Actually I Have Not Spoken With Tongues of Angels

(Apologies to Bono for the post title.)

I was raised Presbyterian, and that meant standing, straight and singing from hymnals. Or sitting when we got to those parts of the service. The important thing was that you did whatever 95% of the rest of the congregation did at any given time. So you can see that I spent the first 18 or so years of my life far, far away from the Pentecostal/charismatic tradition. I still find myself standing in place very stoically in church – clearly this upbringing left its impression on me. Actually the first recollection that I have of anyone mentioning that they had charismatic gifts, it was an Anglican priest(!) The man was addressing a church youth group and was very matter-of-fact about his periodic speaking of tongues. As I recall it typically happened when he was alone in his study and he made a point of writing down everything and making a record of it. It was only later that I learned how exceptional this example was. Only later did I have the chance to encounter hardcore charismatic services with shouting and rolling around on the floor and crying and flag-waving. This, I found was the far more common – though not the only – expression of charismatic Christianity. But me? I’ve pretty much stayed the same way, standing stoically, praying quietly, in English.

What happens when you have a charismatic experience? Is it a sort of possession? Is it an acceptance that words are sometimes insufficient? Is it a movement of the individual or mass hysteria (I don’t mean to offend, but it looks like that sometimes).