Since being in Cambridge, we have been attending class inside of a church/community center. Once a semester, the Vicar (priest), Michael likes to talk to us Cambridge students about St. Paul’s. We were told he would talk to us for a few minutes and then we could ask some questions about the Anglican tradition and what the church in general is like in the UK, etc.
I have frequently seen Vicar Michael around the church as we’ve attended class and volunteered at community events. The Vicar, a very distinguished looking man, is normally in a monochromatic outfit of some sorts (my favorite was the burgundy sweatshirt with burgundy vest and burgundy hat, I’ll never forget this image of him). He is a very charismatic man. He’s always walking about jovially shouting at people in his thick cockney accent (East End Londoner accent – think Eliza Doolittle) and telling me to ignore his son Max, as he frequently asks me out (that’s a WHOLE ‘nother story). The first time I heard the Vicar pray, at a luncheon, I opened my eyes to find tears because it was one of the most eloquent, genuine prayers I had ever heard in my life.
Because of my strong hate of crying, God punishes me (jk….) by making me cry in nearly every church service or spiritual thing I’m involved in. Two months ago, when I realized that this man’s simple lunch prayer had the ability to make me tear-up, I knew that I needed to hear more from him.
This assumption was completely right. As he came to our class to “discuss the Anglican Christian tradition,” he began abruptly by telling us he was going to talk about his story and what brought him to where he is now:
As an 18-year-old he was given a “packet” of beliefs from his local church. This contained what he should believe, without much explanation. From that time, as a teenager, to now nearly being 60, he has been unpacking this “packet” that he received 40 years ago. As he wandered through the details and depths of his journey as a Christian, I was blown away with the relevant and challenging things he had to say.
We, as Christians, have spent too much time floating on the Biblical understanding of our parents or church or whoever. We aren’t supposed to just blindly accept the Christian practices of today or even the Bible without challenging it. If we don’t challenge something, how are we supposed to believe it, understand it or defend it?
The Christianity of our forefathers can be accused of being simply religion or lacking emotion. But then our generation (and some of the generation above us) was so anxious to “feel” something real that a personal relationship with Christ became the only important thing and knowledge went out the window. God, the God that we are meant to fear, became this:
Now, don’t get me wrong…a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the whole point, but a supreme, all-knowing God doesn’t equivocate to a “homeboy” in my opinion. Knowing Christ has only become about playing a great worship set and sitting in His presence. Like I said, these aren’t bad things necessarily…but when we only know God based on a feeling, rather than knowledge of the Bible and our personal theology, there is a serious problem.
I want to find the balance. I want my relationship with Christ to be based on the fact that I feel His presence everywhere that I look, but I also want to know and understand who He was when He walked the earth. This concept of balance has been infiltrating every single spiritual thought that I’ve had in the last few months and I am desperately searching to find this balance.
Bottom line is this – I want to know Christ. From feeling to knowledge. Colorful characters like Michael, the Vicar, have helped me realize how important that is and have pushed me along a new way of knowing Jesus. I wouldn’t have discovered this way of knowing Christ without coming all the way to the United Kingdom, in Cambridge.
It’s funny why God will take you 4,000 miles away from home. If that’s the only reason I came here (which, by the way, it isn’t), then I am grateful.