Tuesday, 20 November 2007
"HUH???" I hear you all say. What's all this about then? Well, a little-known part of my life is that I help out at the local Church of England Sunday School. I hesitate to say I'm a Sunday School teacher because I don't feel like a teacher.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, my life is full of contradictions. And I'm a total hypocrite. But back to these pictures. Here's the connection: our theme for this year's Crib Service (on Christmas Eve) is the Twelve Days of Christmas. Now, some time ago, someone started a rumour that the Twelve Days of Christmas was written in Tudor times as a way for Catholics to celebrate Christ's birth. Henry VIII, as you may know, persecuted Catholics when he decided to get divorced and break away from the Catholic Church. In this country it was illegal to be a Catholic for the next 200 or so years. So each verse supposedly represents something biblical, with the partridge in a pear tree being Jesus.
Except when you start thinking about it, it doesn't make sense. Catholics wouldn't be punished for believing something all Christians believe. And so in the first meeting I attended, I started to ask a lot of questions, and found the answers here: http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/12days.asp. But the other women paid no mind. The decision had been made already about the theme. So now I'll be working with the older group to come up with what symbolism they think all the verses could have.
Helping out at the Sunday School, particularly the Crib Service, has become a real chore. I did it for my kids to begin with. I'm no Holy Roller, but I do have a religious foundation and curiosity. My atheist and agostic friends feel uncomfortable with this side of my life. My reasoning is this: We live in a complicated and difficult world. Understanding religion is a key to understanding different peoples, and you can't begin to understand others' religions, I believe, unless you have a belief system yourself. I am providing my children with one. If they choose to reject it when they grow older, that is their right. However, it is something to come back to if they ever need or want to. And at least I've given them something to reject. It is easy to not believe in religion, lazy even. You can pick apart all religions and find flaws because they are communicated to us by other humans. But through all the ages of humankind, religion in one form or another has survived. We have a basic need for a belief system, for a sense of community that religion brings us, for a structure of rules. Even if that belief system is to not believe.
But back to the Twelve Days of Christmas, I'm actually looking forward to it now. Some new people have come on board and diluted the overbearing martyrdom of one woman who thinks she's the only one who ever does anything. I'm sure you've met this type before. They usually belong to PTAs as well. She always goes on about how she's the only one who ever does anything and it cuts into her Christmas Eve with her family, yaddayaddayadda. No one else has a family, it seems. And she always forgets that for the last three years I've helped her. She did it with another woman before that, but she tragically died of cancer. And maybe that's what's behind the Martyr's complaints: she misses her friend, whom she never talks about. Or maybe she's just one of life's complainers.
I'll let you know how we get on. It could be interesting. It could be, dare I say, fun!