Talking to the Baptists about Mary

Well, it beats talking to the taxman about poetry.

An alternative title for this post could have been “always do, sober, the stupid things you say you’ll do whilst drunk.”

I was at a Shipmeet in, err, January this year, either immediately after grandma’s funeral or in that “waiting for the other shoe to drop,” period of time between a death and a funeral.

One of the other attendees at the meet teaches the Spirituality module of Spurgeon College’s “Equipped to Minister,” course, which is a training course for preachers, lay pastors and other church members.

So, there I was, in the pub, talking about being a Lay Dominican (as one does, obviously), and Tony very cunningly waited until after I’d finished my glass of wine before saying “would you come to Spurgeon College and talk about Dominican Spirituality for this course I teach?”

“Sure, why not? Brilliant idea,” I said, brightly.

Ooooooh, there’s nothing like the cold feeling of dread you get when you wake up and Memory comes up behind you and smacks you round the head with a cheery “hey, remember this?” is there?

Because the thing is, you can’t talk about Being A Dominican without talking about the Rosary, and praying for the dead, and Mary and her maternal care and protection over the Order, and the intercession of the Saints in general, and penance, and the Mass, and other such distinctly non-Baptist things.

Um.

Panicpanicpanicpanicpanic. Is it too late to join the Trappists?

So, that’s where I’ve been for the last month, writing an hour-long talk on Being Lay Dominican, and What It All Means, etc.

Anyway, the talk was Saturday just gone, and it went really well, although I was really nervous.

I got to South Norwood station, and clearly must have looked a bit lost, because someone stopped and said “are you ok?”

“I’m going to Spurgeon College, not sure where the buses go from,” I said.

“Oh, I’m going that way, it’s not far to walk.”

We got there, Tony met me, gave me coffee, and we went into the lecture theatre. My talk wasn’t until 12, but I stayed and listened to Tony’s presentation, which was on things like Celtic spirituality, the rosary, icons, prayer ropes, etc.

Then he introduced me, and off I went, still wondering if it’s too late to make a break for it and run away to Mount Saint Bernard, in Leicestershire. However, I remembered just in time that Mount Saint Bernard is a monastery of Trappist monks and I lack a couple of basic requirements…

Hurrah for lecterns. They don’t just give you somewhere to park your notes; they also give you something to hang onto for grim death when you’re shaking so much you might fall over.

Got through the talk rather quicker than I’d planned, which left plenty of time for questions (foolish, foolish woman).

I’d mentioned things like praying for the dead, so someone picked up on that, which lead into a discussion about Purgatory, and I’d been careful to say “we ask for Mary’s prayers,” all through, rather than “pray to Mary,” so there was a bit of a discussion about the difference between “praying to,” which is what we do to God, and “asking for the prayers of,” which is what we do with the saints, illustrated by the quote from Hamlet about “here’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance, pray you love, remember,” it’s quite clear that Ophelia is not praying to Hamlet at this point, but asking him something. Oh, and there was a bit about Papal Infallibility, and so on. So, nothing tricky there, then…

My snarky comment about Dan Brown got a laugh, which was nice.

Got some lovely comments afterwards, I’d said something that Timothy Radcliffe had said, which is what drew me into the Order in the first place, about “if our faith is true, it is the most important thing in the world, and if it’s not true, why are we here?” that someone had said really struck them.

And then I got possibly the finest compliment of my entire life, when someone said “it’s clear that you really are a Christian!” in tones of wonder.

Tony was kind enough to e-mail me afterwards and said that I’d done really well, and was a powerful witness for the Church and the Order, simply and straightforwardly stating the case for the doctrines of the church – confident and unapologetic. I thought I spent most of my time saying “um,” and “err” and looking hunted – clearly I’ve mastered the art of swan-like calm – gliding along placidly on the surface, paddling like stink underneath…

I think I’ve agreed to do the talk again when it rolls round in two years (foolish, foolish woman). If I do, I’ll make sure I have better scriptural references for stuff like Purgatory than “err, I think it’s somewhere in Corinthians about ‘purifying as in the refiner’s fire.’”

I totally deserve points or a medal or something for slipping this little quote from Verbi Sponsa in: “Just as in the Upper Room, Mary in her heart, with her prayerful presence, watched over the origins of the Church, so too now the Church’s journey is entrusted to the loving hearts and praying hands of cloistered nuns.”

There was a bit of a gasp at that point…

(The talk is going up on here at some point, but it does need a bit of an edit).

9 thoughts on “Talking to the Baptists about Mary

  1. It sounds amazing. Very courageous of you, but I’m sure you were amazing. Next time, you can get them to podcast it!

  2. You were brave enough to stand up before those Baptists and escaped with your life? Not even mildly singed? We must be losing our way!! Congratulations. See we aren’t all mad, bad, heretical, beasts in the Baptist Church. Wish I’d been there to heckle and ask difficult questions, like “what’s the Dominican stance on Premier League football on a Sunday?” “Will West Ham survive in the Premiership?”

    These are important ecumenical questions that are often ignored.

  3. The person expressing amazement that you are evidently also Christian I can relate to – as a Catholic (at the time) undergrad, this attitude from Evangelical CU folk in my hall of residence was a source of amazement to me.

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