Monday, 28 November 2016

Everything was going so well, and then . . .

Being Mr efficient, I purchased the Advent Candles months back and had them all ready and waiting in the church, all that was needed was to to walk in and plonk them in the candle holder. So, an hour and a half before the service I pop into run through the music and do the candles - where's the Advent  wreath thing?

Bottom line is that at 10:25 everything is ready and I've used an alternative candle holder as ours is nowhere to be found! I didn't get to practice the songs and I hate this as it is always good to have a play and get into a bit of personal prayer and reflection before the service and without my getting lost in playing and removing myself from people I feel dragged into the places rather than entering ready to meet with God - and today is Advent Sunday! Aaargh!

So we start and it's a day of missed cues and muddled messages - I'm not down to preach (thank goodness for the 'Can't make it to church'  bit on the blog which allows me write a sermon in my head and post it regardless). Meanwhile the wife is doing a service elsewhere and I pray that she is being a blessing and is blessed (and it seems that she and it were - Thank You Lord).

The joy of having so many people take part in a service (there were eleven people involved in some aspect of the service yesterday (13 if you count the Sunday school) is immense - I go to places where everything is done by the person taking the service and that makes for a contiguous, polished (at times), performance from a one man band - but where are are many, the potential for interesting things is infinitely before us! Still, no one other than me did the absolution, there were missed bits (which we studiously also ignore on the PowerPoint) a final song with at least three different version (but we ended in the right chord and laughed as a family at the mayhem), somehow I ended up doing the intercessions (which was an amazing privilege as always) and by the time the day was done.

I struggle at the art of performance that I encounter in some places. The 'Worship' band (I think they mean 'Music Team' because surely the whole service is 'Worship') which is so polished and needs to be marched through the service as if it were a drill display and woe upon them should a note be wrong or a beat missed (which is odd because both are usually present despite somewhere despite their practising!). I rejoice in the bumps we encounter on the road that is our service; sometimes it's the things that fall off the wagon that remind us of the reason we are in the place as Church.

I'm wondering about the places where the service is a one man band - is this making church a spectator sport: worse still, is this something that supports the increasing sadness that is consumerism in the church? Some things for prayer and reflection (with loads of potential conversations too, which has to be good)?

But back to St Francis' and the encounters, the opportunities for fellowship. And the like. I love us still hanging around for so long after the service - its always, "No!" when people ask, "Don't you,wish they'd go home?" 

Last week a couple of visitors remarked that 'weren't church'. They unpacked it by saying that it was relaxed, there were no masks and there was so much else in the place. That's my persistent prayer; that he church might contain true Church - people who can open themselves to one another in safety and in the knowledge that there would be love - if we have that then it can't be bad, can it?

As much as I like to be collegial and share the ministry, there are times when I wish I was more so. Yesterday was one as I cut and folded 1,000 cards to stick through the letterboxes of a neighbouring church. Problem is that The printing wasn't 'edge to edge' and so needed multiple cuts and a crisp fold. Talk about practical evangelism of a different sort, but as I cut and folded I prayed that each seed would bring forth fruit - so, as ever, there was a silver lining. Next year, if they do it again, there will be a more accurate print run with the prayer  and but one fold and one cut still needed!

So here we are - bed beckons and Advent has arrived - even so Lord Jesus, come soon :-)


UKViewer said...

It's an interesting perspective. In our parish, the Advent wreath and candles just appeared overnight on Saturday, set up by the small invisible team who arrange all sorts of things for services. We know who they are, but I wonder if we appreciate them enough?

In terms of our Advent 1 Eucharist(s). I served at one, and we had an interruption by a drunk who came in demanding a blessing at the communion rail, just as other communicants were receiving communion. He called Jane, our Vicar, Father - but she was graceful and kind and gave him a blessing, whereapon he left peacefully.

At the 10 am, we had 15 people doing stuff (including the Choir) and a new Organist, who stretched our vocal chords, his first time playing some of the Advent hymns - but again, his skill will improve as his aspiration is to fill the gaps that we have. Our organists had to retire due to macular degeneration and we use a number of casual ones in the interim. I would be lovely to have a settled pattern for the future.

As we're running the Pilgrim Course on the Beattitudes at the moment - it's being well received and supported and I have had the privilege of sharing it's leadership.

God's grace pervades everything - we just need the skill to spot it.

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Having recently taken on a church with newly minted and engaged Wardens what are pro-active and half a step ahead I am appreciating the unseen fairies in the workshop what do stuff - so many people doing stuff in the background, almost sounds like Church (or a. Ollie Fiona of control freaks?)


UKViewer said...

On one of my Essays in year one, I had to do a project on my own parish - and I worked out that there are over 45 people involved in ministry of one form or another. From those who clean and keep things shiny to the Vicar, Curate, Retired Priest associated with our parish and one LLM (now training for Ordination) - this from an electoral roll of 85. So, over 50% are giving time and their gifts to the Glory of God and Mission in this place. We are single Church in an Urban village, but with two Baptist(different streams) one Methodist, One Congregational and an Icthus fellowship that meets in a community hall. All within 300 yards of each other, all well attended as well. It seems to me, that God is working hard in our place, and bringing new people to us, not a flood, but a steady trickle. So far, the gains from new members, have consistently out weighed the losses to natural causes of death or moving away.

We are fortunate to have a CofE Secondary school, less than 1/4 mile away, which have their own Anglican Chaplain, but allows our young people to continue in a Christian learning environment if they wish.

Our wish is for the local primary, which is busy developing links with us, to consider becoming a CofE school. Their history is closely linked to us, we had a Church School, which was closed in the late sixties, and a new State school was built on land relased by the Church at the time - we don't know why it wasn't a CofE foundation, but funded by the local authority - but we're working on it. Another primary school, not that far from us, decided last year to become a CofE Primary, linked to our Sister Church in Erith, and is doing well - we'd love to replicate that here, as a precedent has been set.