Thursday, May 31, 2007

Being there

A couple of comments on the last post deserved a bit more thought than a comment in my own comments - I'm still not sure where is the correct place to continue discussions on one's own blog when others have taken the conversation on a step or two forward and I'm not consistent, I know...but this time, here's a follow up.

Having had a specially disappointing turn out of families for his Pentecost cafe church (which sounded really good - but that's not something you ever notice when you're the one wondering where assorted semi-regulars are, as I know too well) Dr Moose was musing further about the residual connection between public holidays and Christian festivals here in England. Like the question of when to celebrate major festivals that don't happen on Sundays (Ascension, Epiphany et al), this isn't quite as straightforward as it might seem. I'm thinking specially of Easter, because this year the decision of Gloucestershire schools to break up on Maundy Thursday meant, yes, alot of hard work for choristers, servers etc who were involved in Holy Week services but also that it was perfect timing for inviting local schools to the Experience Easter Trail,- which was a great success right across the diocese. At last year's Greenbelt, FabBishop led a seminar on the need for the church to make the most of any possible connections with what, for want of a better phrase, we could call the Hallmark Calendar. He advocated a recovery of as many festive moments as possible in the year, - on the basis, I guess, that people are more likely to turn up to church if they know that, for example, the way the saints light up the world will be celebrated by fireworks after the Eucharist at All Saints tide...Mind you, he really believes in the attractional power of liturgy done well, - which works in the right places (I think Ch Kings may well be one of them) but would be pretty meaningless in many a context. No conclusions, but I think it might help to keep revisiting the questions.

In another response, Caroline Too suggested that " 'attendance' is an illusion of church family not a genuine aid to family making"...which is probably true. But the question then becomes, how do you forge genuine community? If Anglicanism allows for too much diversity (praise God!) for it to be simply founded on a shared body of belief set against those of others, and if being together celebrating the Eucharistic feast still allows some to feel distant, not fully connected...what is the trigger for building real family? Perhaps it's shared experience and corporate memory - which works in a settled community (and may indeed be what creates the family ties that do exist at St M's) but is harder to achieve in a more mobile context.
If you feel your church "works" as family, what makes the difference?


Fiona Marcella said...

St M's really feels very like a family to me at the moment - and a supportive one at that. There are prayers at the right time and a very useful bicycle exchange system. Quite how that fits in with festivals and seasons I'm not sure - perhaps it doesn't. After all, a Church like a pet, should be for life not just for Christmas.

Sue said...

Oh, so many thoughts and questions. I do like your blog. I struggle with the whole idea of 'church' sometimes, the irrelevance of much of it, the insistence on counting numbers, the expectations of meeting every Sunday for what can be a tedious hour and a half (though it can also be wonderful).

For me, family in the Body is part of community - it can be mobile, but it's hard when it's spread over many miles. It's also hard when there are too many people. My main experience of family live within the church is within the house groups - which for us are pretty autonomous, each geared around the needs of the people attending, and (in our case) eating a meal together as well as praying and studying (informally). We can be honest with each other, ask difficult questions, admit to faults, and still like each other. We don't have to pretend.

I can't see that ever happening in a bigger gathering, hence the importance of small groups within each congregation (or even across congregations...) and interest groups too. And social events, and prayer meetings, and so on. Even meals together as brothers and sisters, or families going for a picnic - the body gathers any time any two believers get together.

I now see Sunday mornings as more of a celebration - an optional extra, for those within the body to worship and pray and socialise together. But the life of Christ is not contained in any building or service, and worrying about who comes (or doesn't come) to any particular service is probably counter-productive. Trying to appeal to newcomers will alienate older folk, and vice versa... you really can't win. So why worry?!

Caroline Too said...

Two points,

first, I think that what makes us community/family is the way that we help each other learn, the way we take time to do things in a way that makes it easier for other family members to model their lives on Jesus.

This isn't just a case of talking about religion or truth or whatever, it's about acting in ways that invite and contribute to others being bold apprentices of Jesus.

I'm going to blog a bit about this over at my place, tomorrow...

which leads me onto my second point, I can't get into my blogger account or is it google account or is it... well it won't let me in and I've tried using my password, what have I done wrong? any wisdom Rev Kathryn?

Caroline Too