February 28, 2008

So here I am, reading and enjoying greatly Vincent Ferrer Blehl’s “Pilgrim Journey”, his study of John Henry Newman‘s life and religious formation from his childhood, through his years at Oxford and his involement in the Oxford Movement, and up to to his ultimate conversion from Anglican to Roman Catholic at the age of 44.

As I’ve been reading it, it occurs to me just how much and how little the Anglican Church has changed in the time since. As to the former, much of what many know as the Anglican “worship style” – covering everything and anything from liturgy, vestments, church architecture and decoration, Anglican religious orders, etc. can be attributed to the embrace of many practices now associated with the term “high church” (or Catholic) practices influenced by the Oxford Movement’s popularity; to me, this is a definite improvement over what must have been the overwhelmingly dreary and gloomy Calvinistic practices left over from the battles of the 16th century and the English Reformation.

As to the latter, you still have many of the same concerns inside the Church’s power structure over polity and doctrine, never mind Anglicanism’s place in Christendom. And those, of course, whose own individual journeys with Christ are affected in one way or the other by the winds of change fanning those inherent tensions. In that regard, I admit to seeing more than a little of my own experiences with the Episcopal Church’s power structure in both Newman’s own journey and others associated with the Tractarians (another name for those involved in the Movement), illustrating that, at its very core, not much has changed, or likely will change, in the Church in that regard over time. The Church’s power structure – priests and bishops – never did, and still don’t understand, and at times actively resist, those who don’t appear to fit a particular mode, or are called or moved to challenge in their own ways “the way things are done”.

Blehl’s book contains more than its share of instances where otherwise fully-qualified people who are either refused ordination to the Church or professorships at Oxford because they either dare to challenge trhe status quo, or associate with or write in support of those who do likewise. And it’s interesting to see where many of those who were persecuted to some extent eventually found themselves – many ended up leaving the Church of England for Rome, others lost their faith and their belief in Christianity outright, others simply disappear from the pages of history.

My sense from all this is that it doesn’t really matter in the end what you end up doing or where you end up doing it, as long as you leave enough room open in your heart and mind for new possibilities brought about through God’s Divine inspiration. The journey may not always be pleasant along this road, but I have my doubts as to whether it was ever or is supposed to be easy to begin with. Like the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:41 | Comments (0)
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