So I’m in Wales, and it is absolutely sublime. The foothills of Snowdon are picture-perfect, the woods are straight out of Lord of the Rings, and I feel like an even older soul here in this oldest of lands.
But Wales has a problem (like much of England). Spiritually, this great land is dying if not dead.
We were searching for a church to attend this Sunday, and found a small Anglican church that was advertising the Holy Eucharist. Well, that’s better than nothing. Also, I’d never been to an Anglican church before and I genuinely looked forward to the service.
It was interesting. The priest was a Roman Catholic, and part of a movement to bring the Anglican Church closer to Rome (adding a complicated factor to an already failing ministry). I will also say this – the service was trilingual: English, Welsh, and (Welsh?) Sign Language. That priest was flawless.
The smallish church was a building about 150 years old, but it looked older. There were about 50 congregants.
We began with the Welsh translation of Nearer My God to Thee. Not a terrible choice, although certainly not my first. We generally followed the Kyrie for a few lines including kneeling for confession.
Then we had the baptism. It was a mixture of very informal and very formal – the child was around 6 years old and the priest joked around with her and with the congregation (not pedantically though) while going through the oil (Chrism) anointing ritual, the actual baptism, and the lighting of a candle which was given to the father and then to the godparents. He explained what baptism meant – a binding of the child to the Body of Christ and all the blessings that includes – except for partaking in the Body and Blood, apparently (of all the things that I could get mad about other churches, I take personal offense when baptized children are barred from the table; if you disagree with me on supralapsarianism, I’ll gladly discuss it over coffee; but when you declare unfit what Christ has washed and bound to himself, you are committing a great evil).
Then half the congregation went home. The baptized child’s family didn’t stay either – why would they? Despite having been cleansed of her sinful nature and bound to a new Federal Head in Christ, this new child of the Kingdom was not permitted to share in the life of Christ.
There was no sermon.
The sacrament of Holy Eucharist followed this. There was much waving of hands and blessing of the elements. We had to walk in stoic and uncomfortable silence to the kneelers at the front of the church where the priest handed us a tasteless wafer (Gorff y Chris) and we drank from a goblet (Goedd y Chris). It was very solemn – a wedding feast fit only for a funeral.
While we all plodged back to our seats, the priest had to eat and drink every last speck of the Body and Blood – being Angliroman, no morsel of our Lord’s Body could go wasted.
So that was an interesting experience. I learned a great deal about Anglican worship.
I also gained insight into why this country is spiritually dying. I am convinced that there is a link between a church’s theology of children and its cultural relevance. While I will pray for this church (the priest was very friendly) and this country, I think we should be warned – America is not far off from this. Our churches are dying – literally. All the young people are leaving because the church doesn’t care about them. Food for thought (I might flesh this out later).