Simultaneously discovering singing in tongues AND sung Eucharistic liturgy presented no particular problems at the time - I was unaware that later on in my life they would sadly come to be seen, or at least practised, as 'either/or' options. The tendency for some 'charismatic' worship, though, to settle for nothing more than endless repeated choruses eventually drove me to explore the depths of liturgical worship, and the C of E selection and training process would lead me along paths of settled prayer, silence, solitude and stillness. To the sacramental.
Sacramental theology had completely passed me by till the DDO* got hold of me. I read Baptists and Catholics. John E. Colwell's phrase 'no unmediated immediacy' stuck in my mind (after I'd spent a fairly long time working out its meaning). There was no means by which grace could be mediated to humanity save through outward, physical 'stuff'? It seemed like a good idea at first, offering protection from spiritual self delusion, but not everyone was agreed on what 'stuff' could mediate God's salvation. The Catholics said there were seven sacraments, the Anglicans two** - the water of baptism and the bread and wine of Holy Communion. I reluctantly concluded John E Colwell had never been in a renewal meeting lying on the floor while the Holy Spirit ministered inner healing directly to his soul. But each to his own (or was it?)
Sacraments, spiritual direction, silence, solitude, annual retreat - all these became, not optional, but vital for spiritual/ministerial life. I was drawn to Ignatian reflection and two years on from ordination made a silent retreat at the Jesuit retreat house, Loyola Hall. http://www.parttimepriest.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/reluctant-retreatant.html
There was no singing in tongues - surprise, surprise - but God was powerfully there in the steady, measured silence (though I was never fully convinced the Catholic hierarchy would have embraced the fact that half the retreatants were gleefully taking Holy Communion with less than a fully Roman view on what that really meant. So far, so divided).
|Ffald y Brenin, Retreat Centre and House of Prayer.|
Chael with domed roof (left).
I sensed a pull. Set prayers were said four times a day in the tiny stone chapel. Miraculous healing AND a Celtic style rhythm of prayer? Streams of sometimes divided spirituality, united?
|The earth is never far away, even in chapel.|
There perhaps remains an innate tension between the breaking in of the Spirit and set liturgy. But St Paul was right - order in worship is as important as the exercising of gifts. The Corinthian Church lacked order. Individually empowered members of the body were falling over each other to give a word, prophecy, sing/speak in tongues. If I'm honest I don't generally see that problem in English rural church worship.
And all through the worship the clear chapel windows let the hillside stream in and the Welsh wind said God is in the 'natural' and the 'supernatural'. It's not either/or. He's the God of creation and re-creation. And what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.
*DDO - Diocesan Director of Ordinands: medium-to-strongly scary person who prepares you for selection to the C of E training process.
**It seems to me that once you start counting sacraments, it's difficult to know where to stop. Either Christ is the only sacrament ('mysterion') or everything is 'sacramental'. Do we have to itemise them? In fear of Episcopal discipline, however, I am, of course, perfectly happy with two sacraments. Love two.