Sunday, 26 September 2010

Church - what's it all about, then?

It’s over a year since we felt we had to ‘leave’ our church and go to help a friend who is in charge of a tiny elderly Anglican parish church. (How we came to do that is a story in itself, but there is no doubt about what we had to do.)

The problem is: HOW?

We began by attending an Alpha course with some of the members – well over two dozen in a church which must number between 50 and 100 regular attendees. We’d go to a service occasionally – usually once a month, when there was an alternative evening service.

Then we joined the follow-up home group. And started to realize we needed to attend services more often. Our friend’s leading is evangelical, focused, alive. The service is Anglican, fixed, intent on ritualized prayers and ceremony.

We’re struggling.

We’ve only really been attending Anglican church services in the last ten years and even then, up to a couple of years ago, they have been more non-denominational in flavor than Church of England. Before that, we worshipped wherever we could, but mostly in non- or inter-denominational settings. Fortunately, we have both been brought up with the rituals surrounding the catholic traditions – both Roman and Anglican – so it’s not so strange as it could be.

But we’re still struggling, missing the liveliness of modern worship. We feel as if we're in danger of shrivelling up.

So now we’re having to reassess what 'church' means, why we go, what its purpose is, or our purpose in attending the services...a major reason seems to be just to keep in touch with people! And yet ‘a sacrifice of praise’ comes to mind. I take comfort in knowing that much of the ritual and liturgy is steeped in the Bible, that the rote prayers we say are the living Word of God and that He will accomplish what He wants through our obedience when we gather to worship him, even if it’s not in a way we feel comfortable with or which feeds our emotions.

It's good to review our faith and what it means in practice - just rather a shock after all this time of 'going' to church as well as 'being church'. We are seeing changes in people, though, which is encouraging - but certainly not new people coming along. It's as if God wants to grow IN people rather than increase numbers. We go to the home group at the vicarage which is every fortnight and now try to be more intentional about meeting up with folk in between as well.

It’s certainly much easier just to ‘go’ to church, rather than work out how to ‘be’ church. But I don’t want to be a ‘tick the box’ Christian. I want to help disciple the dear friends we’ve made this last year. I want to be involved…I suppose that is what ‘church’ is all about…

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