Tradition. Part 4 of 5

Sand, sun and surf

Top: Kaitryn and I at the top of Wilderness (maybe I need a shave?). Bottom: Sun, sand and surf. Click either image to enlarge.

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!


Carmel has to be the plushest Christian facilities I’ve ever seen. Click any image to enlarge.

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:

15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word {of mouth} or by letter from us.

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?


5 thoughts on “Tradition. Part 4 of 5

  1. You need to bring into focus that there are traditions that have been handed down to us in imperfect form.
    Baptism is one. John didn’t baptise babies. He baptised adults.
    Jesus didn’t baptise at all (that we know of), but he did take part in the mikveh (on which John based his teaching of baptism.
    When Peter refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet (and then relented), the Lord said: “Anyone who has had a bath is clean.” Only the feet now needed washing, because the disciples had walked in the dusty streets since bathing at a public mikveh.
    The crucial difference between the Roman Catholic Church and all Protestant churches (including the Anglicans) is that in the RC Church, tradition and Scripture have equal weight.
    But a great many traditions handed down are simply wrong (I could give many examples). This is why the Protestants went back to basics and insisted sola scriptura.

    • Hi there,

      You’re forcing my hand and this is a thought process :). Thanks for the comment and the time it took to read.

      Did you see the previous post? You’re interest in heraldry was at the back of my mind when I was doing some research.



  2. Hi Mark,

    Just to put forward a correction to your blog. Carmel is actually not run by the Anglican Church at all but by a Trust.

    This extract is from it’s website “Founded by Jack and Kaye Edkins in 1954, Carmel is now owned and administered by The Carmel Evangelical Trust which is a non-profit interdenominational evangelical arm of the Church offering Carmel as a facility for the benefit of the Christian community of South Africa and beyond. Our serving community consists of both locally employed people and a ministry service team, sharing the various tasks needing to be done.”

    Your pictures are great!

  3. I forgot to mention that my sermon on Sunday is based on Mark 7:1-23 which deals entirely with the subject of tradition and rituals. Great minds think alike!!

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