Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The unforgivable sin?

It’s strange now looking back at the church of my teens, now that I know so much more about church types and history. Then it was a mostly rather disorganized and occasionally mystifying place in which I endured an hour of boredom now and again. My faith disappeared around the time one of the saner members of my family did.

Partway through my time there, my secondary school acquired a closer link with the CofE and we were subjected to compulsory communion services in the school hall. At around the same point the Alternative Service Book came out and the wording of the service was rearranged imperceptibly. At the time I had no idea why this was happening, and I can’t say which of several alternatives were being used. I do remember thinking there was something odd about using a random one of the stackable plastic tables off which we would eat our lunch in a couple of hours as a communion table/ altar. (I guess I was destined to turn into an Anglo-Catholic.)

The assemblies on non-communion days were also religious, of course. As a non-believer and non-singer I used to feel faint when squashed in the too-small hall with several hundred other kids on hot days as they all droned out some dirge-like hymn or other accompanied by thumping piano, occasionally varied by something very militaristic or awful seventies schlock.

There was usually an uplifting reading or story after the hymn, then a lot of administrative notices, occasionally a mini-prizegiving. One day the Bible reading was on the need to forgive our enemies seventy times seven, shortly followed by an announcement in the notices that Jane X had been “expelled for being unforgivably rude to a teacher.”

No one got it.

At the time I just assumed everyone in charge of that school was really, really dumb (I was a teenager). Now I wonder if one teacher thought there was something wrong with some of their values and put that reading forward for the day. (I’m not saying never exclude, just that your reasoning for the ratio of forgiveness to giving up on people needs to be up front and not contradictory.)

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