This is a continuation from my last blog. Sorry it’s not very bloggish—much too long! But I hope it’s helpful.
I went to an ‘establishment’ secondary school. Every morning before lessons we were required to go to the school chapel and endure the most boring service that could have been invented for a schoolboy. What was known as ‘speech day’—the annual celebration of the school’s achievements—was also a religious occasion: it took place in the Parish Church (where I still remember the organ was a quarter-tone flat). So I equated Anglicanism with death (and being out-of-tune). In contrast, the Baptist church had a thriving youth group and was (and I presume still is) full of life. So I have every sympathy with dissenters and charismatics, especially as the nineteenth century historical context (for the former anyway) against which they were rebelling was arguably a lot worse. In the early nineteenth century, for example, it was generally held that God ordained one’s station in life: it was God’s will that the poor were born poor and should serve the rich. Being a State Church led by the privileged, educated class (one had to subscribe to the Articles of the Church of England in order to graduate from Oxford or Cambridge) it is hardly surprising that dissent flourished. The Anglican Church was seen as a repressive tool of the State (after all, the Book of Common Prayer is very effusive about the monarchy, probably thanks to Henry) and in a typical Sunday service labourers and servants would have to stand in the presence of their elders and betters who could afford to sit comfortably in rented pews.