Why did I leave the Anglican Church?

The message from the New Testament seemed clear to me, there was supposed to be just one church, not a multiplicity of flavours brought about through a long series of historical disagreements and splits.

I was asked this question some time ago, and at first I felt that it somehow missed the point because I tend to feel that I never was an Anglican. But it’s true that in my mid to late teens I would have called myself Anglican – perhaps.

My parents were Anglicans in the limited sense that they were not Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Salvation Army or anything else. Dad was quite dedicated, jotting brief prayers in his diary and during parts of his life often attending communion at the parish church. I doubt that he made a conscious decision on this, it was just taken for granted, it had been the family tradition as far back as anyone knew. Mum was different, she was used to village life in Northern Ireland and taught Sunday school at the tiny village church, a simple and plain structure. She was uncomfortable with anything remotely high church, but if you’d asked her what she was she might have said Anglican, or Church of Ireland, or just Christian.

I was Christened when I was little and was encouraged to read the Bible as a child, at home, but more so at junior school and later in RE lessons at secondary school. By the age of 13 I was familiar with the outline contents of the Old and New Testaments, and with many of the stories recorded there. In my teens I was expected to attend confirmation classes and went along out of obedience rather than a desire to be there. In due course I was confirmed, though it didn’t mean much to me and life continued as before. I had not yet begun to grapple with what I did and did not believe.

As I went through the processes of sitting my O levels and A levels and applying for a place at university, I began to form my own ideas about faith. I was intrigued by the Bible and began to take what I read there quite seriously. And I didn’t see much there to support Anglicanism or, indeed, denominations of any kind. The message from the New Testament seemed clear to me, there was supposed to be just one church, not a multiplicity of flavours brought about through a long series of historical disagreements and splits. And what about the many stories of healings, and the parables about how we should live, and the Pauline teachings about gifts of the Spirit, and the letters to churches in the Greek world of the time? I was taking all of this seriously, but saw little evidence that the denominations were doing the same. I explored more widely, visiting the Jehovah’s Witnesses, signing up for a Christadelphian magazine, reading books about the Mormons and Christian Science, but none of these avenues seemed to make much sense to me.

After graduating from university, getting married, and starting full time jobs, Judy and I spent our Sundays in Bristol doing some serious denominational exploration. We went to Sunday services at every church we could find, and never once had a sense of, ‘This is the one!’. We were searching, but not finding.

Zetland Evangelical Church in 2002

In the end, in utter desperation, we tried a weird place just down the road from our flat. In some ways it seemed more odd than any of the other places we’d tried. It had a large sign above the door in blue and gold reading ‘God is Love’, and didn’t look like a church building, more like a large house. This was Zetland Evangelical Church in Bristol, near the railway arches over the Cheltenham Road. We found to our surprise that we were instantly at home! The people there wanted to talk with us, and they shared some of our own thoughts about what we’d been reading in the Bible. We felt welcomed – as if by a large family. We’d found a real community, which is what we’d long hoped for. Not only that, when I went to a mid-week evening meeting I was blown away by teaching about David, perhaps from 2 Samuel, and a section I was familiar with. The fresh insights and explanations were very striking, here were people who knew their topic – and it all made perfect sense.

We still felt there was more, and we were joining one of those denominational ‘splinter groups’ that so perplexed us. But this was by far the best thing yet. At this point in our lives we would not have settled for Anglican or any other church tradition. We were particularly encouraged by the fact that there was no hierarchy at Zetland, there was no single leader, we were all equal, or so it appeared. There was no liturgy, no pastor, and once a month there was a delightful Sunday morning Open Meeting with nobody at the front and where all could contribute a prayer, a hymn, or some teaching. All, that is, except women and children. This was one of several niggling issues that we put to the back of our minds for the time being.

Eventually we discovered much more – but that’s another story.

Explanatory note – Please don’t think that I’m judging or disapproving of denominations and those who are involved with them. In this short article I’m describing how a much younger Chris Jefferies understood things. I have many non-denominational friends, but also friends from New Frontiers, Anglican, and particularly Baptist traditions. Particularly Baptist simply because at the time of writing I take part in a small home group that meets weekly and is part of Cirencester Baptist Church. I’m not a Baptist, I will not (cannot) become a church member. We are all part of one family, the family of those who follow Jesus. We are all brothers and sisters and we have individual perspectives and expressions of what that means. I honour and love each one as part of an undivided whole.

(This article has been cross-posted to Anglicanism.org)

Christmas and New Year 2021

It’s good to be out and about to see it all and just as good to get back to a warm house.

Castle Street in Cirencester

Season’s greetings to all my readers! Cirencester is showing off its tasteful street decorations once again, the days are short, the nights are long, and it’s good to be out and about to see it all and just as good to get back to a warm house afterwards.

My thoughts are especially with those who have no warm house to come back to this year, there are so many – the homeless sleeping alone in shop doorways, refugees desperately crossing the sea and hoping for asylum, and people who do have a roof over their heads but lack money for presents for the children or depend on food banks for their next meal.

Life can be wonderful, fun, exciting. It can also be tough, exhausting, and depressing. Whoever you are, whatever your circumstances, my prayer and hope is that people will be kind to you, there will be new opportunities in your life, and that there’ll be reasons to hope and overcome the difficulties.

And if your life is comfortable and you have more than enough, my prayer and hope is that you will be kind to others, search out new opportunities for them, and provide reasons for hope and ways to overcome difficulties.

None of us can solve all of the problems; but all of us can solve some of the problems.

Some ideas:

And don’t forget to enjoy Christmas with your friends and family. Grace and peace to you all.

PS – As a reward for reading to the end, here’s a bonus – A Christmas Song!

John Jefferies & Son Ltd – Index

The family business prospered for many years

(See indexes on other topics)

This was the family business, founded in 1795. It prospered for many years, growing and selling nursery stock to other businesses, the government, and to the general public. It ceased trading in 1984 and the garden centre business was sold to Country Gardens PLC, although the company was not officially dissolved until 1994.

  1. The old florist’s shop – the shop had a wonderful cellar

I plan to write a series of articles about John Jefferies & Son and will list them on this index page.

Company details from a 1950 catalogue

An old school friend

Friends are important, we humans are fundamentally social beings

At my sister’s recent book launch, I was delighted to meet an old friend from school days, Nick Henderson. Although he looks older – as, of course, I do too – his personality is entirely as I remember from the mid 1960s. We agreed to meet again this morning at the Golden Cross in Cirencester, and it was a delight.

Nick and I last met when we were both living at home and very probably still at school. For a year or two we used to hang out quite a bit. I remember going with Nick to see a local band called The Corals during a record-breaking attempt at playing non-stop without repeating any songs; the drummer, one Colin Flooks, another lad from our school year, later became famous as Cozy Powell. And yes, they did break that record – in fact they smashed it by playing for 11½ hours.

TheCorals
The Corals during their record-breaking session, photo from The Wilts and Glos.

Nick and I talked about many things, catching up on our personal journeys over the last half century, recalling the cross-country runs that were compulsory on Wednesday afternoons at school, and thinking about Daglingworth Brook, the River Churn and how the water is channelled in and around the town. The drainage courses have changed over the years, altered for many reasons, beginning in Roman times when the town was young, and continuing right down to the present.

Friends are important, we humans are fundamentally social beings; renewing a connection after such a long gap has been a very special thing for me. More so than I had expected or imagined.

For more about Nick, take a look at his website and/or a site he edits, Anglicanism.org .

The old florist’s shop

The shop had a wonderful cellar, always full of mysterious packages of garden chemicals and other shop stock…

Part 1 of a series – John Jefferies & Son

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The centre of Cirencester has buildings of a variety of ages, from the Roman City Wall (a small part of which is visible in the Abbey Park) to Victorian and more recent constructions. Walking in the town with my camera today, I took some shots of a 19th century development.

CastleStreet01-mod01

These are the upper floors of a three-storey terrace, a planned development that replaced older properties. The section at the right hand end was used as a florist’s shop for many decades (now Vodafone). I remember it as a child because my father was one of four brothers who owned and ran the shop as part of a larger business with several plant nurseries in the country areas around the town.

The shop had a wonderful cellar, always full of mysterious packages of garden chemicals and other shop stock, and before Christmas there were sometimes hyacinth bulbs being forced for early flowering. There was a marvellous fusty, moist, florist’s aroma in the cellar, but the most exciting thing was the knowledge that the cellar was bigger than the shop floor above. Castle Street was widened when the new development was built, but the cellars of the old buildings were retained. There are stone pillars in the cellar that support the heavy masonry above.

Here’s another view of the same shop from a different angle, the photo was taken by my father in the 1960s. I love the fact that this image includes the shop window displays as these always fascinated me as a young child. I also remember that my grandfather’s office window was above the main door on the corner, and the landscape design office was on the top floor with the small bay window.

JefferiesShop

And finally, for comparison, here’s another view of the same shop today.

VodafoneShop

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A bridge on fire

We are looking forward now, not back.

QuoteMe

“When one burns one’s bridges, what a very nice fire it makes.” – Dylan Thomas

I spotted this quote on the wall in Coffee#1 in Cirencester. I like it – a lot!

I suppose in some ways Donna and I have ‘burned our bridges’ by moving from St Neots to Cirencester. The sense of ‘no going back’ is strong, it cost money and effort to make the move, and the house we loved and lived in now belongs to someone else.

Burning bridges makes it hard to return, to go back to the old ways. Decisions can be open to reversal, but the decision to burn a bridge cannot be reversed. Once burning it’s hard to put out, and once gone it’s hard to replace.

We are looking forward now, not back. Our old friends in St Neots are not forgotten, we will return to visit, but not to remain. We miss many of them already and we know they also miss us; but there are new friends, not yet known. It’s exciting. And because we intend to follow Jesus, and because we understand he wanted us to come here in the first place, we are very confident and excited about what will come next. But the past? The bridge that led that way is smouldering and impassable. Life always goes forwards, never back.

(Older posts are at quotecj.blogspot.com)

Moving House

DailyToast

Well, we did it. We moved from our old home in St Neots, to a small house in Stratton. The old village of Stratton is on the northern edge of Cirencester, mostly between the roads to Gloucester and Cheltenham.

The 18th of April was the big day. We drove down to Cirencester, collected the keys to our new home, and our furniture and boxes of possessions arrived the following day. And I do mean boxes – and boxes – and more boxes – and yet more boxes! The garage is packed to bursting, the house is full of clutter, but we’re sorting through it all and making progress. The lounge is tidy now, the kitchen is functional, and we should have a little more time from now on to explore the area and begin to live our lives again.

Stratton
Click the map to expand and scroll

I’ll be writing again soon to tell you more about the house, the town and the countryside all around.