Tuesday, 29 May 2012

On Being Insulted Nicely

As one of your common or garden liberal Anglo-Catholic types, there are things I do well and things I do less well. I come with my own story and as priest, it is a story that contains (in large italicized print) the whole Calling Thing and in my case one that was within my consciousness most of my life.

As one of your common or garden Christians, I have me a relationship with God that is reciprocal, fruitful and yes, life giving. This Christian appreciates a bit of ritual, regard the Sacraments as central to my faith's expression, enjoy the beauty given by things like music and practice that (probably for very good reason) have survived the test of time and can now be regarded as old. I have been ordained in Holy Orders and as one who regards those orders as sacramental, endlessly wrestle with worthiness and and my place in such a precious ministerial and spiritual place. 

The Triduum - I can do that like a pro. You want liturgies emotional roller-coasters born of ancient ecclesiastical practices? I can do that. Tenebrae? Yup! Stripping of Altars after the Pange Lingua? Yessum! The unfolding light of Holy Saturday? No problems! Want pathos squeezed from familiar and ancient words? I'm your man! Want to sense the Passion, not just rock it up? My place, please!

Pentecost? Less sure of that, actually. For I am not your common or garden born-in-the-spirit charismatic Christian c1960s. Baptized in water and glad for it, but in the Holy Spirit? Can't claim that as a fact of my past in the way meant by so many. Do I find myself speaking in tongues on demand? No, not me. am I open to the possibility? Absolutely, but the Holy Spirit of the Charismatics seems not to want this meagre Christian man. 

After this Sunday's main service, a delightful women (and I mean that, her presence here is cherished) said to me that she wished I knew the Holy Spirit better. Now - that may sound like a nice thing to say and it was certainly said with love. However, the net result was that I felt like a stinking fraud. For the rest of the day. I regard the Spirit to be God as the Son is God and so on - so this was received as the gravest accusation delivered with such grace and without a scintilla of malice or desire to offend. 

The problem is (if 'problem' is the right word) that I am made as I am made. I am the disciple I am. I am not another sort of disciple, and if being Charismatic is what God wants, and that I need to be more richly imbued with God's Holy Spirit, then I am not the man for this job. Is being Charismatic the only way? Does the Lord only want people who speak in tongues? Why not me? I love God too, in my own way. If I am part of a wing in the church that God wishes reformed into oblivion, then God will lose my ministry and he will lose me - because he will have been stringing me along for long enough. 

I am what I am, and I cannot start to feel bad about it now. It's far too late for that. 


  1. Hmmm. Why didn't you write this so I could read this several years ago when the whole Inability to Do Tongues made me feel like a total failure? Still does, sometimes - if I could, that would make me a Proper Christian. Thank you.

  2. I am a charismatic Christian but am not always able to exercise the 'extraordinary' charisms given that the Spirit blows where She wills (yes, I did just say that), and that She can be about as unpredictable as the weather.

    I wasn't always one,and avoided the Holy Spirit like the plague for a good couple of years as I didn't want to be out of control or have something messing with - well, ME! I didn't give a hoot how divine She was, She could back off and stay out of er...me.

    During that time I was deeply suspect to my fellow charismatic born-again evengelical contemporaries and had my salvation questioned time and again. Now that my faith and ministry has spanned the theological gamut and I am as comfortable up the candle as down, what I really want to add is that I was gently brought into my charism of tongues in an Anglican Church in a non spectacular way, and it seemed to me that I was being taught a lesson in not dismissing whole trenches of church tradition or denominations or theology as 'Godless' or 'unsaved' or 'non-spiritual' (aka dead) as was taught by the charismatics who were my leaders as that time.

    We are too quick to dismiss the charisms of hospitality, service, giving, thankfulness, love, patience, kindess, teaching, preaching etc etc and it seems to me, my friend, that you are charismatic but as ever, we are narrowly defining which charisms we value or even accept as truly 'spiritual' gifts.

    So your well meaning parishioner might want to hear a sermon on the charisms mentioned in Romans 12 where the charisms of encouragement, faith, mercy and genorosity make an appearance, charisms which IMHO, you emulate throughout the whole of your ministry. Bless you, you big fat slice of Pentecost, you.

  3. A pity she didn't say 'I pray for you a lot', or something like that. And sad we all tend to box the Spirit in a bit to a camp. He blows wherever. Hope you get some encouragement soon.

  4. Hear Hear!

    (And if I say more than that I shall be putting lots of nasty prejudices on display!)

  5. Ananotherthing - being insulted nicely is more hurtful than having a volley of invective hurled at you.

    (e.g......'We've got NICE neighbours now.....)

  6. I'm not to sure of what the charismatic thingie is all about. If it's about an outpouring of the Holy Spirit than I must be missing something.

    I've felt and know that the Holy Spirit is with us at all times. At my confirmation I was aware of it's power and even physical manifestation as the Bishop laid his hands upon me. You don't have to be charismatic to feel the power of the Spirit and I'm not sure that charismatic's have a monopoly of the Holy Spirit?

    You point out, quite rightly, that you are made the way you are, in God's image. Not in a one person's idea what they wan't to see in their parish priest.

    The infinite variety of God's creation, should be clear to all of God's people, which she is only one among billions. And the gifts that each bring, will be different and unique, whether ordained or lay. It's those gifts that the spirit uses to do her work, wherever she wishes (or blows as someone has said).

    Keep on, keeping on. We love you.

  7. Thanks to you all for your comments. Sadly, this event tapped at a vulnerability that I sense in the tradition that I inhabit.

    I think what upset me (and 'upset' nearly covers it) is that one Christian found this Christian somehow lacking in an experience with God and that is a first for me. As the public person, it felt worse. Frustratingly, too, the lady concerned is the paradigm of all that you associate with good disciples and such a comment from her of people just piled it high - I could handle an assault from an atheist, but less so a loving Christian. I don't blame her though as I am trying to come to the way of thinking that perhaps it is journey that she wishes me well on, rather than finding me wanting. I hope that is it, anyway!

    But hey - if you find another charismatic Contemporary Catholic, tell them they are not alone!

  8. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

    I don't think you are lacking -- or no more than the rest of us.



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