The six year old had a deep conversation with mom today. It went a bit like this.
“Mommy, holiday is wonderful.”
“Yes it is.”
“Mommy, can we stay here forever?”
“No, Kaitlyn, we can’t, daddy’s got to go back to his job… and what about all your friends? Sophia and Sarah and Stevie?”
A few seconds later, after a bit of comtemplation, “Mommy, it’ll be ok. They can move here and stay with us.”
Actually I wouldn’t mind moving to Wilderness or Nature’s Valley but the doctor I saw yesterday says I’m allergic to the Eastern Cape. The province is playing havoc with my respiratory system. Besides which my kids are already a handful imagine them and three other friends!
Today we headed a little further down the coast, Westward, as far as the Christian retreat, Carmel, in the Wilderness area. It’s owned, or run, or associated in some way with the Anglican Church of South Africa (I think). My dad held a retreat there last week and described the facility as breath taking, which it was. I couldn’t photograph the church as there was a Diocesan Synod on the go and when I listened in at the door they’d only just kicked off on the First Eucharistic Pray which meant they had a while to go.
I love the Anglican Liturgy, I really do. It’s not every bodies cup of tea but I love the way it empowers the congregation to partake meaningfully and the focus and balance it provides the worship service from start to finish. Now at the back of mind I’m still chewing on the idea of tradition in Christianity. Tonight I’d like to sketch out a few relevant definitions.
Firstly culture. The word culture in our century goes hand in hand with anthropology. It really encompasses all the human phenomenon that are not purely resultant from genetics. It’s really the distinct ways that people living in different parts of the world classify and represent their unique experiences, and act creatively. I’m African. In the Church environment I’m from it’s not so difficult to notice that Western Europeans often enjoy complicated musical arrangements accompanied by a complex array of musical instruments. It gets their toes tapping and sometimes even a bit of clapping. African music on the other hand has rich base tones and a rhythmic beat. Forget the toe tapping this music almost demands a bit of a dance. It’s Michael Bolton juxtaposition to Siyakudumisa.
Tradition is more about the beliefs or customs taught by one generation to the next or a set of customs or practices. I spent some time in Israel last year. I saw churches commemorating the spot that Mary ascended into heaven. That’s right, it’s been handed down from generation to generation that Mary didn’t die but rather ascended into heaven in much the same way that Jesus did. That’s a tradition. I do traditions too. Like Christmas for instance, with a tree and presents and turkey. It’s tradition.
Lastly there’s the word ritual. A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value, which is prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. When I think of Christian rituals my mind jumps to communion and baptism. But there’s other rituals celebrated by other believers within the realms of Christendom. Take weddings for instance, offerings or even lent.
Culture, tradition and ritual. None inherently bad or good (except for that Mary thing).
Maybe to close with Paul’s words in 2 Thesallonians 2:15:
I’m braaiing at the moment and need to put the chops on. I guess more musings tomorrow.
Wanna find Carmel? Check out the Google Maps location:
What traditions do you hold to? Does culture influence your Christian experience? Positively? Negatively? When you think ritual what comes to mind? What are Christian ordinances?