by Tamara Schmerse
Part 7 of 17
The defining moment came while I was sitting in a wooden pew of Paul Church, looking out the faraway window upon the sprawling lawns and jagged cliffs of Mousehole. The thought occurred to me that many of my family members must have stared out that same window on a Sunday morning during church. I thought about how many of my family had walked up that steep hill every Sunday morning as the bells rang out. I thought about the family tombstone, in it’s position of prominence against the wall of the church building. The closer the tombstone was to the building, the more important the family had been in the church, our guide had told us. It dawned on me that for a thousand years, Carvosoes had believed in, and fervently worshiped, God. What made me so much more intelligent than them? Did I really know better than countless generations of my family before me? Was not that a very arrogant and possibly ignorant thing to believe?
And then I flicked the switch back on – as easily as I had flicked it off almost two years earlier. I allowed myself the possibility that God does exist. It that were true, then how should I respond? Is it not better to be safe than sorry?
And so, in that ancient building in that beautiful countryside, I made the decision that when I get home, I am going to find God. I will search for Him, I will find Him, and I will worship Him. In Spirit and in Truth.
My decision to “find” God was not something I took lightly. I freshly remembered my experiences in the COC and the thoughts that followed, leading me to my hasty declaration of Atheism. I believed, at this point, that God does exist – He is just not to be found in those “charismatic” kind of churches.
So I decided to look in the opposite direction. What I knew of Christianity at that time was that all churches could be divided into one of two groups: Charismatic and Traditional. Having renounced the Charismatic kind, I set about searching for a more Traditional church, something like what my mother would have gone to Sunday School in all those years ago. It occurred to me for the first time that Paul Church, where my family had worshipped for centuries, was actually Anglican. So, why not start there.
I Googled “Anglican Churches in Logan”, and came up with one on the other side of the city. The very next Sunday I set out to see if I could “find God” there.
Google Earth had promised me a whitewashed, pointy, wooden chapel-type building, which by Australian standards was about as traditional as I was going to get. I was disappointed however to discover that the old building was now, as I have discovered is the trend around the country, only used for special events, and that regular Sunday services are held in the blank-looking auditorium next door. Still, if there was one thing the Baptists had bashed into my head, it was that the Church was not the building, it was the people inside it, so with a relatively open mind, I went inside.
The service surprised me a little. They used, as I had been expecting, some words and terms I was unfamiliar with, coming from an Evangelical background, however the rest of the structure of the service – even down to the songs they sang – were eerily familiar to me. Some of them I remembered from my old Baptist church. And the sermon was as soft and comfortable as any I had heard at the COC (perhaps however without the emphasis on the importance of tithing!). So, even though it meant a 30 minute drive every Sunday morning, I decided that I would stick with this idea, and explore it further.
I began my research at my work, as I knew that one of the boys I worked with considered himself Anglican. At one quiet moment in the shop, I asked him what the Anglican Church actually was.
“It’s the Catholic Church,” was his reply.
“It’s the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that they talk about. It’s not like all these break-away groups you have today, it was the original, traditional Church. The first one. In England.”
That sounded good to me. So I began doing some research on the Church of England, on it’s beliefs and worship structure, and what it meant to be Anglican. And then, in the natural course of this research, I began to look into the roots of the church, and it’s history. And as we all know, the beginning of the Church of England had very little to do with wanting to organise a group of people who wanted to worship God.
I learned that Christians in England were originally part of the Roman Catholic Church, under the authority of the Pope in Rome. Then, after around a thousand years, when one fat, hedonistic man by the style of King Henry VIII decided that his wife was not giving him the son he deserved, he sought a divorce from the Pope, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. The Pope refused, the King stuck out his tongue and said
“fine, I’ll start my own church, and I’ll be the head.”
Okay, so it was not as simplistic as that, but in essence, the Church of England was founded upon rebellion against authority and tradition, and essentially, the lust, greed and impatience of a sinful man.
As an interesting aside, the Cornish trace the destruction of their language and culture from this single event as well. When King Henry VIII decreed that all Britain was now under the jurisdiction of his new church, his men rode through the country, desecrating monasteries, whitewashing churches, and handing out new Prayer Books and Orders of Service written in English. The Pope had been happy to have his Cornish parishioners say their prayers in Cornish, even in the middle of their Latin services – which meant that even the roughest, most poorly educated miner or fisher could understand that on a Sunday, he was praying to God through His Son Jesus Christ, who had come into the world to save us from our sins. However, now we had to perform all our worship in this new and uncomfortable language of the Anglos. And so, in just a few short generations, Cornwall went from being a proud country with it’s own culture and language, to just another part of England, speaking almost entirely in English.
Again, that is a shortened, sanitised history, but the fact remains – in 1525 there was a sinful man, whose actions changed the history of religion in England, and subsequently the British Empire, forever. No matter how deep into the issues you want to delve, when you step back and look at the facts, they do not bode well for the Anglican Church.
I tried for several weeks to continue worshipping at the Anglican Church in east Logan, and studying it by any and every means at my disposal. But eventually I had to admit that I could not get past that fact. The Church of England today was full of good, honest, God-fearing people who probably knew little of King Henry VIII, and agreed with his actions even less, but I could not bring myself to agree that the foundation of the Anglican Church was ordained by God, and therefore the Anglican Church Universal was, in fact, God’s True Church on Earth. And that was what I was looking for – the Truth. And so, sadly, I left the Anglican Church, and continued with my search.
Part 8 can be read by clicking HERE.
She said that:
[QUOTE]the Church of England was founded upon rebellion against authority and tradition, and essentially, the lust, greed and impatience of a sinful man.[/QUOTE]
May be at that moment in her life she didn’t know anything about the Orthodox Church, but I wonder why did she not consider at that point to seek the truth in the Roman Catholic Church? If, as she said, the Church of England was founded upon rebellion against authority and tradition, then it would be completely logical to turn to that original authority and tradition from which the Anglicans departed and to seek the truth in that direction. Instead she turned to other Protestants who share a similar history of rebellion against authority and tradition. I am just curious about that.
Fr. John says
Daniel, it’s coming.
Tamara Schmerse says
Hi Daniel, Sorry I didn’t see this comment earlier. You have probably read further in my search by now and so your questions may be answered already, but I thought I would summarise them for you here: There were several reasons why I did not turn “back” toward the Catholic Church after discarding the Anglican. First and foremost, because I was so deeply entrenched with the notion of the RCC being the last place on earth where i would find God’s truth (“Catholics were wrong, everyone knows that”). My father and my husband, even though both are Atheist, had often said to me “I don’t care which church you go to as long as it’s not Catholic”. Also, there was the family ties that I had to the Methodist Church, and even before I began looking into Methodism I had known from growing up Cornish that the Methodist Church was started by a man who wanted to “fix” the problems in the Anglican Church, so it seemed like the most logical place to go from there. But as you see in later chapters, I pretty much tried it all – although I went through Judaism and even Islam before I would consider the Catholic Church, so deep was my prejudice against it. Thank you for reading!
Thank you Tamara for your interesting story. I’m honoured to receive your personal reply. Welcome home!
I find it unfair that people choose to omit the fact that the English church existed before it was “Romanized”. I’m an Anglican who is weary of its challenges but the reality is that the church was there before Augustine set foot in Britain. Rome has always been known to exceed its boundaries. Eastern Orthodoxy knows that too well. Are we saying then that Rome’s authority was invalid in 1054 and suddenly became valid after the split from Orthodoxy? I receive conflicting messages from Orthodoxy regarding Rome’s standing in the one holy Catholic and apostolic church. Anglicanism seemed acceptable to some EO churches until some provinces became liberal.
I feel drawn to the Orthodox faith, but lately it sounds very Romish
Fr. John says
My advice is not to expect Orthodox Christians to be experts in Anglican history, and get a good look at your local Orthodox parish, meet flesh-and-blood Orthodox Christians. You will see that sounding ‘very Romish’, well, nothing could be further from the truth.