Friday, September 14, 2007

CANA, Bishops, and the Refrigerator Box

In the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Gondoliers, the Grand Inquisitor arrives at the palace to find everyone has been promoted to nobility. Outraged, he declares, "When everyone is somebody, then no one's anybody".

When I heard that the Archbishop of Nigeria had announced the election of four more bishops for the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), I started laughing, because this whole thing is starting to sound like a Gilbert and Sullivan show – either that, or a group of 9-year-old girls.

According to reports on the Internet, CANA currently consists of approximately 60 congregations and 80 clergy in 20 states. CANA will soon have 80 bishops for 60 congregations.

I’m not sure what the collective noun is for a bunch of bishops [A miter of bishops? A bevy of bishops? A crosier of bishops? An interference of bishops? If we have a pride of lions, do we have an ego of bishops? And if we have a murder of crows, do we have an admonition of bishops?], but this seems to me an excessive number of bishops.

All this reminds of The Summer of the Refrigerator Box.

When I was about 9 years old, someone in our small town in West Texas got a new refrigerator. The truck delivered it in a giant box, which the lucky recipients left in their yard after they hauled the refrigerator inside.

Four other little girls and I confiscated it immediately and dragged it to the corner of an empty lot where it became our sanctuary from boys, especially my brothers, and indeed, anyone we did not deem worthy, which was everyone but us.

We immediately formed a club and made lot of rules, all of which were aimed at making us special and everyone else not so special. We got to decide who got into the club. Heck, we got to decide who got to come inside The Refrigerator Box.

We were very very picky.

We all had grand titles. Being a Roman Catholic, I was really good at titles, so my Baptist playmates deferred to me. We called ourselves things like Reverend Mother In Charge, and High Holy Potentatetress, and the Very Reverend Benefactor of all Animals, and Her Eminanence the Snack Getter, and Her Majesty the Queen of Main Street.

Even we, however, couldn’t say them with a straight face. We’d very grandly announce our titles to any girl petitioning to join our exclusive little group, and then we’d fall over laughing. We were laughing at the titles. It was only at a more mature age that I realized all those little girls thought we were laughing at them.

And with good reason. We were acting like pills.

We never let anyone else into our club. No one was good enough to join us.

Our special little circle played inside The Refrigerator Box all that summer. Because it is very dry in West Texas, the sturdy cardboard box with its corners reinforced by wood stood up very well to the constant coming and going of five girls and our dogs.

But we never did let anyone else into our club. After all, we’d found it, we’d dragged it to the empty lot, and we’d created the club.

My brothers occasionally would launch attacks on The Box, but we always repelled them with dirt clods, loud shrieks, and threats to tell on them.

One little girl courted us all summer, bringing us cupcakes and other snacks. We’d take the food, but we never let her into The Box or the club.

Like I said, we were being pills.

Finally that long hot dry summer ended. It rained really hard one night, a real gully washer that caused flash floods all over the county. It was both the beginning of the end of the drought, and the end of The Refrigerator Box.

When the rain stopped and our parents let us out to play, we ran to check on The Box. It hadn’t washed away. Instead, it had simply folded in on itself to make a big mushy wet heap.

The combination of the loss of The Box and the start of school ended our prissy little club.

But also, we had gotten very bored with our own company. We’d learned that the Grand Inquisitor was right -- when everyone is somebody, then no one's anybody

But there is one difference between what we did and what CANA is doing.

We were only 9-years-old.



Brilliant, Katie! Made my day!

Padre Mickey said...

Katie, I believe the term is "a messa bishops."

Jan said...

Katie, thank you for this story from your childhood. You're right--you and your friends were NINE years old. What a good comparison to the Grand Inquisitor, which reminds me of the GI in "Brothers Karamozov" who told Jesus to go away. Jesus does tend to "mess" things up. . . .

Bryan said...

Yikes, I remember doing the same thing, about the same age!

I like alliteration, so I suggest "a blather of bishops."

Bryan Taylor-Ferguson, AOJN

Caminante said...

What a wonderful parable. Even moreso that you learned from it and can tell it.

BooCat said...

Dear Katie, I love to read your take on all of this. I usually don't envy any of you in your diocese. On the other hand, you know exactly where Bad Boy +Jack stands. Our Plus Guy tries to come down on all sides of all issues. That, too, is fraught with its own set of problems. Most days I simply pray, pray, pray. . .for us all. It is the only way to do any good open to the average pew-dweller.