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This article was published in the Summer 2000 issue of The Journal.

My Experience as an Interchurch Child

In recent numbers of Interchurch Families Karen MacRandal from the south of England told the story of her dual affirmation (7,1, January 1999, p. 14), and Linda Buchanan from Montreal, Canada wrote about her dual confirmation (8,1, January 2000, p. 5).  Here Sarah Mayles from the north of England explains why she would like a joint celebration of her confirmation.

I am an interchurch child; my father is an Anglican and my mother a Roman Catholic. I have grown up as an active member of both denominations and have attended confirmation classes both in the Anglican and The Roman Catholic traditions. I feel an equal member of both churches, and I have decided not to be confirmed to this date. I do not want to affirm publicly my allegiance within one particular church if in so doing I have to discard my commitment to the other.

I would like to share some of my experience as an interchurch child, to show why I would like a joint confirmation service, in which both denominations are equally represented. I hope that this is a way forward, a closer step towards unity.

A shared celebration of baptism
I started my Christian life with an ecumenical outlook. Both our parish priests - Anglican and Roman Catholic - took part in my baptism. It took place in a Catholic church, but a number of prayers and readings were taken from the Anglican Alternative Service Book. The Anglican priest conducted several parts of the service, including the baptismal vows and profession of faith. The baptism itself was performed by the Catholic priest, and both said the final blessing together.

Although I don't remember this service, 1 feel that it has helped in my Christian life. At the very beginning of my life with Jesus, both denominations were supporting and encouraging me in my faith and this has continued as I have got older.

My First Holy Communion
The first memories I have of an important religious event in my life are those of my First Holy Communion. I attended a Catholic primary school and at the age of eight most of my school friends received this sacrament. At that time my parents decided that it would be better for me to wait.  Children in the Anglican Church are traditionally confirmed around the age of 14, and also my parents felt that I didn't really understand what was going to happen. 1 am glad that this decision was made, because I did not fully understand the significance of the sacrament and so it would not have meant as much to me. At the age of 10 I attended First Holy Communion classes in the Catholic Church and also confirmation classes in the Church of England. These encouraged me to think more about my relationship with God and also gave me a clearer insight into both denominations. At the end of my classes I received First Holy Communion in the Catholic Church.

My First Holy Communion particularly stands out in my memory, because it was the first time that I really experienced the divisions of Church at first hand. My father wished to receive the eucharist at my First Communion service, that we could celebrate this important event as a family. Our parish priest told him to write to the bishop. The bishop rejected his request twice. This was a hard time for our family, because we felt that we were being divided by the Church at a time when it was most important to be together. We went to a different parish and asked the priest there what he thought about the matter. He agreed that this was a very significant step in my Christian life and my family should be united in support for mc. He therefore allowed my father to receive communion. At this young age I met for the first time the problems caused by the unnecessary divisions in the Church. I think that the differences between the denominations should not cause us to be separated, rather they should enrich our Christian faith and worship. Fortunately, because of the foresight (and courage) of the second priest, our family came together at this service which had been so close to divided us.

Having made my First Holy Communion I was able to receive communion in the Catholic Church. However in theory there were two potential difficulties with me receiving in the Church of England.  The Roman Carbolic Church does not recognise Anglican orders and therefore does not feel that it is right for Catholics to receive communion in Anglican churches.  The second problem was that Anglicans do not usually receive communion until they are confirmed.

I decided that it was appropriate for me to receive communion in the Anglican Church. I have developed my personal relationship with God in both churches and feel that each tradition is equally important to me. My Anglican priest understood my situation, and had no reservations about letting me receive. The confirmation class that I had attended had taught me the significance of communion in the Anglican Church. Although I have not been confirmed, it would feel strange for me to receive in the Catholic Church, but not in the Anglican. By receiving in both, I feel that I am benefiting from the nourishment that both churches can give me.

Recently I have attended confirmation classes the Catholic Church, with my own age group. I found it interesting that, because I had had to think more about my faith, I seemed from my own viewpoint, more ready for confirmation than some of the other candidates. At the end of the course I was strongly advised to receive the sacrament by my Catholic priest. He expressed his concern that I may end up "falling between two stools" and so not be confirmed. I accepted his concern and thought hard about being confirmed. I know that it is an important act of commitment to God and I want to stand before God to confirm my love of him and receive gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, I decided not to take this step. I feel that God will support me in my work towards unity and although I have not publicly asked for his guidance, he is with me in all that I do. This was a very hard decision, because 1 felt ready for confirmation, yet could not receive it, but I still feel that I was not mistaken in my decision to wait for this sacrament.

I now practise in both churches, often attending the services in both each weekend. In attending both churches I find that there is very little difference in the services and the Creed is the same in both. I understand that there are differences in the doctrine of the churches, but I do not understand why these differences, as small as they seem to me, should have a negative effect on my development as a Christian.

Only one world
My experience as a member of two denominations has mostly been positive. I find in both churches there are teachings and practice that I accept and others that I cannot. I believe in what seem to me to be the fundamental parts of the Christian faith and I feel that that is what is important. I enjoy being a member of two communities and learn a lot from both.

A Catholic priest once said to me, "It seems to me that you are trying to get the best of both worlds.' I found this quite a ridiculous comment, as I believe there is only one world with God and we must struggle to find it, using whatever help we are offered.

My family are members of the Association of Interchurch Families. This group offers support for mixed-church families. 1 find it an enormous help, because it gives me the opportunity to meet and talk to other interchurch children who are experiencing the same problems as me. Every year there is an annual AIF conference and the young people aged 15 and older use this time to discuss any problems they have encountered in the Church and are given support by the other members.

Cast aside

For many years now we have been striving for a joint confirmation service. This is becoming a real issue for us. As our single-denomination friends receive this important sacrament, we feel as if we are being forgotten or cast aside. Some of the young people in AIF are growing up and finding that confirmation is no longer an issue for them and so remain unconfirmed. This is a sad development, because despite our deep faith we are missing out on such a meaningful part of our Christian life. Confirmation is not just a time to stand at the front of the church and publicly announce that you agree with the doctrine of that denomination. It is a time to receive Goo's grace and develop spiritually, prepare us better for eternal life with God.

The young people of AiF have been working together to pursue our idea of joint confirmation. It is important for us. because we want to receive gifts from the Holy Spirit that come through confirmation with the support of the two churches to which we belong, The different denominations are not what is important for us. We want to be able to say we are Christians, we believe in the Trinity and we are united with Christ.

One body in Christ
I think that it is important that as Christians we should strive for unity between the churches, because we are all one body in Christ. Standing united we are a much better witness to the faith, giving a better example of Christianity to the world.  I feel that my experience is another step towards unity as I have a deeper understanding of two Christian churches. Understanding is the most important aspect of unity. because it is only through understanding that we can ever hope to come together as one. I wish the Church to be united at my confirmation, because I believe that that is what Jesus wants. Through the unity of the Church we can develop to full communion with Christ, and support each other in our Christian lives.

Sarah Mayles