Almighty and everlasting God, who sent your servant Anskar as an apostle to the people of Scandinavia, and enabled him to lay a firm foundation for their conversion, though he did not see the results of his labors: Keep your Church from discouragement in the day of small things, knowing that when you have begun a good work you will bring it to a faithful conclusion; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
That line, "Keep your Church from discouragement in the day of small things, knowing that when you have begun a good work you will bring it to a faithful conclusion..." leaped out at me in a way that screamed, "Pay attention to this!" The collect was referencing Anskar's toils to convert the people in Scandinavia to Christianity which didn't happen initially, and he had to go back to Germany. However, he did consecrate the first bishop of Sweden and the work he had done paid off later.
What I heard in this collect was the reminder, again, that those things "temporal" should not supersede those things "eternal". Something that continues to get lost in the shuffle, I'm afraid, in the struggle to define Anglicanism in a covenant, and to avoid those stinky bits of rot in corners of the Communion which we keep trying to placate.
There are lots of "small things" that have become HUGE things. The presence of women and now openly-gay and partnered bishops really should not affect anyone so personally and profoundly that they can not come to the Lord's Table and break bread with others in the Communion. But it has. There were at least seven bishops who refused to be at the Primates meeting in Dublin last week because "she" was there (the "she" being TEC's Presiding Bishop). Then you have the Church of Uganda committing a sin of refusing the proper burial for a gay Anglican... because he was gay. Wrong on so many levels. The "things" have become so huge that the God that all these folks claim to love and serve is blotted out.
Archbishop Rowan Williams' answer to the issue of these small things is to place his hope on an Anglican Covenant. He picked up another supporter last week with the Archbishop of the West Indies, who endorsed the covenant as a "workable document that can help the Anglican Communion to move forward while addressing issues that face its member churches." The problem that I see is that the document is an unnecessary attempt to keep a community of churches together that are moving at different speeds when it comes to understanding such things as human sexuality. Archbishop Holder of the West Indies thinks such a concern shows a narrow focus.
"Today it is human sexuality; tomorrow it will be something else," he says. But that's my point. We're going to keep chasing our non-existent tails every time somebody in some part of the "covenanted Communion" does something that another somebody says is "tearing the fabric" of the covenanted relationship. The small things continue to get in the way of the work that Church should be about. The Church should be about finding its common relationship in Christ, right? It should be about spreading the good news of the gospel and rejoicing at the return of those who once turned aside from the church due to its past transgressions, right?