Stephen Cope asks us to be careful about how we describe our grasp of and adherence to the tradition received
Many times I have heard people bemoaning the direction in which the Church of England is going, and wanting her instead to remain true, or return, to the tradition. It is, of course, something with which I am fully in agreement. However, the words some people use bypass me completely.
For example, I do not want the church to remain as the church I was brought up in, simply because I wasn’t brought up in the church. My near-atheist father and agnostic mother were not responsible for bringing me to the altar of Christ, and indeed seemed rather disappointed when I elected to follow him.
Nor do I want the church to remain as the church I was baptized in, because I was ‘done’ (almost despite my parents’ beliefs) according to folk-religious tradition in the local Methodist church, and however much we might regard each other’s baptism as being sufficient, I do not share in any way whatsoever the Methodist church’s common understanding of Order or Sacraments.
As the century unfolds, so more and more people will grow up with less and less experience of church, or understanding of the faith, simply because our hyper-secular society has ensured that most parents never go to church, and our state schools teach about religions and not about faith. This means that fewer and fewer people will be able to talk about the church they were baptized in, or the church they were brought up in.
What brought me into the Catholic fold of the Church of England was simply the unselfconscious offering of worship in a profoundly dignified yet totally unstuffy way, coupled with teaching which made sense, and a sense of the Scriptures in the light of the Spirit and the tradition.
Therefore I believe what we need for ourselves and for the conversion of England is not a church which acts as a comfort blanket, reminding us of an idyllic childhood, but a church which remains true to the faith once revealed to the saints, secure on the rock which is Christ, and able to move forward in faith in the power of the Spirit. Not ‘Faith of our fathers,’ but ‘Faith of the Fathers,’ alive – and attractive.