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Cæli_enarrant_2013-07-07

Cæli_enarrant_2013-07-07

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Published by TheLivingChurchdocs
Editor Christopher Wells reflects on his journey from a Reformed church childhood to an Anglo-Catholic adulthood.
Editor Christopher Wells reflects on his journey from a Reformed church childhood to an Anglo-Catholic adulthood.

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Published by: TheLivingChurchdocs on Jun 25, 2013
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04/12/2014

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20
THE LIVING CHURCH • JULY 7, 2013
F
amily, church, and school serve, according tothe Christian Reformed Church, as overlappingand mutually formative institutions, and this istrue. Our family stood awkwardly with a foot in EastGrand Rapids and a foot in Calvin College, as visitorsto foreign lands. But we more properly found a 
 modusvivendi
on the left wing of the CRC, associated withthe broad and bold ecumenismof 
The Reformed Jour- nal
,locked in steady if irenicdispute with the con-servative and confessionalist right, sometimes pro-ductively. (Stanley Wiersma, godfather:
 Pray for us
.)Which is not to say we were theologically non-tra-ditionalist.Our own Church of the ServantcarefullycultivatedChristian depth and scriptural seriousness,ordered around weekly Holy Communion, withvari-ous artistic accretionsadded to taste, largely withoutsentimentality. Oneexception may have been the litur-gical dance, which seemed stuck in acycle of bloom-ing flowers anddramatically shielded facesyear round,only the leotardschanging with the seasons. Inaveiled victory for common prayer,my ex-Episco- palian father, servingon the congregation’s liturgycommittee,insinuatedinto the regular order the Col-lect for Purity, which we all duly recited withoutrecognition or attribution.
C
oming into consciousness around age 3, I grate-fully recall sunny rooms in the safety of home; or-anges, yellows, that avocado green and its variants;the smell of Mom’s skin; the aural comfort food of “VandeVoort, Van Zytveld, Stegink.” And,back in themotherland c. 1977, the love and laughter of friends,and warmthof English accents.The domestic church is primary — imperfectly one,holy, catholic, and apostolic as an aid to learning, prop-agated by providence — and therefore hard to describe.Yet here is the cradle of language, and the dawningof reality. The words in our home were colorful, vari-ously accented in the wake of immigrant journeys bygrandparents from Newfoundland and Sweden, withfurther modifications and appropriations in the newworld, especially via post-war Brookline, MA, wheremy father learned a range of folkways and a distinctivestyle of humor from his primarily Jewish neighborsand friends. Subsequent years spent in England andIreland further extended the repertoire, which sub-sisted in long, winding stories, rich with allusion, playson words, impersonated characters, and inevitably hi-larious endings, with additional space left for lamentand loss. Folk songs from Ireland or England, fit for boisterous accompaniment, provided further layers,upon which we piled still more, like recordings of Eng-lish choral music to blare throughout the house onSunday morning while readying ourselves for church.In this space we practiced mutual encouragement,the art of truth-telling, and unconditional love, fed by principles of respect, obedience, and self-restraint.Church attendance was presumed, but wide-rangingreligious, cultural, and political questions were wel-comed in a spirit of inquiry and debate, without fear of reprisal or disagreement, though conclusions wereanticipated. Wooden orthodoxies were discouraged,while moral engagement was inculcated. My older brother and I were warned off too much television,made to take piano lessons, and pressed into weeklychores of a menial sort, with modest allowances of 50cents on their completion — till, I believe, junior highwhen it was raised to $1.00. We had paper routes of our own choosing, which Dad helped us fulfill whenit rained or snowed in excess. Sojourning travelers,international students, visiting scholars, and latterlyalienated youths were welcomed for meals, or ex-tended stays, beginning with tea and digestives, andmoving to marmalade or marmite in the morning. And there was much else, of course, especially in- vented games with my brother, and vast contempla-tive stretches for reading and the curating of bottlecap, baseball card, and stampcollections. Summer trips to visit family in Boston and weeks on LakeMichigan were beloved high points, and a brief return visit to England in the mid-80s provided a permanenttouchstone. Monopoly, “spying,” whiffleball, and bikeriding occupied many happy hours with friends.
 Star Wars
 proffered a universal grammar, while
 Little House on the Prairie
 propounded a surprisinglysolid, if nostalgic,“Judeo-Christian” morality in per-fectly packaged 40-minute segments.
S
choolstarted atMartin Luther Elementary, whereI savored myfirst kisses and myfirst sentencesread on a page. Next came a stint atLakeside Ele-mentary, with its more formidable culture offootball
Retrospect at 40
 part one

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