Friday, April 11, 2014

Congratulations to Christopher Gildemeister
Yesterday, one my closest American friends, Christopher Gildemeister, received his long overdue PhD from
our alma mater, The Catholic University of America, with a dissertation entitled An Analysis of the Portrayal of Catholicism on Prime-Time Network Entertainment Television, 1950-1980. It was dearly earned, but few people I know deserve more to bear the appellation Doctor of Philosophy.    

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The New Man: C. S. Lewis and Posthumanism

A thought-provoking paper delivered to the Anglican Studies Seminar on February 25 by Professor Robert Song.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Legacy of Vatican II: Another Scholarly Contribution

With sincerest thanks to my fellow editors, Chris and Mary Beth, and to all our contributors, I am pleased to announce that Fordham University Press have released Empowering the People of God: Catholic Action Before and After Vatican II. You can purchase it at the FUP website or on Amazon.

Update: 26 November 2013.

Fordham University Press Booth, American Academy of Religion, November 2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Heading North

 A view of the facade of Abbey House. The uniform appearance of this facade is mis-leading, as the remains of older buildings on the site have been incorporated into its construction.
Department of Theology and Religion (Abbey House)
University of Durham

I am pleased to announce that, as of October 1, 2013, I will begin an eleven-month term as as the Michael Ramsey Postdoctoral Fellow in Anglican Studies at the University of Durham. I will be working under the direction of the Van Mildert Canon Professor of Divinity, Mark McIntosh, devoting half of my time to assisting in the development both of the postgraduate and the postdoctoral elements of Anglican Studies and half to my own research.

As part of the terms of this appointment, it has been agreed that, during my tenure as fellow, my public involvement in controversial matters in the Anglican world will be in a personal capacity and will not be considered to reflect the views of Durham University, Durham Cathedral, the Department of Theology and Religion or the Michael Ramsey Programme in Anglican Studies. Any involvement in ongoing legal proceedings will be undertaken in a private capacity, in my own time, and will not involve use of Durham University or Durham Cathedral’s name or resources.

That said, it is my hope that the next year will provide many opportunities for developing a research framework for the program that devotes attention to all aspects of the Anglican world, High, Low and Broad, Global North and Global South. After all, the Twenty-First Century looks likely to be as interesting (in the Chinese sense) an era for Anglicans as was the Seventeenth.

Finally, and on a personal note, it will be a truly blessed opportunity to be working just a short walk from where my father lies buried, although I will not be working in Abbey House, where he had a room overlooking the Nine Altars (the east end of Durham Cathedral), but in 16 South Bailey, which was formerly the home of Michael Ramsey and his wife. Two generations in the same department. It has a nice ring.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Neutral Principles Rule!

There is no provision in TEC's Constitution or Canons which require prior approval of a diocesan constitution or its canons. There is no express prohibition against withdrawal of a diocese. In sum, reviewing the governing documents from a secular perspective, there is no explicit or clearly delineated expression of TEC's claim that the General Convention is the ultimate authority or judicatory of the Church. 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Crumbling Edifice: The Church Commissioners and the Decline of the Anglican Establishment

Review: Andrew Chandler, The Church of England in the Twentieth Century: The Church Commissioners and the Politics of Reform, 1948-1998 (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2006).

On January 15, 1991, First Church Estates Commissioner Douglas Lovelock brought disturbing news to the bishops of the Church of England. After more than a decade of property speculation that had significantly increased the value of the investments of the Church Commissioners, the economic bubble had finally burst and the Church of England faced a need for drastic economic retrenchment. Almost overnight, a cacophony of protest erupted as Anglicans in the pews (and episcopal palaces) denounced the hubris of the Church Commissioners in so believing in their financial expertise as to squander long-term security for short-term gain.

Andrew Chandler's weighty tome on the fortunes the Church Commissioners represents a most valuable contribution to scholarship, with still relevant insights concerning the way in which ecclesiastical assets can and should be managed. Much of the value of The Church of England in the Twentieth Century derives from its reliance on the internal papers of the Church Commissioners, providing a window into the mindset of the relatively small group of men (and occasionally women) who set postwar fiscal policies that allowed the Church of England to establish adequate pay scales for its clergy and maintain church buildings that would otherwise have fallen into disrepair. Their correspondence throws an equally revealing light on the activities of Anglicans in the pews in the years following the Second World War. 

Formed in 1948 from the merger of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (a corporation established by Parliament in 1836 to manage church estates and revenues) and Queen Anne's Bounty (a charity organized in 1704 to provide grants to poor benefices and loans for the repair of clergy houses), the Church Commissioners were one of the fruits of the twentieth century managerial revolution, and enjoyed the active support of Geoffrey Fisher, perhaps the last archbishop of Canterbury to take much interest in the institutional church. Chandler demonstrates the increasing detachment of future archbishops from the work of the Commissioners, typified in the lament of Archbishop Michael Ramsey to the then bishop of London in 1967. "One of the more godly laymen on the Board of Church Commissioners," he wrote, "has asked why the meetings do not begin with prayer. When I became Chairman I was informed that it was not their custom to have prayer and I followed the existing pattern. I must confess that at the time I sometimes used to feel the proceedings were so ungodly that the custom was just as well, but there is really no reason why this should be the only ecclesiastical body which does not pray at its meetings." (Michael Ramsey to Robert Stopford, 19 May, 1967, quoted on 150-151).

Ramsey's comments reflect the unease with which many churchmen contemplated (and still contemplate) the world of finance. The general lack of clerical experience in that arena (the present archbishop of Canterbury notwithstanding) coupled with the perception that markets were not renowned for respecting the dignity of the individual only accentuated the gulf between the guardians of the Church's purse and the shepherds of its souls. That said, the history of the Church Commissioners is in great measure a history of the postwar Church of England. Despite the relative autonomy granted by the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act of 1919, the half century that followed attested to the enduring supremacy of Parliament (characterized most notably by the parliamentary rejection of a proposed revision of the Book of Common Prayer in 1928). The Church of England remained a national church, its clergy vested with responsibility for all within their pastoral cure, not merely those who identified as practising Anglicans, and its assets were intended to benefit the nation.

The early Commissioners, insists Chandler, bore the stamp of the era in which they were formed, "a pragmatic liberal bureaucracy; a brisk but humane enterprise set in motion by experienced and committed executors who understood their tasks sensibly, rationally, without the show of politics." (24) They were typified by Malcolm Trustram Eve, Third Estates Commissioner from 1952 to 1954 and First Estates Commissioner from 1954 to 1969. A seasoned industrialist (with interests in cement), Eve sustained and developed the policies adopted by the Church Commissioners in the late 1940s, that included an embrace of Stock Market transactions at the expense of the Church's earlier reliance on the purchase of government bonds, investment in commercial property and the reorganization and consolidation of the scattered agricultural holdings of the Church of England.

Such policies brought about a sea change in the relationship between the Church and those who continued to be its tenants, whether London householders or rural farmers. Particularly after the lifting of rent controls in London in the early 1950s, the Commissioners began to emphasize the income potential of their properties in the London districts of Maida Vale and Hyde Park (although they conceded the importance of affordable housing for their tenants in Paddington). Similar concerns reshaped relations with their farmer tenants, particularly after the suppression of the glebe as a mechanism binding the income from a specific piece of land to a particular incumbency. Agricultural land that failed to provide an assured source of revenue was now as likely to be sold as retained.

The transformations of the 1950s, though striking, were as nothing compared to the revolution of the era that followed. The success of investment in London commercial property during the 1960s and 1970s, encouraged the Commissioners to pursue more risky schemes a decade later. The lifting of exchange controls led to extensive investment in foreign property, both in the United States (especially California and Texas) and Japan, and by the early 1980s property accounted for two-thirds of their portfolio. The Commissioners also embarked upon a series of what Chandler terms economic "dreadnoughts," most notably shopping centres such as St. Enoch's in Glasgow and the Metrocentre in Gateshead. Sizable commercial loans (often without fixed interest rates) were secured from the high street banks, including a staggering £250 million line of credit from National Westminster Bank. With the hindsight of the past decade, the inevitability of a crash seems inescapable.

There was, however, another side to the story, one for which Archbishop Ramsey's earlier comment is revealing. Both the Church Assembly and its successor the General Synod responded to the Commissioners' early successes with requests for ever increasing levels of expenditure on clerical stipends, pensions and investment in bricks and mortar. The results of this collaboration between the Commissioners, the Church Assembly/General Synod, and the Dioceses were frequently beneficial but they were also costly. Few of the beneficiaries, whether parishes, clergy or bishops, seemed conscious that with increased costs come increased liabilities. The long drive to raise clerical stipends that culminated in the establishment of Central Stipends Authority in 1973 was accompanied by an unseemly degree of inter-diocesan strife over funding priorities. When the widening gap between assets and obligations toward clerical pensions became evident during the 1970s, the unwillingness of the General Synod to embrace a measure of fiscal restraint arguably set the Commissioners on the road to the speculative plunge of the 1980s. Dioceses and parishes were always quick to identify uses for new income but slow to propose sacrifices that might keep the budget in balance.

Chandler's narrative is replete with illuminating insights into the mind of the postwar Church that range from the debates surrounding the closing and consolidation of rural parishes to the bitter struggle over divestment from South Africa. Bishops, dioceses and cathedrals all receive attention, as do the financial ramifications of such intra-church matters as Faith in the City and the ordination of women. For an institutional history, the number of vignettes of local situations (the evoling of the debate over the sale of redundant churches first to Roman Catholics in 1950s and subsequently to Muslims and Sikhs in the 1970s and 1980s is particularly fascinating) is extensive. One will search in vain, however, for references to Honest to God or the "Durham Affair," there is little discussion of church-state relations prior to the cataclysm of 1991, and the wider Anglican Communion is conspicuous by its absence. Perhaps the most misleading feature of the book is its title, which might lead the casual reviewer to assume a comprehensiveness which is absent, but as a revelation of the workings of the institutional church, Chandler has provided something of enduring value. Anthony Trollope's Archdeacon Grantley would have understood the mindset of the Church Commissioners all too well, which perhaps adds poignancy to Chandler's ultimate conclusion:

The historian of the last fifty years is left only to wonder what the next fifty years will bring. Unless the societal patterns which have gathered such force in the later twentieth century are superseded by new ones which combine to benefit the cause of corporate Christianity, at some point decline must bite through the sinews of the body and into the structures, the very bones, which give it solid form and movement. Arguably it was the achievement of the Church Commissioners between 1948 and 1998 to maintain, by a steady, ongoing reform of particulars, the contours of an order and a method which might well have decayed and even collapsed in some areas without their efforts. Perhaps a future age will observe that their legacy was simply to hold back for a period of time a decline which was altogether too formidable to be halted by the Churches. (481-482)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Beyond Concupiscence: A Funeral Homily

A Sermon on 2 Corinthians 4.16-5.4 and John 6.37-41 
by the Rev Dr Anthony Bash 
given at St Cuthbert’s Church, Durham, 10 June 2013 

I first met Gerald about seven years ago. Our meeting, characteristically, was at an 8am service of Holy Communion from the Book of Common Prayer, a service which Gerald loved and cherished.

Each year, the word ‘concupiscence’ comes up in one of the lectionary readings for that service of Holy Communion.

Once a clergyman read the lesson in which the word ‘concupiscence’ occurs. Gerald was serving, as usual. In the vestry after the service, the clergyman admitted to Gerald that he did not know the meaning of the word ‘concupiscence’. Gerald offered the clergyman a learned definition, setting it in its context in the thought of St Augustine. The clergyman went away the wiser. Later that same day, Gerald gave the clergyman a book and an article (both of which Gerald had written) that touched on St Augustine’s views about concupiscence.

I am that clergyman, in this very church, formerly ignorant of the meaning of the word ‘concupiscence’, and now much, much wiser for Gerald’s explanation.

For those of you who do not know what ‘concupiscence’ means, it is this. ‘Concupiscence’ refers to powerful feelings of physical desire, especially when set against the longings of the Spirit. Gerald himself wrote that, in St Augustine’s thought, ‘concupiscence’ means ‘general moral weakness’.

Given Gerald’s scholarly interests and his Christian faith, it is not surprising that today’s carefully chosen readings also point us to the Christian view of the human body, the flesh and blood which we inhabit. They also point us to the Christian view of the body’s weakness, of the body’s frailty and of the body’s tendency to compromise with what it knows it should do and be. Indeed, our first reading implicitly points to our tendency to concupiscence. This tendency is inevitable, because we are in the body, and so made of flesh and blood that are frail and tend to sin.

In our first reading, St Paul says we inhabit a ‘tent’ as our earthly home. In the tent, St Paul says we groan and are burdened. He mixes metaphors: the tent, he says, is ‘wasting away’ and ‘transient’. To use modern jargon that Gerald would eschew, that tent – our bodies – is time-limited and has built-in obsolescence. This is why we groan: our bodies are mortal. They will decay and fail. So we long, says St Paul, to be away from the body, not so that we can exist ‘naked’, as bodiless spirits, but (also as St Paul says) so that we may be ‘a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens’.

Gerald is now out of his earthly tent, in which he groaned and of which he was tired. St Paul would have us celebrate the guarantee of the new body that will be Gerald’s – and the new bodies that in due time will be ours too.

How do we know that a new body is not mere aspiration but both promised and guaranteed?

We know and can be sure, St Paul tells us, because, as God raised Jesus from the dead, so he will raise with him all those who by faith are his, that is, ‘in Christ’ and not ‘in Adam’. The events of the first Easter Sunday morning are the ground of our confidence that we will have resurrected bodies, and that we will live resurrected lives – with no groaning, no sighing, no obsolescence ... and no concupiscence.

Our second reading, from the Gospel of St John, also takes us to the human body. St John tells us that the resurrected body is eternal and it will be raised on the ‘last day’, which in the Gospel of St John is the Day of Judgment.

What is the resurrection body like? Is it a cleaned up version of the last vestiges of our human form? Will it be an old body that, like a car, has had a service and MOT, for example?

To keep the metaphor of a car, it will not be a reconditioned body. For, though we have continuity of identity in the life to come, there is discontinuity of form. St Paul in I Corinthians 15 puts it this way: the resurrected body was formerly sown as a perishable, physical body but it is raised, transformed, as a spiritual body. It is sown in weakness – with concupiscence! – but raised in glory.

This means that we will not be in heaven with our physical blemishes. Rather, though our identity remains the same and though we remain physical, our form will be radically discontinuous from what it is now.

St John tells us in the second reading that the ground of our certainty that these things are so lies in the will of God, undertaken and completed by Jesus through the Spirit. Everyone who believes in the Son – the Son who came from heaven to do the Father’s will – is kept safe for God and will be raised up with a new body on the Day of Judgment.

This is what we celebrate today. Not principally the life of a husband, father, grandfather and scholar. (After all, he left strict instructions that there should not be a eulogy or encomium at his funeral.) Rather, we celebrate the loving Father in whom he believed. We celebrate the Son who gave his life for all humanity. We celebrate the Spirit whose life and being are the essence of our resurrected bodies. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

As we sang earlier, ‘God is Three, and God is One’. The Three and the One are our celebration today. They are our vision and hope, as they were Gerald’s, and as we sing in the last hymn. Thanks be to God.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Gerald Bonner: A Life Well Lived

Gerald wrote in his will: I desire that I be buried according to the rites of the Book of Common Prayer of 1662 . . . with a celebration of the Holy Communion and without any eulogy or encomium though I ask for the prayers of my friends. His family wanted to do as he wished, but funerals are also for the living, and we want to celebrate all Gerald was and did, so we have put together this necessarily incomplete tribute.


He made you feel honored when he spoke to you, even when you felt you weren’t really deserving of such honour. The verdict of the last clergyman to minister to his spiritual needs embodies the life of Gerald Bonner, a life that transported him from the pre-World War II London borough of Haringey to a distinguished visiting professorship at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC.

The child of an ex-Indian Army officer and a London County Council primary schoolteacher, Gerald was called upon to take up responsibilities at an early age following the premature death of his father. His dedication to repaying the sacrifices of the mother who raised him and to caring for his younger brother Nigel stayed with him throughout his life and he held in high regard the person of Father Damien, the Roman Catholic priest who gave his life for the lepers of Molokai.

A scholarship boy at the Stationers School, he joined the Army in 1944 and saw postwar service with the King’s Dragoon Guards in Palestine. In 2011, when the uprising against Colonel Gadaffi was in its formative stages, he recalled how the troopship carrying him home had docked at a “one-camel hamlet” called Misuratah. After demobilization, he went up to Oxford for three years of study at Wadham College (1949-1952), which he often remarked would have been impossible without the university grant for ex-servicemen.

From Oxford, he entered into service at the British Museum, where he would serve as a keeper of manuscripts for over a decade. During these years he demonstrated a zeal for independent scholarship that led to the publication of his seminal study of St. Augustine of Hippo in 1963. He was also an enthusiastic participant in the work of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, building connections with prominent Anglican and Orthodox churchmen. He spoke regularly at the Fellowship’s annual conference, and was an irrepressible teller of anecdotes at the Entertainment on the final evening.

In the mid-1960s, at the instigation of Professor Hugh Turner, Gerald was invited to Durham to join the Theology Department, where he served as the resident historian among a group of theologians. For many years he carried the burden of teaching church history from the patristic era to the present day. He started courses on Augustine of Hippo, and also on St. Cuthbert and St. Bede, as he felt it wrong that, at that time, nobody in the Theology or History Departments was working academically on the two northern saints whose mortal remains lay in the Cathedral.

Gerald organised a conference on Bede in 1973, attended by around ninety scholars from many countries, and later edited the proceedings under the title Famulus Christi. Bede was also the subject of Gerald’s 1966 Jarrow Lecture, and of his Cathedral Lecture in 1970; more recently, he suggested, at the request of Canon Jones, the text to be put above Bede’s tomb. The guides tell us that this text is an inspiration to visitors and pilgrims at the Cathedral, some even making return visits to pay their devotion. In 1986, David Rollason, Clare Stancliffe and Gerald collaborated in organizing a conference on Cuthbert, and although Gerald felt that his own contribution to this was small, David has written very appreciatively of the help he gave.

Retiring early in order to guarantee that a successor would be appointed, he was granted a new lease of academic life with his selection as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Early Christian Studies at the Catholic University of America (1990-1994). Here he found a community that valued his gifts and students who represented an academic crème de la crème. CUA knew his calibre and set an appropriate value on it. Five years later, Villanova University (a Catholic institution near Philadelphia, where he had delivered an Augustinian lecture in 1970) offered him a semester’s teaching that proved equally rewarding.

He taught several summer schools at Nashotah House Seminary in Wisconsin, following in the footsteps of Michael Ramsey; and was an invited lecturer at academic institutions from Vancouver to Rome, with many places in between. His reputation as an international authority on Augustine was further demonstrated by requests to contribute so many articles to the mammoth Augustinus Lexikon, though he remarked that he was unlikely to be around when the article on Zosimus was needed!

Gerald’s book on Augustine has since been reprinted in paperback; and some of his many articles on Augustine, Bede, Cuthbert, and early church controversies, have been published as collected volumes. A further volume was planned, but his deteriorating health prevented this. He was very touched to be honoured with a Festschrift edited by Augustinian friends in Rome.

As well as his writing, Gerald was always generous with help and encouragement to students, colleagues and friends. A young Austrian scholar who was attempting to catalogue all the Augustinian manuscripts in English libraries found the task taking longer than expected. Gerald responded by spending several days in Salisbury Cathedral library that summer, and several at Holkham Hall in the depths of a very cold winter, to help out in the cataloguing. He welcomed all comers, and was only too glad to share information and insights; he was ‘given to hospitality,’ whether in welcoming new members of staff, entertaining visiting colleagues, or simply bringing old and new friends together for the pleasure of their company. Some will remember him enthusiastically stoking the bonfire and letting off fireworks at our annual bonfire party, whose participants ranged in age from ten weeks to their early nineties.

Gerald eschewed the combative enthusiasm of many Anglican conservatives, but he never allowed that to impede his deeply held convictions. He was deeply committed to upholding the sanctity of life, speaking and writing to that effect in the public arena. In 1994, after the narrow vote by the General Synod in favor of the ordination of women, he long agonised about his decision not to take up his seat in General Synod in order to accept an American professorship. Convinced of the unwisdom of a decision which might impede the reunification of Catholic Christendom, he had trouble accepting that his presence would not have changed the outcome.

He remained a devoted Anglican, being a regular worshipper both at the Cathedral and here at his parish church, where he was a Server at the early morning communion services until infirmity made this impossible. He was always ready to help in any way he could, and one year, when the then vicar was particularly overstretched, Gerald took the weekly service at the Low Newton Remand Centre, doing everything himself, taking the service, giving an address and playing the piano for the hymns.

Gerald was a man of deep learning and powerful convictions, who made it a point never to neglect contact with those he knew. He kept up a regular correspondence with family and friends and his letters were by turns entertaining and profound. In many ways a pessimist (a preoccupation with Augustine’s theology could hardly have made him anything else) and with a private side that even those closest to him could not touch, he nevertheless loved his wife, his children and grandchildren, and the many friends he made over a lifetime that saw his world change out of all recognition. If his loss is grievous to us all for a little while, those whose lives he touched have but to follow the example that he set for them.

He used to say that the Dies Irae, with its emphasis on sin and judgement, was the only suitable hymn for a funeral: but he touched many lives for good, and we pray that his sins may be forgiven and his love and kindness remembered. May he rest in peace, and may light perpetual shine upon him.


We would like to say how grateful we are to all the staff at Melbury Court, where Gerald spent the last five months of his life. They cared for him so well, and with such kindness and consideration, and gave such support to us as well. He couldn’t have been better looked after, and we are so grateful for all they did.


There have been so many loving tributes to him in the letters that we have received that we wish there was space to give them all: 

Gerald was always a gallant gentleman among academics, a link with a world that has passed I think, a world of high principle, courageous views, and scholarship untainted by the modern grab-every-opportunity-you-can. 

It is [Gerald’s] capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation that is above all etched on my mind whenever I think of him . . . [He] was a great-hearted man; just to think of him puts me in fuller touch with the sense of the love of God that is the foundation of life itself. 

I had many conversations with Gerald over the years, mostly on the road to and from St. Cuthbert’s, and invariably found him engaging company . . . I shall remember him as he was, with his good-humoured and ironic acceptance of the odd ways of the world. 

He was always such a good raconteur. We shall remember him as a lively and knowledgeable teacher who brought fun to the lecture room. 

Gerald was a great man and a great scholar. For me, he was a humbling inspiration to whom I owe more than I can say. 

Even though I was never a great fan of Augustine of Hippo, I received from Gerald warmth and encouragement for which I am ever grateful. I will look back fondly on his contribution to my life, a contribution that extended well beyond any immediate academic involvement. He was a wonderful scholar and a true mentor. 

[Gerald] was always so kind and encouraging to me in my academic work; and a good friend who will be much missed. 

Gerald was an enormously faithful friend over the years since Oxford days. There must be many, many people whom his friendship and goodness have touched. 

His life goes on through his immense scholarly achievement and the inspiration and care he gave to his students and postgraduates. I remember with special gratitude and affection his genial kindness to a very half-baked young librarian, when I first came to Durham, and his ready help with any enquiry. 

[He] took an interest in and had a kind word for “new hands” . . . What impresses me is not only Gerald’s own learning but also his humility and humanity – the work of a truly great scholar, to which his many publications bear eloquent testimony. 

One of my earliest memories, as a very small child, was Gerald giving me a model Rolls Royce, powered by batteries - an inspired gift that few would have made for a little girl in the 1950s. I went on to make model ships, build Bayco houses, and eventually drive a tank! I still have the atlas Gerald gave me on my twelfth birthday and although many countries have changed their names and boundaries, it is a much loved book and I use it frequently. 

He was a lovely man and will be dearly missed.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

In Memoriam: Gerald Bonner, 18 June 1926-22 May 2013

Thou Hast Made Us For Thyself And Our Heart Is Restless Until We Rest In Thee
(St. Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions, Book 1)

Yesterday, in his eighty-seventh year, my father Gerald Bonner passed to his heavenly reward surrounded by his loving family and in the City of Durham that had been his home for so many years. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Husband, Father, Friend and Scholar, he has touched the lives of many, both in Europe and North America.

His earthly journey has ended but his reception among the Redeemed (while observing all the Anglican proprieties) will be a joyful one.

Requiescat In Pace    

I Have Fought The Good Fight, I Have Finished The Race, I Have Kept The Faith
(St. Paul, Second Epistle to Timothy, 4:7)

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Office: The Moral Subtext

The Office ended yesterday and while there were wonderful moments throughout "No Place like the Office," the closing sequence was surprisingly moving, from Andy's lament: I wish there was a way to know you're in the "good old days" before you've actually left them, to Creed's philosophic: No matter how you get there or where you end up, human beings have this miraculous gift to make their place home.

The best, however, was saved for last and (appropriately) for Pam: There's a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn't that kind of the point? Could this be the reason why The Office struck such a chord in a decade so racked by political polarization and anomie? Far from being larger than life, the characters of The Office were all too human. For all their foibles and flaws, ordinary people living humdrum lives showed a degree of loyalty and commitment to fellow members of their community that compared favorably with the world at large.

The undoubted humor of The Office frequently obscured its moral subtext, yet in "No Place like the Office" the viewer was reminded of its importance.

Well worth watching in its entirety, the final sequence appears below.

NBC no longer provides a link, but there is a Youtube version.