Thursday, September 02, 2004

Open Day

Well, the last time I was involved in something that called itself that, I was at junior school, and tbh I was far from convinced that holding such an event to improve the community's perception of their parish church (after a period when the barricades had been firmly in place due to various unhappy situations within) would be helpful in any way.
However, when I arrived here, the date, Bank Holiday Monday...(in Cheltenham...I ask you?!?!) was already firmly fixed (with minimal consultation, such is the power of a determined "Events Committee") and assorted noble souls were co-ordinating an amazing range of displays and activities designed to convey the idea that the church was something worth belonging to.
As August went on, I became increasingly anxious that no-one at all would turn up....by now the publicity machine was working overtime, and not a shop window or library display had escaped its quota of flyers....the drama group were rehearsing at any and every opportunity and the flower ladies were planning arrangements to rival Chelsea....The effect of failure on congregational morale would be devestating.
Given the task of producing a simple but engaging act of worship to conclude the day, I began to invest in its success myself, though still not happy that it would demand my return from Greenbelt, highspot of the year....How adventurous dare I be, with a congregation that feels firmly anchored in the past ? Though it does use modern language, it somehow manages to invest it with an archaic flavour, so that I fully expect the imposing Fathers of my Anglo Catholic childhood to rise, fully coped, through the floor during parish Eucharist....but I felt very certain that a modified Evensong was unlikely to be the best way to convince a dubious neighbourhood that we were friendly and accessible.
In the event, I didn't exactly push the boat out, adapting some of Dorothy McRae McMahon's material and using hymns whose tunes at least were likely to be familiar. However, I did draw the line at robing....and the vicar and I both forsook our usual stalls (on the wrong side of the rood screen) for chairs at the head of the nave....
and...it all felt OK.
People did come.
A church that is usually tense and anxious relaxed amid the buzz of happy visitors...children climbed where no child has climbed before (and lighting refused to strike)....Fair Trade coffee was slurped by the gallon....groups that compete rather than complement found themselves working side by side and getting on splendidly....and a representative selection of our pew-bound congregation even managed to emerge to light candles as symbols of their committment to act as salt and light in the community.
What's more, as I admit I mentioned before, some of them even smiled.
I know I did. I'm not used to being surprised there, but it's great when it does happen.

3 comments:

curatesdregs said...

Dorothy McRae McMahon is a lovely lesbian Australian lass, ain't she?

curatesdregs said...

Dorothy McRae McMahon is a lovely lesbian Australian lass. I'm glad her work has made it to the Old Country!

Kathryn said...

She's excellent........says all sorts of things that are so profoundly true..she has a real sense of the warts and allness of Christian life, I reckon. "We are the people who lift our eyes...and stub our toes".. Great woman :-)