The neighbours for seven years were members of a tiny Christian group originally founded by a Church of Ireland clergyman called Cooney. Sometimes referred to as “Dippers” because of their practice of adult baptism, they lived lives separate from the world striving for the highest ethical standards. They allowed no newspapers, no radios, no television, such things brought the corruption of the world into their lives. Machinery and cars were allowed, but otherwise they lived in a parallel world as part of a small Christian community.
There were a few families in the area who were part of the group, each living on its own farm and meeting in one of the farmhouses Sunday by Sunday. They were the best neighbours one could have met, always eager to be helpful and to lend a hand. One of my colleagues, a strongly evangelical Anglican said they were strong on ethics and weak on grace. They sought to live out to the letter the commandments of the Gospel.
They were very private people, their dealings with the outside world mostly confined to the business of farming and they settled matters between themselves.
When the Archbishop of Canterbury made his comments yesterday, he was thinking in terms of self-regulating communities. The Archbishop, not being worldly-wise, managed to pull most of the country on his head!
His statement yesterday and the avalanche of response point to a need to ask what it means to be a society. Maybe it also points to a need for the Church of England to be disestablished so the Archbishop’s words become not a pronouncement from the leader of the state church, but a comment from a leader of just one church among many.