Sunday, 23 November 2008

Church Search 666. Grace causes offence and doesn't want to apologise

They're very nice, those gloves of mine. They were given to me by a friend of my mother's who, as well as also being nice, is very much a respected, respectable and respectful member of a high Anglo-Catholic church. And so, given how cold it has been here recently, I wore these gloves to the church we attended this morning. I greatly admire those for whom being cold is a spiritually enriching experience, but for me it isn't. And I was told at the communion rail that, until/unless I removed these gloves, I would not be permitted to partake of the eucharistic host. And I was not told this politely, either.

I mean, WTF?

If a veto or taboo or prohibition on hand coverings were well known throughout certain echelons of the Church of England, I'd have been aware of it by now. It'd have been liturgicalised as follows

"Draw near with faith and remove your gloves.
Receive the body of our Lord Jesus which He gave for you
and the blood which he shed for you.
Eat and drink with bare hands in the remembrance that he died for you.
And feed on him, in your hearts - which though your hands by now may be stinging with cold, will be warm - by faith, with thanksgiving..."

Wouldn't it come across as rather, somewhat... legalistic? Pharisaical?

I mean, I had purple nail varnish underneath my gloves. I've been in African Indigenous Pentecostal churches with such a veto or taboo on painted nails that I'd have been instructed to don gloves in order to take communion. And if I were ever to have made First Communion in a Roman Catholic church, I'd have to have worn gloves. And it goes without saying (I hope) that Jesus has nothing to do with this. It took a few years after Jesus for the Church to consider its theological bases for sharing bread and wine and a few centuries for the Church to develop this into such fixed rituals.

So essentially, they were offended that I wore gloves. And they thought that I should have known that they'd be offended.

And that, for me, is the nub of the question. Should one, when visiting a place of worship, approach in fear and trepidation of how one might offend, be seen as inappropriate, not fit in? Or should one approach with openness, warmth and a readiness to engage with the people and their g/God/s?

And should one, when welcoming a newcomer into one's place of worship, scrutinise the finest points of the way s/he is dressed or behaving? Or should one just take them as they are for the time being, and leave the finer questions of their hand coverings as a matter of secondary importance to the gospel of Christ?


AnneDroid said...

No, yes, no and yes are my answers to the last four questions. This is just ridiculous, isn't it?

Churches go on about wanting more people to come and then are (sometimes) as off-putting as can be when people do.

Good grief! And Grrrrrrrrr!

PS I like your gloves.

Anonymous said...

This is utterly ridiculous. Their first priority should have been to welcome you. I wonder how many first-time visitors every go back to that church?

Good grief. Words almost (but not quite) fail me. ;)

Steve Lancaster said...

With AnneDroid on this one!

Especially as most wafers taste like they're made of glove anyway...