Friday, 14 September 2012

Circles and Straight Lines

The lasting effects of the glossolalia 
There are times in my standard Earth week when I find myself hanging with the dudes from the funky charismatic churches. The great joy of our Church of England, apart from the joy and solace to be found in the wording of draft amendments to draft bills for draught excluders is that we are a broad church.

At one end of the spectrum you get the funkies in their open-neck shirts, perma-smiles and and prayers that are two-thirds the word "just". At the other end, you get us old dears, in our black suits and white collars, quaffing gin and stinking of burned resins. And I think that it is a remarkable and wonderful organisation that can house us all. 

In wider society, there is talk of high and low, or else of candles and the upper or lower placings thereon. In other words, one would imagine that my brothers and sisters from the bean-bag edifices of the Holy Stage-Set were the furthest end of the continuum from us from the "if it ain't prehistoric it just ain't cool, man" wholly cluttered-up edifices. Nothing in common, differing emphases on the persons of the Godhead, different outfits, different language and all that. 

I used to think that too. I am the first to say that much of the charismatic wing is a complete mystery to me and I fit into it like my feet do my daughter's fluffy slippers. Equally, I know that my mates from the charismatic wing think me basically papist and a throwback to times before churches had electricity. And that is fine. Actually, it presents a perfect balance - I think. 

Rather than a straight-line with ends - us on one, them on t'other - I have now come to the point of view that despite previous best-efforts to deny this thrice until my cock crowed, we are actually a lot closer. I think the whole thing is a circle, not a line. What charismatic Anglicans and Anglo-catholics have in common is a deep sense of engaging physically with the worship in which we are part. The truth be told, we all wave our arms around and I could no more not cross myself at a Blessing than they elevate arms in praise songs. It isn't contrived - it is just who we are. You look at a picture of a large act of worship at the cathedral church of the Holy Trinity in the Archdiocese of Brompton, and you would see as much smoke, light and effect accompanying the music as in the spikiest of High Church shrines. Perhaps the music is different and we use different linguistic styles, but in the end, we tune ourselves into the bit of God we understand most of all in a physical and specifically tactile way. I sort of get it, truth be told. 

In the end, I think we are all a lot more similar than any of us would have courage to admit. There is always the danger that particularism will prevail and "mine" becomes better than "yours" which does nothing but stifle this wonderful breadth of ours. The more that "we" can be "us" and "you" can do the same, I think that the balance achieved is the best in the world. However, for now I will leave it that in the great circle of church existence, only the accidentals stop us from being rather alike. 


  1. I think that you are right about this. We all have our comfort zones in worship or traditions, but in the end, we are in one business, the worship of the one God.

    I have been to all sorts of church from Roman Catholic to Anglican Cathedral and somehow the differences don't matter when you are all joining in doing the same thing. Which is why I don't really worry about physical unity of Churches, just knowing that we are united in the one God and our Worship of him. The circle isn't squared and probably never will be.

  2. I must admit that I did notice I was the only one at the new church we tried last week that crossed myself. However is was the first time that I did not feel out of step or odd, neither did I feel uncomfortable with the people in front of me throwing their arms aloft when singing or the general praying aloud during the prayers of the people.

    I think I am growing, I enjoyed the differances!

  3. It was in an evangelical charismatic meeting that I first plucked up the courage to cross myself which was definitely not my tradition. It needed courage because I got some funny looks and people worried if I was really 'sound' after all. (Hands raised OK. Making sign of cross not OK.) I do it a lot now. I think you are right about the circle and different ends of the spectrum being closer than we sometimes think. I'm a bit of a chameleon and enjoy a great variety of worship as long as the 'just'word count doesn't get too high in prayers or the smoke isn't thick enough to make me cough.

  4. Do you have electricity in your church then, father?

  5. and a week on I found my very English husband clapping at new church. Now that is a first!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...