A Minor Memoir of Faith Part II

Continuing excerpts from my contribution to the book entitled New Life: Rediscovering Faith:

So, how did I get here?

My early years were spent in a family of cultural Christians. I am not trying to undermine the faith of some of my forebears by that statement. In several instances they would have seen their own faith as strong and true and not just a product of Christendom, the historical and cultural phenomenon that made the terms Australian and Christian almost synonymous. But there were significant aspects of our family situation (and I imagine that this was the case for most middle/late 20th Century Australian families with Anglo-Celtic backgrounds) that suggested we were connected to the church because that was what was expected of us. Certainly I remember my parent’s orientation towards faith in this light. Consequently they were very clearly and certainly members of their local Methodist (and later Uniting) Church but they were irregular participants in the broader life and deliberations of the faith community. I also don’t think it’s unfair to say that my parents understanding of Christian faith retained very much a quality of Sunday school simplicity. I too was given that Sunday school formation in the faith. But while I was a studious and committed student in regular school environments, I found myself seriously distracted on Sundays. Often the lessons seemed to become spaces within which to hone my comedic talents, something I would never dare to do Monday to Friday. Perhaps this was a pointer towards my future yearning for a more exploratory faith environment?

I stayed connected to the Church right through my teenage, university and early working years, though always in relatively tenuous fashions. I now understand that there was (and I know still is) an approval-seeking, conformist aspect to my character. It’s partly that that made me a committed student in regular educational environments. Luckily in those spaces I was usually stimulated by the learning I was doing, which made the conformance easy to bear. However the often fatuous nature of Sunday school learning (as I saw it then) was beyond the pale it seems. And it seems there were relatively minor consequences for exploring the humorous side of faith which made that a more palatable option, even for someone with my personality. Yet something of that conformist streak applied even with reference to the Church, and I continued to hang around on the edges (to, what now, seems like an extraordinary extent). It seems I was searching for some way that I could do my duty to be part of a faith community but equally understand faith in a way that resonated with my lived experience.

It was in this time of hanging around that I was introduced to the idea of progressive Christianity. And it was in that introduction that my patience started to be rewarded. I could start to let go of the idea that I should hang around the church as a notion of good civic behaviour. I could begin actually belong to a faith community as a means of developing a healthy faith life.

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