I am your ordinary church punter – I claim no theological training and not a huge understanding of the Establishment. I want to understand more*. Given the choice, I guess I would turn up occasionally on Sunday, enjoy the singing, half listen to the sermon and shake the Vicar’s hand on the way out (him not knowing who on earth I was). But I don’t have that choice as my husband often is that vicar at the church door. Since I started this blog I have been asked from what angle (tradition?) I am speaking with regards to Church. (I'm not as anonymous as I thought I was.) I honestly say – I don’t know. Ask me on one Sunday and I will be absorbed in the awe and wonder of a service in beautiful Cathedral, on another I will be hearing testimonies and being amazed at how God works at grass roots level. On another Sunday I might find I am struggling and rejecting the whole lot.
I did not grow up in a ‘church family’. I would think we were a typical Anglican family at the time. Church on most Sundays was either at a high Anglican parish church in a modern church building or attending Sunday school at a Cathedral where I learned the bible stories and went to an excellent Christmas party each year. I was confirmed on 6th May when I was eleven at the parish church. I only know this as it is written in the front of the New English Bible my parents gave me to mark the occasion. I don’t remember anything about it except that I had to wear school uniform and a funny white headscarf. I resented missing gymnastics club to go to preparation lessons in the vicar’s study with one other girl who I did not know. We learned what the Lord’s prayer meant and that was it I think. I don’t remember my first communion.
This marked the end of Sunday school and we either went to the 8 o’clock (the quick one as I knew it – no sermon, no sung responses - I now know it as the BCP service.) or the family service at either church – one with all the bells and smells and Anglo Catholic traditions. I recently recognised the cathedral on TV when I saw pictures of the decorative ceiling. I spent hours counting circles on a Sunday morning in that cathedral. All in all it was a pretty sound start in learning the words of a service – I can find my way around a service book in several languages despite not being fluent in any.
At thirteen, I walked into town with a friend and went to the YMCA to attend a Crusaders meeting that had been recommended by another friend. And suddenly Christianity for me became real and relevant. The Crusader Organisation (now Urban Saints) was also unfamiliar to my parents - the music, the set up and the informality suited my desire for teenage self expression.
......to be continued
25 / 02/ 2011 Post Script
*I have just finished reading an excellent article by Jane Williams in the Church Times today entitled 'Now more than ever, Christians need to think about their faith.' She encourages us not to leave the study of theology to the professionals and gives very good reasons for this. She ends by saying,
"So perhaps now is the time to be honest about some aspect of your faith that you have never understood, and have been avoiding looking at..."
Have you taken that on board, Curate's wife?