Glencairn Methodist Church
May - June 2014
"Memory and Heart"
In my Message last month I wrote about "coming out" as a Christian and I mentioned that this might be at Confirmation or Adult Baptism or through "coming forward" at the end of an Evangelistic, Billy Graham style mission. I said that my "coming out" was at Confirmation, which was the typical way for many generations of Anglicans and that this was after 15 years of loving Christian nurture by my parents and the church. The Preface to Confirmation Service One, which is the one in use when I was a lad, says that "none shall be confirmed but such as can say the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments and have been further instructed in the Church Catechism." And we were taught to recite these from memory!. The Preface to the second Confirmation Service (2004) only requires that candidates be "instructed in the Christian faith", with no requirement to recite from memory.
Let me digress for a moment to give my views on "Memory Learning". I believe, for example, that primary school children should learn, and embed in memory with instant recall, the addition and multiplication tables of arithmetic. We called this " to learn off by heart". Similarly children should learn correct spelling and the prevailing rules of grammar. These abilities will make further learning of mathematics and languages easier, and, in my view also contribute to greater and more rapid understanding of new concepts. Furthermore, making the brain work at memorising also helps keep it fit and active. I know this is contrary to much of contemporary educational theory, but there you are! (And I think that the current Secretary for Education, Michael Gove, agrees with me.) So I would suggest that those who become Christians, or who wish to deepen their Christian understanding, should take it upon themselves to learn some stuff "off by heart". Apart from anything else, it does give one some words to use to express and explain their Christian faith to others. Also as people get older, they can recall at least snippets of words learnt off by heart in childhood, while other things learnt more recently, go quickly from memory.
The Catechism mentioned above is reprinted in the 2004 Book of Common Payer (Church of Ireland), page 766, but is not on the C of I webpage. (At least I cannot find it.
You may find it on the Church of England website at this link.). It was written a long time ago and the language is a bit quaint. (The Revised Catechism was published in 1971 but now seems to be out of print. Google can't find it if it still exists! I have a copy or two. W. Gilbert Wilson's 1980 book, The Faith of an Anglican, Collins Fount Paperbacks, APCK is a good contemporary exposition structured around the Revised Catechism. Amazon will point you to second hand booksellers who are offering this book for a penny plus postage.)
At the baptism of an infant and at confirmation, the Godparents or the candidates respectively make these promises: "Firstly that I renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; secondly that I believe all the articles of the Christian faith; and thirdly that I keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of my life." These can be summed up in three words - Repent, Believe, Behave. In the Lord's Prayer we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness - repentance; in the Creed we summarise our belief in Jesus as Lord and Saviour - belief; in the ten Commandments we get rules for living - behaving.
Even though the Church Catechism uses language that is a bit dated, it contains useful teaching and you could do worse than read it.
I have been emphasising leaning some things "off by heart". At least this gives you some words to use in defence of your Christianity until you are confident enough to use your own. But becoming a Christian and remaining "in Christ" is more than just reciting passages from the Catechism. It involves what I shall call "Heart Learning" as well "Memory Learning". Heart learning happens when you experience inside you - in your feelings and emotions - a longing for Jesus, for his nearer presence, for his grace day by day to support and embolden, and a great desire to worship him and to serve him.
Ken (20 May 2014)
[This Message is a bit later than usual so I shall leave it on through June.]
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm