Last week I spent a couple of days in a block module on mission. Despite being quite intense, it was lively and thought-provoking.
One session that grabbed my attention focussed on the way in which the Anglican church has viewed mission over the centuries. Thomas Cranmer, back in Henry VIII’s time and author of much of the BCP, believed that people became Christians through a long process of refinement, which came through the hearing of scripture, making regular confession and taking communion. Thus the mark of being a Christian was public attendance at worship.
This seems to have been a very Anglican perspective down through the centuries – along with a suspicion and distrust of anything more dramatic. For example, the Wesleys started out as loyal Anglicans – and saw themselves as such throughout their lives – but the spiritual experiences they had were far more intense and life-changing than fits comfortably with the Anglican way. Thus, Charles Wesley in one of his hymns is far removed from Cranmer in style:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Thus it is scarcely surprising that Anglicans eventually closed the door to the Methodists, whose movement thus became a separate denomination. It’s hard not to think of the parable about new wine and old wineskins.
There’s been an invasion of waxwings into the country over the last few weeks. These are birds that arrive in surges in some years, and not in others – all depending on the berry crop in Scandinavia.
They’re charismatic birds which tend to show up in odd places like supermarket car parks or on industrial estates, but they hardly stay in any one place for long. However, the appearance of a large flock in Thornaby, south-east of Stockton, prompted me to look for them.
I arrived as the two last birders were packing up and leaving – they’d stripped the berries and flown off. I was not happy, so I toured the area to see if I could find them.
I returned about 15 minutes later, just as a small flock of 20 or so was arriving on one of the taller trees. A little later another 40 arrived. They didn’t eat much – presumably it was they who’d gobbled the berries earlier – but they hung around for long enough to get a few decent snaps – and to satisfy the half-dozen other birders who showed up later.