April 13, 2011 by Rhi
Royal Wedding fever is gripping the nation – or so I’m told. Living in Scotland, there’s very little to show up here of the impending nuptials of our future Monarch and his Missus-to-be. But having attended the same university as them (though not at the same time), and having lived not far from them in North Wales (although you’d never have known they were there), and also the fact that I’m getting married myself in a few short months, I do feel a certain solidarity with the happy couple. My mother, having been a big fan of Princess Diana in her 80s heyday, had a photo frame with both mine and William’s baby pictures in at one point. I think for a short time, I thought he was a brother who was stolen or something. Hmmm.
The latest piece of
gossip news, to come from Buck House, is that Kate has been confirmed in the Church of England, in preparation for her upcoming union. I found this mildly interesting, not least of all because I can only assume that it’s for show more than anything else. As a practicing Christian for all of my life, I’ve flitted between protestant churches up and down the country with little trouble. When I was a regular at my small village church in North Wales (congregation 13, service time 9.15am – I saw the correlation there) I did ask whether it would be necessary for me to be confirmed in the Anglican faith. The vicar looked a bit baffled, and just said a plain “No.” No explanation, no letter of proof from my home church in Scotland. It seemed just being there regularly, and pitching in with the rest of the congregation, was more important that pomp and ceremony. I had a similar experience at my regular church in the South of England. No questions asked at the altar when I approached to take the sacrament. Just a nice warm welcome.
I suppose it’s different for Kate, being as how her new husband is likely to be the Head of the Church of England at some point. But it did seem as though it were an effort to appease, rather than any real show of Christianity. The couple have been co-habiting for some time – which is in itself not a signal of being a heathen (see me, shacked up with my atheist “bidey-in” as we say up here). But it does seem to suggest that they aren’t exactly of the old-school fire and brimstone kind of Christian. Even if William is going to be head of the Union, why does part of that mean that Kate has to be confirmed before they contemplate walking down the aisle?
In the 2001 census, out of a population of just over 5m, over 2m people (42% of the Scottish population) defined their current religion as being Church of Scotland (source: Scottish Govt). And yet just 7 years later, it was announced that actual membership of the Kirk had reached a new low of 489,118 (source: Herald Scotland). My own church is struggling for members – especially of the younger variety. We were full to bursting on Mother’s Day thanks to a Christening. But the following week, it was the same old faithful. My minister has now given up on the idea of “Marriage Instruction classes” which could be partly to do with her own unmarried state. But that in turn has given a much truer picture of our congregation. There’s no longer names on the roll who join and attend for 6 weeks before their marriage, only to return to enjoying a Sunday morning lie in when the confetti has settled.
If Kate is truly, as we have been told, taking the next logical step in a journey of Christian discovery, I think it’s a fabulous thing. My own life has been enriched greatly by my faith – why wouldn’t I want to wish it on others? But the idea of the process of confirmation, with its classes and booklets, is, to me, one of instruction. And it enforces the idea that you somehow have to “learn” to be a good Christian through being told how to by others – an idea that starts with the idea of Sunday School, and continues through to Bible Class. Of course, it’s important to learn about your faith. But exploring and searching for answers are much more important than being “taught” the right thing to believe. There may be a basic set of beliefs which define someone as Christian, but there’s a whole other ballpark of supposition and suggestion surrounding how Christianity can impact on our everyday lives, which has very little to do with what other people tell you, and everything to do with your own relationship with God. You can’t learn how to love God from a pamphlet – it’s just a state which you reach through your own willingness to believe.
I’m sure the confirmation of the future Queen is an important step in appeasing traditionalists, and keeping the Old Timers happy. I just wish that, for once, the Church would admit that, in the long run, these “events” prove nothing in showing someone’s belief in God. They’re just an exercise in box ticking. Oh, and an excellent excuse for a party.