Reflecting on a visit to church

murr church.jpgOur trip to Germany was over two Sundays and hence two trips to Teutonic approaches to Church.
The first attempt was not very successful!
With everyone still groggy from a 400 mile drive from Paris it was left to H and I to hit the pews as we were the only ones up, dressed and functioning. The advertised service must have been at a different location that morning because we found we had gatecrashed a private Baptism service! This was hilarious as we could not escape given the noise our late arrival had made (it clearly started before the advertised service time), we couldn’t explain our presence adequately given the language barrier and we couldn’t quite join in. Eventually escaped without the need to dig a tunnel or employ any sort of vaulting horse, phew!
The second was more interesting. Down in the mountains I struggled to comprehend the local dialect but was determined to make it to church regardless of how incomprehensible it might be. We picked an Evangelische church not far from the guest house and trotted along to morning worship. Interestingly I could understand a lot of what was said and the choruses especially were very accessible, the whole thing being more ‘High German’ than dialect, the difference between the language inside and outside the church being markedly different.
It was overall actually incredibly similar to an independent Evangelical church in England (especially the sermon length!!!!). It was good to be part of a worshipping community.
Interestingly too no one spoke to us apart from once during the service when the Sunday school leader asked if S wanted to come and join them. Even staying for coffee afterwards elicited no greetings or conversations and we wandered back to the Guest house as we felt a bit awkward.
As a visitor it was easy to spot the difference between the Church culture and the culture of the people and town it was in. It left me wandering how similar that experience might be to an auslander visiting our church(es).
I was also interested in the fact that we were not greeted or spoken to at all. Now I know this happens in England too so my point is not to judge but it did leave me reflecting on the fact that encountering faith through church should make us more fully human, not less. What is it in our own culture or especially a very hospitable culture like the Germans that turns church into a less welcoming place not a more welcoming one? Is the fear of difference greater in a place that theoretically believes their is neither greek nor jew, free nor slave? What does successful discipleship look like?, what should church community be and live?
This is mainly thinking out loud and was actually a hugely useful perspective at looking at our own church(es) rather than any intended critique of the German one.