I recently used Henry’s “Feral Christian” Paper as a discussion document at our recent Franciscan group meeting. The mere introduction of the concept seemed to provoke strong negative thoughts right from the outset. One member had come armed with a print-off from an American website by Dr.Jeff Myers, President of Summit Ministries, belittling “feral Christians” but written from the standpoint of “an educator and entrepreneur”.
I opened my case for the defence by suggesting that Jesus had been a feral Jew, albeit totally inspired, and almost certainly John the Baptist was feral (an early manifestation of Dominic Cummings maybe!). Not least, our principal and founder, St. Francis of Assisi, surely acted outside the confines of the structured Church of the day and ministered to people on the edge of society (to lepers, for example) at a time when inter-urban frictions were rife and as a result of which he spent time in prison. He stole a bolt of cloth belonging to his father and sold it to fund the repair of a local church and thereafter “extolled the virtues of Lady Poverty”.
The history of the development and growth of the Church is sprinkled with the presence of visionaries from Martin Luther of Reformation fame through to Canon Giles Fraser, the so-called ‘Loose Canon’ of radio and TV fame who fell out with the authorities at St.Paul’s Cathedral while he held office there, not forgetting the Wesleys, John Henry Newman of the Oxford Movement, Bishop John Robinson (and his book Honest to God), and David Jenkins (one time Bishop of Durham). They were all, I’m sure, prompted by the Spirit to highlight some aspect of potential growth and development which the structures of the established church seemed to be overlooking or ignoring.
We then diversified and discussed “feral children” and related that image to the Channel 5 TV family featured in “Our Yorkshire Farm” where Amanda and Clive Owen share nine children between them. They live in the wilds of Upper Swaledale in North Yorkshire near to the village of Keld. At first sight the family appears wild and free verging on the uncontrollable as they attempt all sorts of exciting exploits with very little consideration for health and safety. These children have a rounded and exciting upbringing including a great understanding of the natural world, a practical experience of motor mechanics, animal husbandry and housekeeping, and a complete ignorance of fashion trends which all-in-all results in a thrifty and sustainable life style.
Very little of what these children experience and learn at home will meet Ofsted requirements but the end result produces a practical, rounded, confident and experienced individual fully equipped to go out into the big wide world as a grounded citizen, mostly developed outside of the formal education system.
By way of conclusion, in his new book Justin Welby says that throughout Christian history the response to radical change in circumstances has been a process of rethinking theologically the mission and action of the global Church, and the source of all good imagination is God. He says the test of genuine reimagining is that it reflects the love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ and testified to by the Bible.*
……. Enter stage left “the feral Christian”.
*”The Power of Reconciliation” by Justin Welby, published by Bloomsbury Continuum 2022, pages 231-232
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.