I put this photo on Facebook this morning before we settled down to watch a Sunday morning church. Like the religious maniacs we are – we tend to do a couple – one is our local church and the other is a pastor who used to be at our church and is (a) a really good speaker and (b) a top-notch bloke so we aren’t going to miss this opportunity to hear him speak while we can.
Church looks very different at the moment. And, whisper it, some of it is better. Obviously it’s not the same actually “being” there and talking and sharing and being able to show your displeasure at any dodgy theological points by folding your arms and coughing loudly. I think Admin must be a bit of a nightmare because – let’s face it – Zoom is not the same as a meeting with Church Council that finished with a nice cup of tea and Sheila’s scones. (This is an actual thing. If left to my own devices I could probably eat about seven before I started to feel a bit odd) We have used Zoom for work and everyone is so excited about actually getting it to work that we spend far too long on it because we are so thrilled at our technical know-how. Then, of course, no one wants to be the first to leave the meeting. What is the etiquette?
I did notice as well that despite being up an hour before it started and only having to walk ten feet to the telly, we still only just made it. What’s that about? BUT. Maybe, there are some serious things to think about. Some people have been saying that they have taken crafts and knitting to “new” church. And I have to ask why not? Is it just because we have never done it? Is that a good enough reason? A couple of years ago, we went to a groovy new local C of E for a few months. Aged Parent had decided that she would like to try it for a while and we decided to support her. (The desire to attend this church was more or less based on the fact that the vicar had said that he felt that God had told him that she was an encourager – like Barnabas. I feel it would not be encouraging for anyone for me to share what HOH muttered about the vicar working on his discernment gifts because something was definitely awry here) Anyway, when we arrived, we were steered to the bar to pick up coffee and pastries to eat during the meeting. It was very popular, especially with the local homeless community who quickly worked out that there was a decent Continental Breakfast to be had in exchange for a couple of handshakes on the door and a quick dance with a lady in a life-sized teddy bear costume who was there to welcome the children. Excellent.
I didn’t ever really partake, to be honest. Being brought up in a church where sucking an Extra Strong Mint (other mints are available) in the service might get you a reprimand for disrespecting the pulpit, coffee in the service just didn’t seem right to me. Any decent reason why not? No, not really. And there are plenty of people I have seen in meetings who could probably do with a shot of two of caffeine before we get the ball rolling. I’m saying nothing but if you are telling me that, after a particularly long week, you haven’t struggled with droopy eyelids sometimes then you are a better man than me.
I just wondered, how much do we do just because we have always done it? Believe me, I am the Queen of Tradition. I’m not sure that there has been a better hymn written since “O For A Thousand Tongues” and one of my fondest childhood memories is an early evening trip to church, seeing people walking to the meeting, carrying their bibles. This makes me a bit snippy when it comes to people not bringing bibles to church – even though loads will now have them on their phones and also, this snippiness does not apply to me when I am in a hurry. But, this is a once in a generation chance to ask ourselves, is it time to look at things differently. Apparently, the numbers of people searching for meetings online is huge. People are still searching, still wondering and although the message is the same as it ever was, do we need to meet people where they are first? How do we welcome people to “church”? I wouldn’t much want to miss whatever it is that’s happening here.
In the spirit of something different – you have probably seen this but it is so brilliant I am sharing it here. Sometimes, when church gets it right, it is really right. Not only is it musically special but note that it is a blessing. In these times – a blessing – on you and yours and me and mine.