Taylor Carey offered us his faith journey, and Adrian Worsfold described what he now believes. Since I started a website called Lay Anglicana, you would be correct in assuming that I subscribe to most of the Thirty Nine Articles, so rather than going into the detail of which ones I am wobbly on (since you ask, I would like a hand in the re-drafting of Articles 3,13,17,18 & 23!) I thought I would describe the rather circuitous route by which I came home to the Church of England:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
In the custom of my tribe, and according to the rites of the 1662 Prayer Book, I was christened in 1949 at the age of four months, with my godparents renouncing the devil and all his works on my behalf. So that was all right then. My parents were of the ‘C And E’ (Christmas and Easter) variety, and my earliest memories were of my father complaining that having to read the lesson in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Karachi cut short our weekly trips to the beach. Hence the family decision to stick to the letter of the law, three times a year. His priorities were very clear.
In 1958, I was sent to boarding school because of my parents’ work overseas, at St David’s, Englefield Green (now demolished). Dressed in our Sunday uniforms, we walked in a crocodile to St Jude’s, Englefield Green every Sunday for Matins. There was no nonsense about an ‘all age’ service, or any attempt to ‘dumb down’ Cranmer’s language in view of the age of two-thirds of the congregation. But I am grateful, so grateful to St Jude’s for my love of the traditional language, and its cadences. I absorbed the contents of the Ancient and Modern hymnal week by week, as well as prayers we rarely hear now, like St Ignatius’ ‘to give and not to count the cost‘ or Drake’s Prayer, a particular favourite of our headmistress. Unfortunately for all of us, this headmistress had a row with the vicar, so one term we had to walk through Windsor Great Park to another church, which none of us liked as much – it wasn’t home.
In 1961 I was sent on to the tougher climate of Queen Anne’s, Caversham. We had our own chapel, which I see still has the same ‘Light of the World‘ that it did in my day. Although it now has a woman as chaplain, in our day it was Father Menin, complete with biretta. (He was the father of the former Bishop of Knaresborough, himself now in his eighties). He took us for confirmation classes, ironing out any misunderstandings of Cranmer’s prayer book, and insisting (which I now see was curious, given that he must from his dress have been Anglo-Catholic himself) that ‘catholic’ in the creed meant ‘universal’ and had nothing to do with the Church in Rome.
After this sedate Church of England grounding and habit, I was flung into the maelstrom of the University of Sussex. I was billeted in a shared room in a boarding house in Upper Rock Gardens, Brighton. My father was tied up with the crisis in Rhodesia, my mother was dying of cancer, which she did on 5th November, a few weeks into my first term. I was not nearly as grown-up as I thought I was and I did not cope very well with being suddenly alone. God didn’t seem to have anything to say to me, and I couldn’t think of anything to say to him. I felt like Job.
In due course, my father married again and went to India as High Commissioner (ambassador) in succession to John Freeman. I finished my degree and arrived in Delhi for a holiday. The planned month stretched to six months, a blissful time and I fell in love with India. This was 1969, so I was not alone – George Harrison had discovered the Maharishi and everyone was doing Transcendental Meditation. But I felt rather smugly that my love affair with the sub-continent had been developing since 1952 and my first arrival in Lahore. And the 20th century did not invent Orientalism, as very well described by Edward Said.
I fell in love with the light and the colour, the clothes, the food, the warmth of the people and a philosophy that was Hinduism and its offshoot, Buddhism, thousands of years older than Christianity. I didn’t move to an ashram (here I have to admit that the rival attraction of the creature comforts of 2, King George Avenue as it then was were compelling) but I did make forays into temples, and to various sorts of Hindu ceremonies that were conducted at home by my Indian friends. I watched my friend’s daily Kathak classes, complete with its initial homage to Vishnu. I bought a batik of the Boddhisatva mural from Ajanta and would gaze at its face, which seemed to understand all the suffering in the world, to embrace it and to offer humanity peace and even salvation. I read the Bhagavad Gita ( a good place to start), an abridged version of the rest of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
I had a bad case of the ‘Pull To The East’ described by Nancy Mitford in ‘Don’t Tell Alfred’. The only cure is to keep encouraging the sufferer (who of course does not think he or she is suffering) to keep moving east. As anyone who believes our world is spherical will quickly grasp, the result will eventually be to arrive back in the West. In my case, this solution was applied, not by one of my own family, but by a Hindu mystic (and very wise man). He asked me if I wanted also to be a mystic – I replied that I thought I did. ‘In another life‘, he replied, ‘you will join us as a Hindu mystic. Meanwhile, in this life, you have been born into a Christian family from a Christian country. Instead, you must seek to become a Christian mystic.’
In old age, I am drawn once again to mysticism, this time of a Christian variety. But at the time I was by no means ready for any such thing. I realised that I was a budding Orientalist, rather than a budding Eastern mystic. So I kept going east, and reached New York, where I spent three years learning about Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Krishnamurti and… (well, you’ll just have to wait and see, as my mother would have said)