Thursday, 23 April 2015

WEIRD AND WONDERFUL ANGLICANISM


I am fascinated by Anglicanism. So much so that it is the backdrop to the novel I am writing and it is in doing research for it that I decided, with much encouragement, to start blogging about the sometimes weird and mostly wonderful Anglican Church.
Here goes!
I’d never attended church until my newly married mother sent me to a Catholic convent boarding school. I’m still not sure whether she hoped the nuns would cure me of my tomboy habits and turn me into a ‘young lady’ or whether she and her new husband wanted breathing space. Whatever. For the next seven years, except for school holidays I would attend Mass every school morning, pray the Hail Mary between lessons, recite the Angelus at noon and intone the rosary at 5pm on week-days. Except on Wednesdays when we had a Benediction service instead.
If you don’t know what all these are relax. It translates into a lot of praying. I am still of the opinion that you can tell a former convent boarding schoolgirl by the dents in her knees.
Sundays were the exception.
I’d declared myself Anglican because it meant a glorious walk from one side of Boksburg to the other where St Michaels served the mining town.  After the Eucharist service the rector would host our gaggle of St Dominic’s girls to tea and marmite toast because we would have missed breakfast at school.  Yet another hedonistic layer of joy was provided by a verboten rendezvous with an ice cream vendor on our way back.
All this in one morning! No wonder I signed on for Confirmation classes, which for nearly a year got me out of school on Saturday mornings as well. Bishop Ambrose Reeves, the great anti-apartheid activists who was eventually deported, did the laying on of hands. I wish I could tell that I was swept up by the Holy Spirit on the start of a spiritual journey into adulthood. But, time to confess, I was already a bogus Anglican simply marking time until I matriculated.
It was in one of our Confirmation classes that one of the candidates had asked if an unbaptised baby could go to heaven. (We all harboured the hope of performing an emergency baptism on a dying infant.) The priest replied that having recently lost a day old daughter he could not believe a loving God would keep her out of heaven.
With teen-age arrogance we argued the point all the way back to school. The consensus was that he was kidding himself. There was no way that baby had slipped past the pearly gates. Its best bet would have been Limbo, a most interesting place. Back in the 5th century good old St Augustine had decided that unbaptized children were condemned to hell because they had not had their “original” sin washed away.  Mind you, he did add that they wouldn’t burn as fiercely as everyone else in hell because they were not really responsible. In effect they were in a quasi-hell. By the Middle Ages theologians tried to soften the harshness of his position by positing the existence of Limbo, a quasi-heaven. Either way unbaptised folk would never see God.
How, you may ask, were we so sure that the Anglican priest was wrong and the Catholics were right? Fact is we were taught pre-Vatican II catechism nearly every day. We, like most teens were reassured by dogmatic certainty. As it turns out even the Catholics now see the grieving Anglican’s point of view.
It is also a reminder that Anglicanism rest on three pillars: Scripture, Reason and Tradition. Which is probably why we are always hammering at each other and have such difficulty coming out of our corners of diversity. But I find solace in the fact that for as long as I can remember the doomsayers have been predicting schism and we consistently prove them wrong.
One of the matters I have had to research for the book is how to defrock an Archbishop. Well dolls, you can’t believe how difficult that is I’ll update you when I have finished ploughing through Canon 37.
But speaking of Confirmation, a couple of Sundays ago I attended my son’s church where the minister, a youth pastor for 15 years, spoke of how teenagers needed boundaries to feels safe. How they want to see Church in action. It set me wondering whether we Anglicans take Confirmation classes seriously enough. Why do so many confirmands stop coming to church once the bishop as done her or his thing?
Are they bogus young Anglicans simply going through a social ritual, a family tradition?
I’d love your comments….

2 comments:

Peter Nickles said...

Anglicism is quite cerebral by comparison with most other denominations, which I think makes it rather more difficult for a lot of youngsters to relate to

Loraine Tulleken said...

Hi Peter, I know you have done a lot of work with young people but my experience is that they can be surprisingly cerebral. I remember, admittedly old, Readers Digest research that revealed how within three years after graduating we revert to Grade 10 in terms of absorbing new info?