Uncertainty

It’s been a busy week with essays to get done, so I haven’t had the chance to blog for a little while. In case anyone wonders what a mathematician is doing writing essays (I got a grilling from a friend on Facebook for this yesterday), I am doing a BA in Theology and Ministry with the Lindisfarne Regional Training Partnership. For the most part, it’s been a good experience, though given it’s in its first year, there have been teething problems. I’m currently doing a module on the Christian tradition, which has given me the chance to write essays on Anglicanism’s shaping by the Reformation and on the Enlightenment.

The first of those ties into a current dilemma: For some time, I was exploring the possibility of Anglican ordination but that didn’t work out because I didn’t want to lie about the nature of my relationship with TractorGirl. Now, during my time in Durham, I’ve attended Methodist churches at the same time as worshipping at the Cathedral  due to being part of Methsoc. My theology has in some respects moved closer to Methodism than the high Anglicanism I had settled into when I arrived in Durham, but there is a lot about Anglicanism that I still really appreciate.

The reason I’m rambling about this is I am considering joint membership of both churches and this raises certain issues:

  • Is the three-fold ministry of Bishops, Priests and Deacons the only model for church order or can other models such as the Methodist system work? Is it contradictory to accept two very different structures?
  • How important are the Sacraments, and in particular, participation in the Eucharist, to my faith and how I understand it? I have no problem accepting Methodist sacraments as valid because I go with Richard Hooker’s receptionist understanding and admire Wesley’s emphasis on regular communicating. However, both the Methodist churches in Durham only have monthly communion.
  • Tied in with this is the Methodist sense of membership involving belonging to one particular church, unlike the Anglican system, shaped by being the established church. In practice, this means choosing a church to belong to, and while I’m very definitely part of the family at my preferred church, services there clash with the Cathedral Sung Eucharist which I usually go to. I worship regularly at the other Methodist church’s evening service, but feel much less part of the family there. How to choose?

To add to all of that, the only thing I really miss about exploring ordination is being able to preach. Methodist local preaching has been suggested to me and does appeal, but I’d need to worship regularly in the church to be able to do that with integrity, which may mean having my membership at my less preferred church, or attending the other and sacraficing being a regular at the Cathedral Sung Eucharist. Help!

At the same time as all of this, I’m pondering my future career plans. There are a couple of jobs I’m applying for this week that would use my maths and keep me in Durham. One of them is to do with regional development, which is something I’m more than open to looking into in the future, and it’d be great to be able to use my maths to do something useful.

I think, in the long run, I’d love to have the chance to work on the interaction of science and faith like I was able to in my Enlightenment essay, but am not sure how to make this happen. Answers on a postcard, please!

5 thoughts on “Uncertainty

  1. A couple of thoughts.

    About the first of your three questions, it seems pretty clear to me that different models for church order work in terms of enabling a church to function; there are plenty of functioning churches out there with different setups. Whether you think they’re theologically OK is another question, but if it’s a question of church order rather than theology I don’t see why it’s contradictory to accept different structures.

    And as far as membership goes, tough question. It does strike me though that if you went down the local preaching route you’d lose a fair number of your opportunities to go to Sung Eucharist as there are far more morning than evening services in the circuit you could end up preaching at. Is there anywhere else you could find a regular service that meets the same need (I’m guessing there’s an element of wanting to be at a weekly Eucharist in there but may be wrong) but doesn’t clash with the service at Methodist Church 1?

  2. Derf,

    In terms of the first part, it is a question of theology rather than practicalities. While the Articles (see http://www.britainexpress.com/History/tudor/39articles-text.htm) do simply say that the threefold ministry is ‘not repungent to the word of God’, I’m not convinced, given the history, that other structures are therefore validated. I guess I need to spend some time looking at the Anglican-Methodist Covenant.

    As to other churches, it would be perfectly possible to go to Communion at the 8am either at the Cathedral or my parish church (whether that’ll happen given I’m really not a morning person, I don’t know!)

  3. Ugh to 8am communion!

    ‘Fraid I’ve never understood the need for a threefold order (whilst seeing it as one way of organising a church that seems to work fine for the most part) so can’t help on the theology. Can’t remember what the AMC says about it all, it’s a long time since I read it!

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