Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Learning to Live in England, Part 05

Tuesday, 08 June

While Demetrios stayed home to write, I went to the library to use their computers and do some blogging. I was extra lucky, because while I was there, they had Toddler's Rhyme Time, bunch of small kids singing. It was so charming! I knew most of the songs, but one I didn't know and found especially delightful was this:

The grand old Duke of York
He had ten thousand men,
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only halfway up,
They were neither up nor down!

I laughed.

Libarary computers are free to use, but there is a time limit of two hours. So when my time was up, I walked a block or two to the center of town and bought myself a lunch of egg salad egg mayo sandwich, with an adult-sized juicebox containing blackcurrant juice. I found a bench by the clock tower in the square and sat there to eat.

Then on to the yarn shop. I did pick out some yummy yarn, in all the colors of our flat, but I've no idea what I'm going to do with them. I think I may make a tea cozy. Anyway, buying the yarn was secondary; the main objective was to find and join the knitting group that meets there on Tuesday afternoons. Which I did, although only one other knitter showed up today. Her name was Sandra and she is a young grandmother who works at Tesco (supermarket). Myra, the proprietess, joined us, along with a shop clerk named Mark, who began to knit three years ago and says knitting has now 'taken over me life.' (No, I do not know, but I think yes.) So we spent a pleasant afternoon knitting and chatting.  About halfway through, Mark served us tea.

These people are hilarious! I mean, everybody from here is. Demetrios says all the comedians come from this area of the country, and I can well believe it. They never miss a beat with their witticisms.  Mark and Sandra, especially, teased one another mercilessly all afternoon and kept us in stitches in more than one sense!

In the evening, we went to a church discussion group. The church bulletin notices sheet said the group was to discuss the sermon or to deal with any questions regarding the service (meaning especially the contemporary service). Discussion group to meet at such-and-such an address. Where's that? I called the church, but too late; nobody was there. Finally I just started phoning anybody whose telephone number was listed. On the second try, I found a woman who told me how to get to Fairfield Close, and it's very near us, a 5-minute walk.

So we went there and met Stuart, who is to be ordained July 4, and his wife, Angela. then the worship leders showed up, Kirsten and Paul.

We didn't say much. We did make it clear we were Orthodox, and we did ask one or two questions, seeking their point of view. Okay, so let me see if I can present their POV to you. First, there is a concerted effort to bring people in, get them to attend church. There is a theory, probably accurate, that the old services (and even the old buildings, for children) have become 'frightening and off-putting,' in Kirsten's words. The level of ignorance about the Christian Faith, I gather, is staggering in England.

So these people, motivated by love, as Kirsten emphasized, are, well, trying to redesign the whole thing more or less from scratch (my words). The traditions, as I've been suspecting, have become meaningless; nobody knows what they are for, and Angela ventured an opinion that the rules about how things should be done are a form of Pharisaism. Hence, in this parish, there are no rules; Kirsten and Paul design the contemporary services with pretty much a free hand. The Book of common Prayer has been virtually abandoned all over England.

But Angela did recognize the purpose for one tradition, that of having the General Confession at the beginning of the service. (Kirsten had received a number of complaints after having designed a service meant to bring people to the awareness that they needed confession, therefore culminating in confession at the end.) Angela pointed out that the idea of putting it at the beginning (everything is an idea) is that we aren't worthy to worship until we have first repented.

There is was - and Demetrios reinforced it - the idea that a tradition handed down for centuries might actually have survived that long for a good reason, might actually serve some edifying end, and if its function could be rediscovered, one might like to think twice before jettisoning it.

It wasn't until after we came home that we had second thoughts about that. Anglicanism is another too-incomplete reform of Roman Catholicism, so if you trace the function of any tradition all the way back to before King Henry VIII, you will find it bent to bolster the papacy. These people are actually correct in rejecting bent tradition.

Anyway, we met some very good people and enjoyed the evening. 

Wednesday 09 June

We stayed home today and I played house, having a ball cleaning my adorable little Doll House. That's what I call our flat, The Doll House.

This morning as we glanced out the front window, we saw a mallard duck with nine very tiny ducklings trailing her, walking across the garden. The drake that sits on the chimney pot and sometimes even on the TV antenna (HOW does he do that, with his flat feet???) appears less and less frequently.


Anam Cara said...

I am amazed you'd never heard the Duke of York! We had it sung to us as children and sang it to our own and now our grandchildren. If you have a little one on your knee, you bounce them as you sing. In the second verse, you raise them up high (go on tiptoe so your knee is way up) and then go down as far as you can (bending your knee to either side so the child will go lower), then back to normal, then up and down quickly. The rapid change in height always brings giggles from babies.

Story about tradition: a family used to always cut the end off a ham before putting it in the oven because that's what the wife's grandma used to do. The husband argues that it is a waste of good food. Finally, one day the husband asks the grandmother why she did that. "So it would fit in my oven," was the response.

The way to look at tradition: there may be a reason it was started, but does that reason still apply? In the case of the ham, jettison it!

margaret said...

I'm glad kids still sing these songs :)

I don't know about 'old language' putting people off. I'm old enough to remember Series III and the Alternative Service Book and it seems to me that church attendance fell with all of them. They may not have been the only reasons and I'm not saying the BCP would turn it all around but I think when you remove the mystery and reverence from a service, and language is a part of that (and I don't just mean thees and thous) it becomes less appealing. You can make up your own service sitting on a rock on the beach, so why go to one Susan or Molly or Fred made up?

Anam Cara, the C of E has jettisoned the whole ham, it has decided that soya is divisive, that beans are racist and is trying to feed us (well, I left) on lettuce.

Chris Jones said...

If you have never heard "The Grand Old Duke of York" then I suspect that you had only daughters. You can't get your sons through Cub Scouts or Boys Scouts without hearing the Duke of York over and over again (and lots of other silly songs that small boys love).

The tough thing about tradition is that there is a difference between tradition as "what has been done for a long long time" and tradition as "what the Apostles delivered to us (and has been done ever since)." And it is not always easy to distinguish them. You don't have to have "thees and thous" if you have the actual Apostolic Tradition; but if you do have the Apostolic Tradition then you have to hold on to it even if some people find it off-putting. We don't judge the Apostolic Tradition; it judges us.

As much as I love the Book of Common Prayer, it takes more than holding on to the beautiful language of the BCP to preserve the Apostolic Tradition.

Kacie said...

Fascinating conversation you had with them. I recently tried to explain to some evangelicals from England why young evangelicals from the US are moving in large numbers to the Catholic and Orthodox church. They were just so confused that young evangelicals long for a connection with history, for liturgy....

So interesting.

On another note, I was just reading an account of Luther's first defense to a papal ambassador. The attack was that his point of a view on a certain thing contradicted the Pope. Luther at this point still respected Papal authority but continued to ask for a theological or biblical defense rather than simply one from papal authority. When the discussion went to the necessity of papal authority for the survival of the church, I was so surprised to see him immediately say that the Greek church has survived for all of church history without a supreme pope!

I wonder I wonder.... what if language and geography hadn't been such a barrier, and what if Luther had been able to more directly dialogue and observe the Eastern Orthodox church? I still feel like the early pushes that became the Protestant church were mostly corrections for growing errors in Roman Catholicism that should have simply driven them back to Eastern Orthodoxy.


Anonymous said...

April showers bring May flowers...................................................

Anam Cara said...

And Mayflowers bring Pilgrims

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Anam, yes, that's an excellent point, and I've heard that story before (except it was a pot roast...)

Margaret, I think the BCP is much preferable to what they're doing now! Although updating the thees and thous is, I think, a good idea. And I do not mind revising the archaic language if that makes it more accessible - hopefully without losing the majesty of the BCP language. But they've done a lot more than that. among other things, they've abbreviated everything to the bare bones.

Chris, Nope, I have a son and a daughter, but somehow I just missed that song. My loss. (Isn't that a fun coincidence - the Rector of the Anglican parish here is also Chris Jones.)

Anastasia Theodoridis said...


The Lutherans of the later Reformation period did have a correspondence with the Patriarch of Constantinople. That correspondence has been published in English and I'd love to read it, but can't tell you the name of it off the top of my head.

it seems by the time this correspondence had gotten underway, though, Lutheran doctrine had become set, and the Lutherans were intransigent. Part of that may also have been confusion between things Orthodox and things RC, which they already knew they had to reject.

Of course I fully agree with your concluding assessment!