Sunday, 3 October 2010


Church. What’s it all about, then? This is another post on the same topic. I might be repeating myself. It's a question which is occupying a lot of my waking thoughts.

In the last year we have been attending ‘our’ church less regularly on a Sunday. And no, we have neither been staying in bed, sleeping off the excesses of the night before nor spending the day at the beach.

We’ve been attending a tiny, elderly church. Elderly in every sense of the word, as it is the oldest church on the island.  The congregation on a Sunday morning numbers between 30 to 60, depending on the type of service and the day. In the evening, upwards of a dozen or so. We lower the average age considerably.

So what are we doing?

We became friends with Phil, the rector of the church, a couple of years ago when he and his wife Sarah and 5 children moved here from Kenya – a country we know well, having lived there for decades. We, too, know the realities of culture shock and adjustment to a very different way of life.  We wondered how best to support them, gradually realising – until God’s gentle nudges had begun to feel more like shoves – that we needed to become more involved with Phil’s church.

We didn’t want to ‘leave’ ours.

So we decided, tentatively testing the waters, that we would offer to help Phil with the Alpha course which was due to start. We knew that there were over two dozen people from the church signed up to do it, so he extra table ‘leaders’ would be needed. We thought that getting to know members of St Sampsons this way might be a good start and still allow us to attend services at Trinity.  We asked our home group for a temporary leave of absence , as the group met on the same night. They agreed, though they weren’t too happy about it. We went to see Phil and offered to help. He agreed, though he didn’t seem particularly surprised. We told our own vicar, Jon, what we were doing. He then told us that he had asked Phil how the church could best help. “We don’t need money at the moment, thanks to a generous bequest” Phil replied, “but we do need people.”
“Like Richard and Angie Pollard?” suggested Jon. It turned out that they had had this conversation the very same day that we had realised we could no longer ignore God’s prompting!

So we joined the Alpha Course and had a wonderful time.  Then folk continued meeting to study the course ‘Christianity Explored’.  We are part of the evening group which has up to 14 or 15 people.

The situation is  further complicated as there are two churches in the parish, so on the Alpha Course  we found ourselves in a group with people from both churches. In practice, this means that we would never see some of them on a Sunday unless we alternated churches. It is easy to go weeks without meeting up with people.

This has led us to re-examine what we mean by ‘church’.

In those wonderful ways in which God leads and reorganises our lives, we have had meetings and conversations with many people, ranging from old friends to new acquaintances who we barely know. Gatherings with Christian friends – over coffee, over meals -  seem to lead to the same topic of ‘how do we ‘do’ church?’ without, I may add, any help from us !

We're learning more about what 'church' isn't, than what it is.

Church isn't just about turning up to a building on a Sunday, singing some songs, saying a few prayers, listening to a talk and then going home, forgetting all about 'church' until the next week.

Church is about meeting with people. Yes, after the church service over coffee.  No coffee served? Go to a coffee shop together, invite folk home for a cup of tea...but church isn't JUST a social time. Being 'church', doing 'church''s spiritual, intentional.

Church is about getting to know people, more than just briefly after the service. Because you can't. So church means meeting others at other times than Sundays.  Church isn't JUST a catch-up on the news - and definitely NOT gossip. 'Church' goes deeper than what lies on the surface of our lives.

Church is about getting to know people well, more than as just brief acquaintances. It is about understanding others, appreciating their lives, listening. It is about intimacy, accountability. We have found the best way to do this is to talk about Jesus. What he said, what he did, how he lived, what his friends said about him.  So we study the Bible together. We find out what it means. We wonder how we can apply it to our lives. We talk with each other upon the way, as the two disciples did on the road to Emmaus. And many other dusty Palestinian roads as well.

Church is about spending time. Giving time. Helping one another. Encouraging.


  1. It's a never ending conversation, really, as we all grow. I like your line, "It's spiritual... It's intentional." And your last paragraph is wonderful. Good stuff, Angie. Truly.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Lisa. Yes, the search for understanding how this all works continues! Surely by now I should have sorted this 'church' stuff out...!