NOT QUITE FITTING IN,
MIXED UP AND
ON THE FRINGE OF CHARISMATIC RENEWAL
I wrote this memoir a few days ago in response to a small group who are collecting stories about the history of Charismatic Renewal in the Church of England through the second half of the twentieth century. Charismatic Renewal is a Pentecostal movement which first happened to the early church at the Jewish Feast of Pentecost (see Acts 2) and which, in various times and places, has been experienced within established Christian denominations, sometimes spawning new denominations. In the 1960s and 70s, individuals (including clergy) and church congregations in the Church of England experienced what is often called “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” and the subsequent use of spiritual gifts (charismata) as described in the New Testament. Other denominations in the UK also experienced this mid-twentieth century spiritual renewal. Sadly, it sometimes caused division.
My personal experience of charismatic renewal
Born in 1944 to CMS missionary parents, I grew up in southwest Uganda, going to a small boarding school in Kabale, Kigezi, from 1951-1954. It was run by CMS missionaries for missionary children from Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda and was very much under the influence of the East African Revival which started in the 1930s in northern Rwanda and Kabale, quickly spreading beyond. The East African Revival was an evangelical conversion revival focussed on publicly confessing sins and being “washed in the blood of Jesus” to receive salvation. Unless you had been saved in this way, you were not a Christian. I remember being painfully embarrassed when, having just turned 8, the staff at my boarding school were entertaining some visitors and, in front of them all, one of them asked if I was saved (I don’t actually remember what answer I gave)! When one of the teachers was supervising us saying our bed-time prayers kneeling by our beds one evening, she asked each of us if our parents were saved. I replied that I didn’t know – they had never talked to me about being saved! I have always been thankful that my parents were not so narrowly evangelical. Much to the disapproval of other missionaries around, they made friends with the priests and nuns at the Catholic Mission on the “opposite” hill, even sipping sherry with them!
My childhood home in Uganda The school I went to in Kabale
As a teenager in the 1950s living in England, I struggled to find an expression of faith which was meaningful for me and to find satisfying answers to my deep questions, fuelled by philosophy lessons and avidly reading so many philosophers. At 17, being deeply suspicious of emotional responses, I wrote an essay about the intellectual arguments for and against the existence of God and concluded, painfully, that I could no longer believe there was a God. Much to my mother’s distress, I stopped taking communion or going to church. Eighteen months later, before going to university, I went to Barbados as a volunteer with VSO to help in Codrington School, situated next to an Anglican church and close to Codrington College which was run by priests from the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield. I was often invited to go to church but declined. Instead, I wrote letters whilst listening to the beautiful singing emanating from the church. After a few months, I gave in and went to Mass, complete with all the “smells and bells”. I had never experienced anything like it and was completely overwhelmed by a sense of the presence of God – and that the people were also very aware of God as they worshipped.
Back in England, while at university, I spent the next few years “unpicking” my atheist arguments and learning to trust my emotions, especially when in the presence of God. I started looking for a church in the east end of London in which to explore and grow in faith and understanding, together with Roger (who came from a non-Christian background, with no experience of church-going). We alternated between going to Quaker meetings (valuing the silence in which to reflect and learn to pray) and St Dunstan’s Stepney, an Anglo-Catholic church where we appreciated the sacramental worship. Three years later, I went to live in the top flat of the Rectory of St Silas, Pentonville, another Anglican church in the Catholic tradition. After prayer and counselling, I was ready to declare my faith in Christ which I did through the Sacrament of Penance just before the Ash Wednesday Mass when I took Communion again – for the first time in many years. (Roger was also Confirmed just before we got married.)
Ironically, three years later, Roger got a job at Kigezi High School, the secondary school a stone’s throw from the little boarding school I had attended in Uganda fifteen years earlier. I had very mixed feelings about going back to Kabale – the alternative had been Papua New Guinea which sadly didn’t work out! Most of the teachers at KHS were British Christians including some CMS missionaries. The Ugandan Headmaster was one of the original Revival leaders and had, many years before, tried to convert my mother when she first arrived in Uganda as a missionary as he didn’t consider her to be saved. The students at KHS were all taken to church twice every Sunday. Staff meetings were actually prayer meetings, held every week in the evening. We started going to the all-white English-speaking Anglican services, taking our ten month old baby with us when we went up for Communion once a month – as we had always done in England. This was disapproved of and felt to be irreverent and inappropriate. On our first Easter Sunday, one of the missionaries took him out of the church when he dropped a plastic cup on the floor. We didn’t fit in – and stopped going to church. After a year of not going to church, we started going to the English-speaking Catholic service in town where we immediately felt welcomed – with our babies (two by then) – by Ugandan and Goan Christians (no other white people). About a year later, we met several times with a Catholic priest and seriously considered becoming Catholics.
Kigezi High School
I think, although I didn’t realise it at the time, the first sign I experienced of the Holy Spirit manifesting his presence was in the Catholic Cathedral in Kabale which we went to occasionally. The singing of the Mass was so beautiful and gentle, other-worldly. Tessa, my youngest, aged about two, quietly sat sideways on my lap. Every time the music started, she gently keeled over backwards, lying on my arm until the singing stopped, when she sat up again. I had no idea why she did this but instinctively knew something special was happening to her through the music, which I “kept and pondered in my heart”. [Thanks to Vatican II, the Catholic Church throughout the world was required in the late 1960s to indigenise its worship by using local traditional instruments, music and language, while the Anglican Church in Kabale was still using pianos, English hymns and tunes, and 1662 liturgy.]
After four years, when the political situation in Uganda deteriorated seriously, with Idi Amin wreaking havoc and expelling all Asians at short notice, the British Government told all British citizens to leave as quickly as possible as they could no longer take responsibility for our safety. It was a traumatic time but within two weeks, we were safely back in England – in the winter, with two small children but no home or money or work and having had a miscarriage as a result. Amazingly, through God’s providence, just six weeks later, a few days before Christmas 1972, Roger had a teaching job starting in the new year, we got a mortgage and moved into our own home in Loughborough. We found Emmanuel Church, went on Christmas Day and it became our spiritual home where we grew in faith and spirituality over the next seven years .
Surprisingly, there were several other families already at Emmanuel and teaching in the same school who had also been teaching in Uganda. Getting to know each other in that first year, we found ourselves independently questioning why we had never heard anything about the Holy Spirit (apart from Trinitarian references in the liturgy) in the churches we had attended, nor in our Christian experience. We decided to meet together weekly and, using a concordance, work through the Bible looking up and thinking about every reference we found to the Spirit! Concurrently, Mike and Lindsay, who left Kabale at the same time as us and who both grew up in conservative Brethren homes, also started exploring the Bible to discover more about the Holy Spirit who never featured in Brethren teaching and worship. They had settled in Wiltshire, so we wrote long letters, often stayed with each other and had camping holidays together, spending much time in the evenings talking, reading and praying together. They had also been communicating with Henry (a much respected Brethren elder) and Sheila in Herefordshire whom Lindsay had known from her childhood in Zambia.
During our first year at Emmanuel, we became aware that the congregation was somehow split due to something called the “Charismatic Movement”. The previous Curate had introduced teaching about “Baptism in the Spirit” and had nurtured a group of key middle-aged people who had experienced renewal through his ministry. They were frustrated that the Rector, although not against renewal was not involved himself and was walking a tightrope trying to prevent schism. When the Curate moved to a parish in Leicester (before we arrived), those who had experienced renewal felt bereft and leaderless. They left Emmanuel and travelled to Leicester every Sunday whilst meeting together in Loughborough during the week. Somehow, this group heard that there were people going to Emmanuel who had started meeting together to discover more about the Holy Spirit – and so realised that the Spirit was at work in Loughborough after all, even without them! They got in touch and invited us to join their house group which we did for a while. And then they started coming back to Emmanuel on Sundays and getting more involved again in the life of the church. We reacted strongly against the understanding some had that you were not a proper Christian unless you had been Baptised in the Spirit – and that you couldn’t have received the Spirit unless you had spoken in tongues! Although I wanted to contribute in the group, I rarely said anything in the meetings as I was so shy and tongue-tied! By the time I had screwed up enough courage, the discussion had moved on!
Emmanuel Church Camping with Mike & Lindsay in 1974, Herefordshire
In 1974, we camped with Mike and Lindsay and our families on Henry and Sheila’s farm in Herefordshire. Some evenings, we put the children to sleep upstairs in the farmhouse while we talked and prayed together. Henry and Sheila had experienced charismatic renewal and, as an elder in the nearby small rural Brethren chapel, had shared their experience gently and sensitively, teaching about Baptism in the Spirit, something which was unheard of in the Brethren movement who believe that “The baptism of the Spirit took place once for all at Pentecost and has never been repeated”. On our last evening, Henry asked if we would like them to pray for each of us in turn – not for anything specific. They laid hands on me and prayed silently and with words as I sat in their living room. I found myself falling backwards and lying there for a minute or two in deep peace before sitting up – I still hadn’t heard about “resting in the Spirit” (more apt, I think, than the more violent term “slain” in the Spirit), but that is clearly what happened. Mike and Lindsay were both given prophetic words (in tongues and interpreted). The evening was gentle and quiet, with a sense of God being at work within each of us. I felt peace and assurance after months of seeking to know and understand more deeply about the Trinity and their roles in enabling me to experience God more fully in my life. We were all blessed. Having now experienced resting in the Spirit, I realised that was what was happening for Tessa during the singing of the Mass in Kabale Catholic Cathedral a few years earlier.
Starting in Uganda when she was only two, Tessa regularly suffered serious bouts of tonsillitis, every six weeks. In Uganda, it was always treated with penicillin starting with an injection in her buttocks. As anyone who has had a penicillin injection will know, it is one of the most painful injections there is. Consequently, Tessa quickly developed a deep fear of doctors and would start screaming and struggling every time she realised that was where I was taking her yet again. In England, the GP said she really needed to have them removed as they were so enlarged and affecting her general health and energy levels but he felt that, because of her fears, going into hospital would cause much worse harm (psychologically) than being ill every six weeks. We were very worried about how Tessa would cope with school, which she was due to start a few weeks after our camping holiday. Whilst camping, she had one of her regular attacks, which Henry and Sheila witnessed. I had to stay awake with her one night before the penicillin started to work because her tonsils were dangerously enlarged and often stopped her breathing when she was asleep. As we all sat together after lunch, before setting off in different directions to go home, Henry asked if we would like them to pray for Tessa. As she sat on my lap, Henry invited Roger, as her father, to also lay hands on her while they prayed. When I put her to bed after we had got home, I looked at her tonsils. They had shrunk to pea size and for the first time in years, I could actually see down her throat – she had been healed! Only once, many years later, did she have a mild attack of tonsillitis.
In 1976, Mike and Lindsay and we, with our children, registered to go to a charismatic conference held in a big marquee at Monkton Coombe and run by the Bath and West Christian House Fellowship, a developing House Church movement which sprang out of charismatic renewal experienced by some in traditional churches where it caused frustration and division. Having never experienced noisy charismatic worship before, where we were expected to stand and raise our hands whilst singing or praying in tongues, we all felt very uncomfortable. The children had their own groups and parents were told that if children misbehaved, they would be beaten – and “if you object to that, come and see me and I will show you the scriptures that give us permission to do this”. It was a very authoritarian movement where the leaders of each house group appeared to have a tight control over the members in every aspect of their lives. We withdrew our children – and didn’t last the week ourselves.
Even in the mid-1970s, we were increasingly aware of our disproportionate and unfair consumption of global resources and the impact of that on vulnerable people and the environment. At the same time, the story of the early Church in Acts challenged and inspired some of us at Emmanuel to try living more simply and we developed a growing desire for some sort of communal living. Now with three children, we worked towards greater self-sufficiency (with allotments), shared and even gave up our car for a while, and explored ways of sharing household and garden equipment. We had always had an “open door”, welcoming anyone looking for somewhere to stay, but in Loughborough we often had vulnerable people living with us for anything up to a year. Our hospitality failed one Sunday when a rather dubious-looking dirty man walked into the church hall where everyone was having refreshments after the service. He was given something to eat and drink and then Tessa (aged about seven) came to us and asked if we could take him back home for lunch. We said no – and felt very uncomfortable as she continued to argue with us, somewhat perplexed.
I still wasn’t working in paid employment as there was always so much to do in our home, community and church. We worked towards peace and justice in various ways: joining the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR, an international Christian pacifist movement); campaigning for the British government to stop supporting Amin and his evil regime (which killed up to half a million people in a few years and forced Uganda’s intelligentsia into exile); and, through Amnesty International, campaigning for the release of a prisoner in what is now Uzbekistan. Although a junior teacher’s salary was low, we started tithing (giving away 10% of our income as a basic minimum) – and found that we never lacked anything! We once felt moved to give someone £100 although we couldn’t actually afford it. The next day, an envelope with £100 was anonymously pushed through our letterbox! It was an exciting time. With another family, we almost bought a very large house to live together and provide a secure home for a few people in need – but the house was suddenly taken off the market. Henry and Sheila felt the call to return to Zambia and asked us if we would live in their farmhouse and run it as an open house especially focussing on young people. This meant Roger finding a teaching job in Herefordshire, which didn’t materialise.
Instead, in 1979, we moved to North Yorkshire to join the ecumenical Christian Community of Lindley Lodge in Masham. It existed to run residential courses in personal development for young people at the ‘bottom’ end of the employment spectrum such as retail trainees and industrial apprentices who had never had such opportunities. It wasn’t quite the sort of communal living we had earlier been exploring but certainly did enable us to live more simply whilst doing such a worthwhile job from which we learnt so much ourselves. There were up to forty five in the community including children. Families had their own flats in Swinton Castle, while single people shared flats. The Community met together for morning worship every day and on Sundays, with occasional Community Meetings and day retreats. We were divided into smaller groups for closer fellowship and support. We had meals together with the young people on courses (up to 120 for one or two weeks) and all took turns in the many tasks of running such a large centre. Church backgrounds included Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Pentecostals and Quakers. The purpose of the community was not primarily communal living, nor to evangelise; it was to offer unique residential training for companies who sent their employees. Of course, we hoped they would be moved by seeing our faith and community-living to ask questions.
Perhaps one of the things many people associate with Charismatic Renewal are the charismata, or Spiritual Gifts as described in the New Testament (especially the more ‘spectacular’ or obvious ones such as speaking in tongues). Although believing I had experienced baptism in the Spirit, I had not personally been aware of any specific gifts of the Spirit in my life – nor had I sought any particular ones. But community living is far from easy and we often experienced considerable difficulties in terms of direction, practice and discipline in our communal way of life and work! We had regular Community Meetings whose purpose was to maintain and grow the Community and deal with issues. Although I still felt tongue-tied in a group, I increasingly found myself being given Bible verses and speaking out uncomfortable and challenging words which often changed the direction of the meetings or gave clarity. Although one or two had the gift of speaking words or describing pictures given directly by the Lord (what many would call the gift of prophecy), some began to discern that I had a prophetic role, or ministry, within the Community, a concept which seemed to fit with my own experience of being urged, reluctantly and at great cost emotionally, to say such difficult, but revealing, things.
I have never been given the gift of tongues, nor have I wanted it for use when praying or worshipping with others. But I have occasionally asked for it when I haven’t known how to intercede or am stuck for words to praise God when praying on my own. One such experience was at Lindley Lodge. I had been to the local Catholic priest for the Sacrament of Penance and came back full of joy. I didn’t want to go straight back into the community but went and sat in the beautiful gardens, overlooking the lake, and tried to express to the Lord the joy I felt welling up and bursting to be released in praise to God. I struggled because I didn’t have adequate words – so I asked the Spirit to give me words to praise God. Nothing came….. As time passed, I felt as though a heavy manhole cover had been dropped back onto the joy that was trying to well up like water under pressure from a burst main. I felt dispirited, with the joy trapped inside and inaccessible.
Whilst at Lindley Lodge, I started the Pastoral Counselling distance-learning course being run by Anne Long through Extension Studies at St John’s College, Nottingham. When the recession of the 1980s hit, business dried up for Lindley Lodge which had to close one of its three centres, so everyone started looking for other jobs. Anne put Roger in contact with the principal of a Nottingham Sixth Form College who offered him a teaching post. With very mixed feelings, we left Lindley Lodge in 1981, after only two years of community living, and moved to Bramcote, where I continued the Counselling Course at St John’s. We struggled in various ways – financially, emotionally and spiritually. As I started looking (unsuccessfully) for paid employment for the first time in my life, Anne Long asked if I had ever considered Lay Ministry. I certainly hadn’t! But, having discerned a possible calling within me, she encouraged me to apply in order to explore with others if God was calling me in this way. Surprisingly, it seemed right to everyone, so I joined St John’s College a year later, in 1982!
Although the others on my two-year course were all men training for the priesthood, as were all the other men in the College, the other seven women in College were training for the order of Deaconess (ordination as Deacons wasn’t possible for women until 1987). I was the only one training to be a Licensed Accredited Lay Minister. During the selection process, no one had ever discussed with me the role and job description of a Lay Minister and it had never occurred to me that anyone would expect me to preach! It wasn’t until I started my second year that I discovered I had been put in one of the Sermon Class groups – and was expected to take my turn in preaching in various churches in the Diocese. After each preachment, the group met to give feedback. I was horrified, sick with fear and argued against it – to no avail. I nearly had a breakdown leading up to my first sermon. Speaking in any group had always been so difficult and painful for me – preaching in church felt impossible, especially followed by a critique. But I somehow came through the experience. And I believe that not only did the Spirit enable me to speak in public but actually equipped me and gave me a gift for preaching and teaching which felt like a privilege that I came to love doing.
I spent seven years in my first parish, St Leonard’s, Nottingham. It was not a charismatic church. The ministry team (clergy and lay readers) did once consider using the Saints Alive! material in the parish home groups but decided against it as they were suspicious of its charismatic content. Once again, I found I was sometimes being called to have a prophetic role, usually within the leadership team, which was very stressful. There were two who sometimes criticised my preaching as being too challenging (although I had always shown such sermons beforehand to the Rector who never asked me to change anything I was going to say). During this time, I developed gifts for writing and running experiential (rather than didactic) courses, workshops and training events in the parish and nationally for confirmation preparation, marriage preparation and home groups. Such an extraordinary contrast from just a few years earlier when I couldn’t even speak in a small group! This was certainly the work of the Holy Spirit!
Licensed as an Accredited Lay Minister at St Leonard’s
Once the Anglican Church agreed to ordain women as priests, starting in 1994, it seemed to me that the hierarchy no longer saw any purpose in employing Lay Ministers as they were unable to fulfil a sacramental role in parishes. My Diocese told me I could be licensed as an unpaid Lay Minister but could no longer be employed and so needed to look for secular work. Although it was right to ordain women as priests, I felt that a negative consequence of this, at least in the 1990s, was that professional and general lay ministry was devalued and thrown out of the window amidst the excitement and surge of women coming forward for ordination and being sent out to parishes. Had its only purpose been to give women an active and professional role in the Church’s ministry? A very close friend who had had significant roles and ministries in parishes, theological college and diocesan posts, all as a licensed Lay Minister, was a role model to many. Although I never aspired to the jobs and roles she had in the Anglican Church, she was always a great encouragement and support to me. Then one day, she shared with me that her Bishop had asked her several times to consider ordination to the priesthood and she was struggling with the decision. I felt confused and let down – and didn’t know how to react! Later, when we were praying together, I felt a strong urge that I needed to say, “The Lord is saying that he releases you from your commitment to being a lay minister”. Since this was definitely not what I personally wanted, I can only assume the Holy Spirit gave me those words, which I certainly struggled to speak out loud! I felt sad and disappointed for myself, but happy that she now knew what was the right decision. We were both in tears! In later years, I have often appreciated and been blessed through her priestly role but am, perhaps, still a bit confused about what essential difference there is between lay and ordained ministry.
In 1996, I was invited to join an international SOMA team to go to Rwanda, just two years after the horrific genocide of 1994 when about 800,000 people (out of a population of about 6 million) were murdered in just three months. The purpose was to help the Anglican Church leaders explore aspects of reconciliation after such unimaginable trauma. Once again, I felt I didn’t really fit in. But I learnt a lot about the gifts of intercession, prophecy and discernment as two people on the team withdrew from the team’s public ministry having felt called to spend long days and nights in prayer, sometimes with fasting. They discerned God’s will and direction for the team day by day and spoke his words to us, through Bible verses as well as pictures and words of prophecy which often didn’t make sense to them but did to the rest of us as we faced new challenges each day in such difficult (and sometimes risky) circumstances.
In 1998, I once again had the opportunity to work in the Church of England as a Lay Minister. I was appointed to a Team Ministry of three churches with five clergy near Wolverhampton, with a specific remit to develop lay ministry which Lichfield Diocese saw as a priority and the future for parish ministry. However, there was a gulf between the Diocesan vision and the expectations of the dysfunctional clergy team who were in constant conflict with each other and had no intention of working together as a team to enable lay ministry! The Methodist Minister was a great support to me. We shared the same sense (along with a black independent pastor for whom I had taken a family funeral) that there was a need for “cleansing and healing the land and its history”. The town seemed to be in the grip of disruptive and powerful influences affecting not just Christian ministers and churches, but the community generally, characterised by an all-pervading sense of hopelessness and helplessness, with no vision or energy for growth and change, whether secular or spiritual – a pervading “failure to thrive”. This is perhaps not surprising because the town was built on the fields where “many thousands of men” were killed in the Battle of Wodensfield in 910. Conflict, bloodshed and murder had been at the heart of the community for a thousand years.
Wodensfield Primary School
In the second half of the 1990s, I partly fulfilled my calling to enable all-member ministry when I was invited to run workshops and conferences for clergy and lay people in the Anglican Diocese of Soroti covering the region of Teso in north eastern Uganda. They were so open to change and willing to learn that it was exciting – and such a refreshing contrast to the situation I was facing in Wednesfield. In fact, it was returning back to Wednesfield from one of these visits that triggered the mental breakdown I had in 2000. The contrast between all that we had done and achieved in one week in Teso compared with what I had been allowed to do in Wednesfield in two years was stark, and emphasised the futility of my ministry there in the face of so many obstructions. I was given early retirement due to ill health.
Lay and clergy participants in one of the Workshops I ran in Teso, Uganda
Teso was never really touched by the East African Revival movement (although there is a small quasi-charismatic movement that grew out of the Anglican Church in Teso called The Trumpeters who are very aggressive and divisive). When I first went to Teso in 1992, I was worried about once again “not fitting in” and being asked if I was saved. But I never felt uncomfortable or out of place in Teso as I had done in Kabale. I was lovingly and respectfully accepted as I was, with the gifts God had given me. And God always blessed me on my visits as I developed deep and lasting friendships. Teso has become my second home and is where I have experienced most spiritual growth over the past twenty five years. Perhaps because there is so much use of witchcraft in Teso, some clergy I know have been equipped by the Holy Spirit to confront these situations without knowing about “charismatic renewal” or using the term “baptised in the Spirit”. I have witnessed and learnt, from one priest in particular, about the gifts of discernment and wisdom, praying in tongues for healing and casting out evil spirits in a quiet but powerful way.
In 2006, together with Russ Parker, we worked with church and community leaders to explore and pray for the healing of the community, the history and the land on which the cathedral was built. Ever since Christianity reached Teso a hundred years earlier, when Ngora became the centre for the work of CMS in eastern Uganda and southern Sudan, there have been serious conflicts and disputes, witchcraft, violence, death threats, unexplained sicknesses and spiritual attacks on clergy and lay leaders in the church and in church institutions (including the hospital). Although there was perhaps some progress during that conference, the work was never finished: the leaders involved then have now retired or died and the diocese continues to be in turmoil. With hindsight, the problems are so deep and long term that one week of teaching, prayer and ministry was never going to be enough to heal the current conflicts and wounds, let alone those in the past. There are huge issues, open wounds and so much pain that there can be no quick-fix. Only persistent, Spirit-anointed ministry using the spiritual gifts will break through and heal the conflicts and wounds passed down through the generations.
In what could be called a post-charismatic era, where few Anglican churches are identified as being “charismatic churches” in the way that they were in the 1960s to 1990s, it is important to acknowledge how renewal and spiritual gifts have nevertheless permeated the life and ministry of so many churches throughout England in the 21st Century which wouldn’t previously have been identified as charismatic churches. Various forms of sacramental worship are more commonplace, with most churches now having the Eucharist as their central act of Sunday worship, as well as healing services (usually involving the laying on of hands and anointing with oil), even in traditionally “non-sacramental” evangelical churches. There have been significant changes in liturgy enabling worship to be more flexible and accessible. But is the Church perhaps once again failing to understand fully and teach about the breadth and depth of the work of the Holy Spirit or take seriously St. Paul’s injunction to “go on being filled with the Holy Spirit”? This is, I believe, where ReSource (a small organisation which has developed and grown out of the Charismatic Renewal movement of the late 20th century) has such a vital part to play in the Church of the early 21st century.
It was during the early 1990s that I became involved with Anglican Renewal Ministries (founded in 1982 to encourage individuals and churches to embrace spiritual renewal). I was part of a team from across England, with a wide variety of skills and traditions, which Michael Mitton called together to think, pray, study and develop a fresh understanding of the importance of Sabbath – he believed this was vital in the life and work of Christians and the Church. Out of those initial meetings, a pilot project was run over a period of ten months.
During that time, we grappled together with what God was revealing to us. We began to discover that entering Sabbath rest was no easy matter, and that it was about so much more than just Sunday trading! It is about resting in God, enjoying our place in creation and God’s gifts in their company. We realised that Sabbath is profound and central to our faith because it is about nothing less than eternal rest, life and salvation – not just for individuals but for the world and all creation. It was a challenging journey as we allowed God to teach and lead us. We realised that so often we either take God’s gifts and go away into a “far country” to squander and misuse them; or we are slaving away so hard in the fields that we are unable to come home to rest. Often, we do both! We discovered that Sabbath is about returning and entering into the Father’s presence at ‘home’ and celebrating with him. It is about changing from “all these years spent slaving” to “we had to celebrate and be glad”.
We believed that God was leading us through that experience so that we could develop suitable material for use in a parish context. I wrote sessions for use in small groups while David Newman wrote the daily Link material for personal use between the sessions. It was first used in Emmanuel, Loughborough, but for various reasons, was put away for more than twenty years, gathering cobwebs! In 2021, ReSource invited David and me to review and revise the material, called Liberating Sabbath, which has now been published by ReSource.
I wonder to what extent Charismatic Renewal in the 20th century radically transformed the Church of England as an institution? Was it given a new sense of authority and responsibility to speak out, challenge and influence society at every level? Or has renewal largely been personal and local? Individual charismatic churches may have brought transformation in their communities. But how has renewal enabled the established Church to have a prophetic role in our nation? What significant impact has Charismatic Renewal had in the way the Church has been involved in national issues such as poverty, inequality, injustice, racism, pandemics, finance, refugees and migration, corruption, war, climate change, the environment, overseas aid, overwork and no work? In what ways has the personal and individual experience of charismatic renewal seeped out to transform and equip the Church of England to enable it to have a prophetic role and be an agent for change in the UK?
Does the Church need to become more aware of the radical importance of Sabbath – not just within church life but in society and the world? Is a fuller understanding of Sabbath perhaps an important, as yet hidden, legacy of the charismatic renewal?
Sabbath is truly life-changing, an experience desperately needed by the world as we all struggle to deal with life-threatening national and global issues. The Liberating Sabbath course, with its roots in Anglican Renewal Ministries, touches on all these issues. Is it perhaps one tool towards enabling charismatic renewal to impact the Church of England and society? Liberating Sabbath should not be left to gather cobwebs for another twenty years! But it is only one small step towards enabling the Anglican Church to be a truly prophetic and transforming Church with authority to influence politics and society as the world grapples with the potentially devastating threats facing our future. Transformation of individuals and churches by the Holy Spirit urgently needs to be a channel for the Spirit of God to move out from churches into the world to bring renewal and salvation in all its fullness – not just spiritually, but physically, politically, materially, socially, environmentally, emotionally . . . . . . If this doesn’t happen now, then it will perhaps be too late.
Those of us who know we have been blessed by God have a great responsibility.
9 thoughts on “MEMOIRS OF CHRISTIAN CHARISMATIC RENEWAL”
Thank you so much for sharing this very open, intimate and honest response. It raised so many emotions in me, sometimes it’s hard not to despair of the church. God must so often grieve over how His people treat one another. I admire your courage in writing it.
Thank you very much for this. It is a privilege to read your own story and it provides a fascinating insight, which I shall continue to ponder.
Love from Vicki x
Thank you, Vicki.
Thanks for sharing this, Margaret. All very interesting. We didn’t know you were in boarding school in Uganda – and lots of other things! The book looks good. All the best for 2023 Liz and Tim
Thank you for reading my blog – and for your message.
Very interesting read, Margaret, and thought-provoking.
We are currently worshipping at a more openly charismatic church than any I have attended regularly before. I think that spiritual gifts are generally well handled in our fellowship and I have never felt uncomfortable, which has been a past experience in some churches, even though I would say that I have spiritual gifts myself and and very much open to them (I hope!).
Thank you very much for your comment, Matthew. I suspect that, although “Charismatic Renewal” is no longer a headline (or even “heady”), there are so many Christians like us who have been quietly but deeply touched by charismatic renewal over the past 50 years. But is there a new generation of Christians who haven’t yet heard or been touched? Has teaching about the work of the Spirit become rare again? Is spiritual renewal perhaps too hidden and quiet in the Church? Is it even necessary to talk about it now? I wouldn’t know where to find a church now where charismatic renewal is openly talked about.
The church we attend is part of the same broad group as The Well Church that meets at Burleigh college. I would expect that to be similar to ours. I think more generally the Charismatic movement has influenced many churches to some degree and what was once never mentioned is present. This is partly in the background, partly in much greater lay participation in leadership, also in worship that is less formal and more open to responding to the spirit.
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Yes, I think you’re right, Matthew. Where once there were obvious differences between charismatic churches and those which had not been touched by charismatic renewal, it is now hard to distinguish differences or filter out the charismatic influence in each church. I wonder if it is a bit like the merging of the two great rivers (Rio Negro and Rio Solimões) at Manaus in Brazil to form the Amazon river? One river is very brown while the other is a deep blue. The contrast is visible for some time as they flow on side by side but gradually, the waters start mixing until they are no longer separate – the waters, with their different characteristics, compositions and sediments, have truly mixed into one vast river, enriched and heading together towards the final destination. (All analogies are limited!)