How does a Baptist end up getting interested in Celtic Christianity?
As I mentioned in my introductory piece, as I’ve matured in age and also as a Christian, my early enthusiasm for the stridently evangelical pathway has given way to a craving for silence and a more contemplative approach to my Christian life. This doesn’t mean that I don’t enthusiastically join in with loud, contemporary worship songs or enjoy the spontaneity of worshipping in the spirit, but increasingly, my daily practices have their roots in the early Christian communities and monastic traditions. There isn’t a strictly defined identity for what constitutes Celtic Christianity, but there are a number of strands that come together to create the essence of it.
We don’t have an exact date for when Christianity came to Britain. Some sources put it as early as the events documented in the Acts of the Apostles, only a few years after the life of Christ. It’s very likely to have arrived here with the soldiers of the invading Roman forces, but oddly, it wasn’t until they left that Christianity really took hold.
The basis of Celtic Christianity isn’t so far removed from the way any committed Christian would want to live. It’s seeking God first and responding to that, not just in how we worship, but also by the way we live. My early experience of the Christian faith was in the Church of England, but although I ‘believed in God’ it didn’t extend much beyond Sunday church attendance. When I joined a Baptist church in 2001 I began to understand things more clearly and came to a better understanding of what whole life discipleship meant. While there’s nothing wrong with my current church or the way they choose to worship, away from it, in my private daily devotions and increasingly as I now embark on life on my own, I am moving into a life that has a different emphasis:
What, then, is changing for me?
Silence – The world is unbelievably busy and for a long time I would add to the noise with the radio, or music. These days I much prefer long periods of silence. While I don’t shy away from conversations, I find it very hard to be in an environment of ‘chatter.’ I have always been naturally quiet and introverted. As I get older, silence has become a necessary part of my life.
Contemplation – A natural response to silence is the opportunity for contemplation and prayer. One of the failings of the modern world is its addiction to quick, easy answers. Anyone who gives a big subject more than thirty seconds of thought will see it expand like an exploding firework and radiate off into a myriad of pathways. I view this as searching after truth rather than being satisfied with a quick answer.
Creating a Way of Life – There are several Christian communities, such as the ones on the Islands of Iona and Lindisfarne, which model the Celtic Christian life. There are also dispersed communities. One in particular which has drawn me is the Community of Aidan and Hilda. I’m not in a place in my life where I feel able to formally commit to joining, but taking an interest in and using the resources on their website has enabled me to take a step towards it, by drafting my own Way of Life. This has been extraordinarily helpful as it’s enabled me to put together something that is both structured and unique to me.
Embracing a Rhythm – When I joined the Baptist church I quite happily jettisoned all the liturgy, vestments and theatre of church. For a while I definitely needed everything stripped away and the clarity of the gospel message to come through. Now I’m older, I realise that worshipping in that way gives me a sense of ‘disconnect’ from the natural world around me. While I have no desire to return to a hierarchical church system, I have found value in punctuating my days with set times of prayer and experiencing the work of God through the times and seasons of the year.
My new Way is still under construction and refinement, but it has helped me to view Christianity not just as a set of beliefs, but truly as a way of life.