From The Sign (magazine of the Anglican Church) December 1915
Q. Is cigarette-smoking (on the part of a woman) to be thought of as a sin?
A. We think the matter should be treated on the same level are other recreations.
If there is excessive indulgence then sin begins. The excessive cigarette-smoking in our Army is very “natural” just now, but our hospital authorities say it is already doing real harm. Practically, we would add that if a person has not acquired the habit of smoking he or she might consider whether it is well to begin. A woman with experience says that “if a girl comes up to town she is far more likely to keep in the right set if she has not to go into her club’s smoking-rooms”. Surely it is a pity, for various reasons, when young women and young mothers smoke – especially as they only smoke cigarettes. All things are lawful, but all are not expedient.
When I first started going to St Michael & All Saints in about 1985 I was very quickly asked if I’d like to go to Confirmation Classes. I really had no idea what they were, but as I was embracing the whole SEC thing, it seemed like a good idea. I had to get my mum to babysit and I’m not sure that she really believed I was going to a church meeting that ended up in the pub. For Fr Emsley was a priest who did his best mission in the Auld Toll Bar in Tollcross over a pint of frothing ale. That part of the evening, I have to say, was much more exciting that the previous class.
I remember there were about 6-8 of us in that class ranging in age from 14-50ish. And I spent most of them hoping that Fr E wouldn’t catch my eye and ask a question. Having no church background or Sunday School memories, I really knew nothing about the bible, the prayer book or the church. Nor was I brave enough to ask in case folk thought I was stupid. It seems ridiculous now. Now I have no qualms whatsoever about asking anything at all. The confirmation classes were long and boring and dry. There was a lot of history, something about miracles in the bible, and then something about the Scottish Prayer Book. I was just glad when it was all over and I realised there was not going to be a test at the end of it.
Yesterday, as I sat with four eager teenagers, I remembered those days and smiled. It is so very different today. Our topic yesterday was the Bible and my plan was to gently introduce them to the notion that some of it might be myth, some might be ‘of its time’ and the importance of contextual study but they were way ahead of me. We hadn’t got past the Pentateuch when they were telling me how some rules in Leviticus are not obeyed now, so why should the RC church get so het up about equal marriage? We did ponder sex before marriage and whether that constituted ‘sin’ or not, before somehow moving on to circumcision and why it was sensible in hot countries and how shocking female circumcision was today.
Please let me tell you that I didn’t bring up any of these subjects. They just came up naturally in the conversation and were issues that they wanted to explore in a Christian setting. This group accepted a God of all faiths very easily, and loved the fact that they were Episcopal which meant that they were much more accepting of others than many churches. They like being liberal and catholic.
It really was the most glorious hour I’ve spent in a long time and filled me with hope. Bless them.
We’re doing prayer next week and I can’t wait.