Saturday, April 12, 2008

Exodus

Don't worry, I am not going to use all the books of the Bible as heading for posts.

A question that I am often asked is why have I stopped going to church so often.

So a bit of background is probably in order.

We have to go back to my second year at the Birmingham Bible Institute. In that year, I met a man who was to have an incredible impact on my faith and life, he was the priest of the church in Hull where we did a mission trip.

The priest was called Allan Scrivener, and he came from the Catholic tradition within the Anglican communion - one which until then I had never really looked into. We found common ground in our shared interest in the Ancient Irish Church - what some people refer to as "Celtic Christianity". The week we spent as a team in Hull was the most painful and difficult I can remember. I had been asked to be the team leader, yet I had a team that bluntly refused to be servants of the church we had been sent to.

I failed to lead.

During that week I stayed with Allan in the vicarage, and most nights we would sit up talking for long hours. I felt I had found someone outside my context with whom I could be brutally honest with my doubts and someone who would not condemn me or blithely offer "to pray" for me. I didn't need prayer, I needed counsel. This is something I have come to love about the catholic tradition of confession, the freedom to talk openly about sin and the doubts that faith inevitably creates.

One night Allan challenged my Protestant belief in "justification by faith" - or rather he asked me the most poignant question I have ever been posed, and one which still bothers me:

"why do evangelicals preach justification by faith but live justification by works?"

That night I realized that the evangelical world was not the one where I could ever in all honesty belong - and thus to cut a long story short I was eventually received into the Anglican Communion at St John's Cathedral in Oban by the Bishop of Argyll and the Isles.

One of the interesting things here in Prague is the number of people I have met with similar stories, people once firmly in the embrace of a particular brand of Christianity who for the sake of their own faith had to leave the churches they were in and struggle to find somewhere to call home. People who have lost touch with friends, because they are afraid of questions such as "what are you doing for the Lord?". People who believe in Jesus but can't handle the church.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I have written a couple of long responses to your various posts.

My typing never seems to do justice to my thoughts.

As a regular church goer I enjoy the blog and plan to come back regularly.

Going to church originally was out of a sense of duty for me. Now it fills a spiritual need. I feed off the traditions and the simplistic homily as well as spending time with my fellow parishioners.

Being out and sharing in a community seemed to be an important part of religion to me. It has opened my eyes to the faith of others, inspired me and helped me with the idea that we are all broken. I seem to get more out of the simple communal act in that hour than I do in a weeks worth of reading and debating. Opening myself up to it and my parish is the tricky bit - something I have not entirely mastered.