Property Rights and Wrongs, WY and NY

On forgiveness for excessive borrowing, or for wandering out of bounds …

St.Thomas1I’m quietly amused every time I say the Lord’s prayer, which is at least once a week.

At St. Thomas in Dubois, we say “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It is, by the way, the oldest congregation in Dubois, established in 1901 by the Episcopal priest who came to the area as a missionary to the Native Americans.

OFRAt Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn (established by order of Peter Stuyvesant in 1654, so that Brooklynites didn’t have to cross the river every Sunday just to get to church), the oldest congregation in town doesn’t talk to the Lord about trespassing. They say “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

Get the chuckle?

IMG_0140How bizarrely appropriate that in the world capital of financial markets we worry about monetary obligations,  while in Wyoming we are fretting about venturing wittingly or inadvertently onto terrain we are unauthorized to enter.

But is it really any wonder? The most important property in New York City is money. The most important property in Wyoming is property.

TrespassingSignFortunately for those of us who love to hike, there’s so much wilderness about Dubois that there’s really no need to wander out of bounds.

What a pity that both versions of the prayer seem to reduce God almighty to the role of a mediator in property disputes.

I much prefer the version I learned as a child in Iowa (shall we call that the middle ground?): Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

That’s more open to self-interpretation than the other versions, it seems to me. Less politically or theologically correct, perhaps, but much more clear.

We don’t all trespass. We’re not all in debt. But we’re all sinners, and we all need to forgive each other for something.


© Lois Wingerson, 2016
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Author: LivingDubois

I am a retired science journalist, devoted to enjoying and recording the many pleasures of life in the Wyoming's Upper Wind River Valley.

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