Monday, February 15, 2016

The Making of a Christadelphian, Part 3

This post is really part four. This series starts with an Overview of the Christadelphians, followed by my own story leading up to my baptism, and then a description of our theology masquerading as the story of my early post-baptism Bible study.

I was somewhat (but not terribly) unusual because I got baptized at age eleven. I was even more (but still not terribly) unusual because I was a convert, who got baptized at age eleven. This put me in a weird position in our community. As I said in my overview, we are a lay, patriarchal, millenarian, unitarian, evangelical, apolitical, community of Bible students.

The first problem was what to do with an eleven-year-old brother in a patriarchal community. Kids my age attended Sunday School, and Sunday School was generally taught by women. But the rule in our community is that women don't teach men, by which we mean baptized males. So as soon as I was baptized I was pulled out of my Sunday School class--but nobody really knew where to stick me. For a while they tried putting me in the adult Sunday School class, but I didn't enjoy it much. Then they found a brother willing to teach me for a while, which lasted until he finished his degree and moved away. Then they decided the solution was to make me a Sunday School teacher myself, and from then on I taught a precocious five-year-old one on one. This lasted about a year, until my family moved away and we stopped attending for a while.

The second problem was what to do with an eleven-year-old brother in a lay community. Every baptized brother (remember, patriarchal) is normally expected to take a turn leading the services on Sunday, giving the sermon, leading Bible readings, etc. This problem was handled by ignoring it: they simply didn't ask me to do those things because I was "too young." That's sensible enough, but it came up surprisingly often. Do you? You don't? Why not? When will you?

After a year or so they started calling me up to do the scripture readings. That was all, until I was about sixteen. A few things happened around that time. I started attending Community College full-time at 15 1/2 (a story for another time); I found a nursing home that would hire me as a nurses' aide at 16; and the church decided that it was about time I started giving sermons. This lasted a couple years, until I transferred as a junior to Brown; at that time the church secretary, who disliked my family, unilaterally dropped me from the speaker list. ("Oh. I didn't realize you'd be coming home every weekend and attending church. Too late now, though.")

Over the years between ages eleven and eighteen I was doing the "catch up" Bible study described in my previous post. On the one hand I covered an enormous amount of material (which I'll give links to in a future post for the curious). On the other hand, it was pretty much all Christadelphian material. So while it felt like an enormous education, and in some ways it was, this education took place in a bit of an echo chamber. There was an enormous amount of material I wasn't learning, which I'll get to in the next couple of posts.

The effect of all this was that I wasn't only learning about the Bible; I was also learning about my community and its views and standards. And I wasn't only learning about these things; I was also starting to enforce those standards on myself and others. That's what I'd like to look at in my next installment.

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