Thursday, 1 April 2010

From The Episcopal Cafe

In a letter to church bodies worldwide, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, announced a major international ecumenical agreement that the Feast of All Fool's will be celebrated on May 2nd starting in 2010.

2010 seemed like a good time to make this important change since this year's traditional observance coincides with a major Christian feast, Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday, which commemorates Jesus' Last Supper and marks the beginning of the Great Three Days.

Noting the inherent conflict of the two feasts falling on the same day, pastoral care professionals wondered at the appropriateness of traditional pranks such as putting sugar in the salt shaker or salt in the sugar bowl on such a solemn day. Others expressed fears that acolytes might super glue superfrontals to altars thus disrupting traditional "stripping of the altar" ceremonies.

The principal reason for this shift is historicity. The preponderance of the historic evidence is on the side of the later date.

Utilizing an extensive slide presentation, the Rev. Dr. J. Robert Wright, St. Mark's in the Bowery Professor of Ecclesiastical History at General Theological Seminary in New York spoke to reporters saying "It appears that the earliest texts place the observance squarely on May 2nd."

Wright will also appear in a new History Channel documentary "The Truth About April Fool's Day" scheduled to premier Thursday evening. (Check your local listings).

"The first mention of the feast is in 1392," Wright continues, "when Chaucer wrote The Nun's Priest's Tale, where the phrase 'Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two' appears." This translates as '32 days after March.'

"In the past, most people assumed that Chaucer meant that this meant 32 days after the beginning of March or April 1st. But closer examination points to 32 days after the end of March, or May 2nd."

Other scholars who have examined the data agree. "Based on the best available evidence May 2nd would appear to be the correct day for April Fool's Day," said Dr. Joan R. Gunderson who holds a PhD in American history from the University of Notre Dame.

Still, Gunderson doubts that many people will want to make the change. "The legal ramifications that arise between churches that do make the change and those who do not are monumental."
Many religious leaders seem to be aware that changing a cultural fixture like April Fool's Day would be difficult.

"Personally, I don't see it," commented Brian Reid of the Society of Archbishop Justus. "I mean, can you imagine Google actually changing their yearly prank just because it was the right thing to do? Hah!"

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