologically it might be all bollocks, but that might not change the fact that there is a guy who sat in a church for much of his life who was not only an agnostic but who believed (rightly or wrongly) that he was from a long line of pagans.

We can invent a flight of fancy based on very limited information about him "finding himself" as a Scottish American within neo-paganism or that he was simply winding up MT.

But it is far simpler to believe that MT might know when he was being wound-up and that this guy actually believed what he is saying.

You or I might not like it, but that's really immaterial if he really believed it about himself.

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Gamaliel
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
OK, you've made your point (numerous times now), how about we stop judging someone who isn't here to defend themselves.

Anthropologically it might be all bollocks, but that might not change the fact that there is a guy who sat in a church for much of his life who was not only an agnostic but who believed (rightly or wrongly) that he was from a long line of pagans.

We can invent a flight of fancy based on very limited information about him "finding himself" as a Scottish American within neo-paganism or that he was simply winding up MT.

But it is far simpler to believe that MT might know when he was being wound-up and that this guy actually believed what he is saying.

You or I might not like it, but that's really immaterial if he really believed it about himself.

None of which obviates what I wrote.

He may well have believed it himself. What I wrote left that open as a possibility.

That doesn't make it any less bollocks.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
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http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
None of which obviates what I wrote.

He may well have believed it himself. What I wrote left that open as a possibility.

That doesn't make it any less bollocks.

Ye gods.
[Waterworks]

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overheard on a Welsh bus-stop: Jesus don't care about you, he's only interested in your soul

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Aravis
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Sorry, I should add that the Sunday on which the vicar brought me communion I didn't really want was a Sunday when I was playing the organ, so the assumption was probably that I didn't have time to walk to the altar. I am sure it was charitably meant.
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Gamaliel
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That makes sense, Aravis.

mr cheesy [Confused]

Surely more [Roll Eyes] than [Waterworks] but YMMV as they say aboard Ship.

But there we are ...

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