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Three years ago today, posts numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 were made by Jessica on All along the Watchtower.

In the second of those posts, titled Blogging on Religion, Jessica said this:

Polemicists will be polemicists, but the enquirer should not log off the Internet, which has a wealth of resources of interest to those whose minds are open. Like many in the CofE my own catechesis did not exist. I never got round to an Alpha course, and sermons apart, my religious education took place via books and the Web. Sites such as those of Tom Wright, BJ Stockman and Fr. Hunwicke and Fr. Longenecker have been invaluable- and you can always avoid the com-boxes.

There’s an Anglican irenic quality there – an Anglican bishop, an Evangelical Protestant, a high Church (now convert) Anglican and a Catholic convert from Anglicanism. My debt is repaid in part by trying to take an attitude free from confessional bias in what I write. That brings some scorn (rightly from their point of view) from those in all denominations who insist dogma and doctrine matter; I don’t disagree entirely, and I understand where they are coming from. Doctrine and dogma-free Christianity is no Christianity at all. But the Church Fathers hammered all this out a long time ago, and perhaps we’d be wise to settle, as they did, on the Nicene Creed as our benchmark for orthodox belief?

Our Lord Jesus Christ (OLJC) told the Apostles that men would know His followers by their love for each other, and He counselled them to be united; knowing us as He does, He can’t have been all that surprised that we’ve fallen away from those ideals. Perhaps if we were better at them there would be less for the polemicists to reproach us with? Great crimes have been committed in the name of Christianity, that is true, as it is of any great cause entrusted to fallen mankind. It is in our fallen nature to pervert whatever good things we have from God. In our folly we use the consequences of our own sinful state to reject the opportunity to reach out for God’s love; and in our pride erect a superstructure of Pharisaism on OLJC’s words, before proceeding to live in it rather than the love of Christ.

It is foolish to think we can prove or disprove the existence of God. If He exists He is Infinite, we are not; He is the Creator, we the created; if we think we have grasped the fullness of the Infinite then, by that mark, we have not grasped God. OLJC reveals what we need to know, and unless we read the Old Testament through the lessons of the New, we shall go astray. God is love. He came to redeem the world not in the expected form of a Messiah who would bring fire and sword to the heathen, but in the form of a slave, a suffering servant. OLJC redeems us through love and through suffering, not through smiting His enemies. A thought to bear in mind when blogging on religion.

That was the mission she embraced then, and it is the mission we embrace today. AATW has become a reasonably large and influential blog (although many are bigger) but on that day, she could have had no idea of what the future would hold. She was willing to share her vision with us. Blogs come and blogs go, and sometimes return, but few manage to make it to three years

Last summer on NEO’s third anniversary one of my commenters said this:

They say it takes a year or two to get traction in the blogging business and 90% won’t last that long. I have seen some popular ones come and go when the blogger begins to realize just what a commitment it is to keep one going. Three years puts you among the veterans. Keep up the good work.

And, for the most part, I think that is so, and most of us have changed direction several times in that time period. But not here, Jess set the standard on the very first day, and we are still trying to live up to it.

But Jess’ job began taking more of her time and energy, and her marriage was killed by her ex-husband’s betrayal and she began to flag a bit. But even as she was a refugee from the Telegraph blog, in one of its more stupid moves it banned most of its religious commenters, and suddenly we turned into a group blog with most of the contributors in the sidebar, including the indefatigable Geoffrey Sales, and they breathed new life into the blog. And so it went.

Then last summer in a horrendous one-two punch one of our contributors had his career threatened because of his contributions here, which caused Jess to take the blog private, where we were till the end of last year.

And then in what was a body blow to many of us Jess herself was diagnosed with what appeared to be terminal cancer. And so it would have been, save for the intervention of God Himself. And now she is recovering slowly but surely, at the convent in Walsingham, which has become very special to so many of us through her devotion to Our Lady.

That of course, left Chalcedon with grave responsibilities, both as the point of contact for Jessica’s doctors, and family and friends, but also for the blog, which has always been important to Jess but also to him and to many of the rest of us. He discharged all those duties admirably (as he still does) even though right in the middle of the crisis, he also had to deal with the start of a new term at work. A veritable iron man, and a worthy partner for Jessica.

And so this post marks the beginning of the fourth year of All along the Watchtower, and our mission remains unchanged. Also known from day one is Jess’ love for St Isaac the Syrian and on that first day she gave us a quote from him as well:

In love did God bring the world into existence; in love is God going to bring it to that wondrous transformed state, and in love will the world be swallowed up in the great mystery of the One who has performed all these things; in love will the whole course of the governance of creation be finally comprised.

But my dearest friend would also want us to remember the good times and all the fun we’ve had, so let’s do that in comments, after we raise a glass to the woman who made it all possible, after all, as she is wont to say, “It’s five o’clock somewhere!”