Undoubtedly the thing which makes St. Giles in Reading such a special place is the way it has brought together Christians from such diverse wings of the Universal Church. Our ongoing lived experience of Christian Unity and interdenominational fellowship is nothing short of Spirit-breathed and is surely what the Lord had in mind when He founded His House.
Although I’m now a baptised and practicing (as far as lockdown allows) Roman Catholic, I was blessed with a semi-Anglican upbringing in a Church of England school. Back then, the world wasn’t quite as secular as it is now and the C of E was still very much at the heart of English life for a lot of people. With that in mind, here are ten signs that you, too, were raised in the Church of England. (Note: Even if you weren’t, in fact, raised in the Church of England but still find yourself nodding and agreeing with some or all of these signs, you might well have been born a spiritual Anglican, only to find your true home later in life. It happens!) Here goes:
1. You love the Queen
Never mind the Pope! Lizzie is your homegirl and you still stand up whenever you hear the national anthem (probably to a lot of confused looks from the younger folks around you). A monarchist through and through, republicans make you a bit nervous. Being a nice, polite person (you are, after all, British, even if only by virtue of immigration) you just about tolerate their existence, but secretly you think it might not be a bad idea to hang them at Traitor’s Gate, just to be on the safe side. You celebrate both of the Queen’s birthdays and may even have a portrait of her hanging on the wall of your home.
2. You know all of the words to ‘He’s got the whole world in His hands’
This post comes with a free earworm! Don’t say we never give you anything. You’ve lost count of the number of times you sang this song as a child, led in chorus by your extremely sweet and harmless primary school teacher (who may or may not have had a guitar). It made you feel safe and happy, as though a there were a benevolent Being (possibly with white hair and a beard) watching over you and looking after you at all times. Which, of course, there was (although I’m not sure about the white hair or the beard).
3. You were a Cub / Beaver / Scout / Rainbow / Brownie / Guide
You can still remember how proud and happy you felt when you received your uniform, complete with neckerchief and woggle. You may even still be able to recite the oath you made at your investiture and whenever you make a promise you still sometimes affirm it with “Scouts’ / Guides’ honour” even though you’re now possibly approaching retirement age. You spent your winters huddled with your friends around maps in dusty, draughty church halls, and your summers on camping trips, roasting marshmallows around the fire and getting stung by wasps. Ah, those were the days! Image courtesy of Monifieth Local History Society.
4. You have taken part in a Nativity Play at least once
One day when you were around four years old, you came home with the exciting news of your impending stage debut. Cue lots of messing around on your parents’ and teachers’ parts with tinsel and wire, tea towels and toy farm animals. The girl who who got the part of Mary had her fate as the Most Popular Girl in Year Two sealed – and may possibly have proudly carried this honour well into high school and beyond. On the Big Night at least one shepherd lost their tea towel, and at least one child froze with stage fright and burst into tears. But none of that really mattered because your parents still thought you were the sweetest shepherd, angel or donkey ever.
5. School assemblies gave you your moral compass
The smell of school dinners lingered in the air. The words of the Lord’s Prayer were printed on large sheets of card and taped to the wall of the School Hall, which probably had a large crucifix hanging at one end. At least once per week you sat, cross-legged on the floor (until years five and six, when you graduated to the benches and felt like royalty looking down at the peasants), singing hymns and listening to life lessons taken from the Bible. Your worship was accompanied by clunky piano playing courtesy of one of your teachers and, on special occasions, by a chorus of squeaky recorders. Take a deep breath, now, and sing with me: All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small…!
6. You’ve been to more summer fêtes than you care to remember
When the trees turned green and the air warmed up, that could only mean one thing – the summer fête was almost here. Held at your local Church Hall, no such event was complete without bunting, a jumble sale, a raffle, a tombola where lucky souls stood the chance of winning a bottle of bubble bath, a bric-a-brac stall and a bouncy castle. And it always rained, but you didn’t let this keep you or anyone else off that bouncy castle. Cream teas (with homemade scones) were not optional. All proceeds went toward fixing the Church roof.
7. You have read all of the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
…or at the very least, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This may have been accompanied by discussions with your friends over whether you were Peter, Susan, Edmund or Lucy (hint: we’re all Edmund). Naturally, any adult female authority figure you didn’t like ended up being cast in the role of the White Witch in your mind. Aslan’s death scene was genuinely upsetting and unsettling, a feeling which his resurrection never quite took away. At least once, you found yourself climbing into a wardrobe on a rainy day and reaching through the coats, just to see what might happen. But you didn’t shut the door behind you, knowing, as you did, that it is a very foolish thing to shut oneself into a wardrobe.
8. Early autumn equals ‘Harvest Festival’
Every August/September your mum leapt at the opportunity to clear out all of the tinned stuff from the cupboard which she knew you were never going to use. Cue two or three long tables in the School Hall, covered with every kind of dried food you can imagine, as well as a whole lot of baked beans and Heinz soup. To this day you’re not exactly sure where it all went.
9. You got crafty
You have, at some point, made some or all of the above items. You mightn't have been the brightest child in your year, but you sure as heck know what to do with an empty toilet roll, a pot of PVA glue, cotton wool, glitter, felt and some lollipop sticks. The only limit is your imagination!
10. You feel like Jesus has been your friend from a very young age
It might not have always been plain sailing and there have probably been more than a few bumps in the road, but you genuinely feel like the Lord has always been a part of your life – even if you’ve spent a good portion of that life turned away from Him. You grew up knowing that there was a very special Friend who would always be there for you no matter what. As your capacity for understanding has grown, so, too, has your love for the One who loved you first. You feel blessed and grateful to have heard the Good News as a child, even if it took you a long time to fully embrace it. Because of your upbringing, you’ve been blessed with the knowledge that the Truth has a Name, and that the Truth sets everyone free. Alleluia! Artist unknown.
Well, that’s it! How many of these did you find yourself nodding and smiling at? Or are there any I’ve missed? What are your memories of growing up Anglican? If you’re a convert, what drew you to the C of E? Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
by Lucy Stothard