Swimming against tides

This photo by Kyle Glenn was on Unsplash, a great source of free images for web designers. It immediately summarised what I hope to do, and hope I have done, for as long as I remember.

Cogito, ergo sum

From ignorance to uninformed acceptance, then to blind faith followed by passive rejection, to informed faith and now to agnostic faith. These are the stages of my religious beliefs, and they came about as follows:

I was baptised in a Methodist Chapel by my loving parents as part of the ritual of child-rearing. Neither of my parents was a churchgoer, but my older sisters were and when I was about five years old they took me to Sunday  School, albeit at a Baptist Chapel. As I would do for the rest of my life I became fully involved to the point where my early teens I underwent full immersion baptism to become a full member of the Baptist Church.

But my churchgoing practice fell off during my late teens, and was not existent during the time of my medical education in London, and this passive rejection persisted throughout my years as a medical officer with the Royal Air Force and into the beginning of civilian practice.

One weekend I accompanied my wife, who had always been a regular churchgoer, to a Christian retreat at a local religious house, and thanks to the generous, patient and loving persistence of another delegate I “came to Christ,” became a believer, and immediately realised I needed to attend a church regularly to feed the excitement which I then felt. So naturally I went with my wife, Jenny, to the church she regularly attended and that was an Anglican church.

Again I threw myself into this life with full involvement, and trained to be a Lay Reader, partly to learn more about the history and practice and theology of my newfound faith, and partly because it would give me a platform from which to share that faith with others. Inevitably, given my nature, I then went on to train as a Church of England priest, gaining a Masters degree in Theology. Given my age I was never going to be stipendiary, but I had a pension and my disability benefit so that was never an issue.

Newly ordained priests in the Church of England are required to spend at least a year as a Curate, a sort of apprentice priest indentured to a full-time stipendiary. As it happened my mentor retired three months into my curacy, and by the grace of the local Bishop and with the encouragement of the local congregation I became effectively priest-in-charge for that parish.

Family circumstances changed, we looked to move away to be nearer family, and I applied for and was appointed to a post as an Assistant Priest in a benefice of four churches, but most of my time was spent as a full-time servant of one particular parish and within reasonable limits I became again an autonomous priest-in-charge.

The time came eventually to retire fully, and four years ago on retirement we moved house again and I became just another worshipper in the pews of my local parish church. My experiences in that church, which I might layout in more detail elsewhere on this website, built on doubts which had previously begun to develop about the direction and dynamics of the Church of England, coupled with my innately contrarian nature and have brought me to a point where I do not question my faith in God, but I very much question the practices of the Church of England.

In my years as a practising Anglican priest I have naturally come up against those who are actively atheistic, and some of them have managed to articulate their reasons for their declaration that there is no God: although most have simply made that statement and cannot explain their position any further.

So they “believe” in “no God” with as little evidence as I believe “in God.” I think the only ethical philosophical position must be agnosticism: neither of us has compelling evidence for our beliefs. So the decision to a God-botherer or a militant atheist is purely one of choice, and it is for that reason that I now describe myself as having an agnostic faith. I believe in God. I have no objective evidence for that belief, but the corollaries of my choice to believe in God suit me very well. They also demand that I question some of the received wisdom of the Church, and that questioning nature gets me into a great deal of trouble. Those questions, which are not well-received or even heard within the modern Church of England, will form the basis of many of my posts in this blog. I’m not really out to convince others to believe as I do, it will be enough if I can feel that I have said, in the words of Oliver Cromwell in a different environment but with a similar frustration when he wrote to the Church of Scotland in August 1650, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

In saying which I recognise that I too may be mistaken, so here in this blog I hope to set out some of my contrarian thinking, in the hope that you will read what I write, think it possible that you may be mistaken in your views, and open a dialogue so that between us we might come to a better mutual understanding , as together we “brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”   SELAH

Original material © Trevor Jordan 2019-2020