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.

Impact of the teens’

nix ch in newbury.jpgThe teenagers at the church I attend are having quite an impact at the moment. They arrived back from ‘Soul Survivor’ so committed to their faith, their church and their community; the outworking of which has been fabulous. Among the mad-brilliant blessing they are being is in the way they are relating to the WHOLE church. They decided that they ought to try and ensure that at least some of them were at every service ….. which they have duly achieved. So you’ll find teens at the 08:00 (I repeat, 8am for youth workers who are struggling to compute this), the 09:15, the all age service, the 6pm (Choral 1662 evensong) and the informal 6:30 pm in the hall. Cool huh!
This having quite a huge impact not just in the fact they are doing it (respect) but in hearing them talking about how much they are getting out of the various services.

St Nix Newbury

I frequently get asked if I have a ‘home’ church in the Diocese … and I do, it’s St Nix in Newbury (strictly speaking ‘St Nicolas’* as i get told off for calling it Nix) and it looks like this, as indeed it has done since 1532.
St Nicolas newbury.jpg
This is the Church where I was the Youth worker from 1998 to 2003 where I was priviliged to help develop the only youth centre I know of with a ‘Grade 2 Star’ (and hence, protected) staircase!
When I started work for the Diocese in 2003 we, as a family, really wanted to remain part of the congregation, especially given that it was a place where my oldest boy was known and accepted. With a new Youth worker coming in though I could see this would be potentially difficult for them. After much thought though we did remain there, but I kept a million miles away from the youth work, the youth building and any conversations about the youth work. It was however great to see the work developing (albeit at a distance) and the new directions the youth work took under the leadership of Simon Corner.
Paul reisbach.jpgFive years later, Simon has moved on and we have a new Youth Worker in the shape of Paul Reisbach who is now the curator of the ‘Grade 2 Star listed’ staircase and worker unto and with the young people of Newbury. I’m also back in the building with Paul involving me in various projects which I’m really enjoying.
One of the things I love about St Nix is the way in which young people are made at home there, here are a couple of recent examples:
1. The way that some of the young people hang around the sound desk and the laptop for the Powerpoint stuff, and are happily drawn in and involved.
2. A couple of children yesterday making posters for ‘Christian Aid’ week then taking them to the Church warden who unlocked the outside notice board and put a poster up in there along side the community and church ‘grown-up’ notices and flyers.

I also get asked about whether I miss being the youth worker. I don’t think so, although I do obviously miss the amount of time I got to spend with young people. (And come to think of it, it was VERY cool having a key to the tower!!). It’s great to still be part of the church and community where I was the youth worker!
*It’s pronounced Nicholas, we lost the ‘h’ somewhere along the way!

Committee

It’s the season for Annual church meetings in my denominational sector at the moment. Dave walker had me cracked up with his live reporting from theirs via Twitter and Facebook. Like all flavours of church, committees are both the red blood cells and potentially the cholestral in the living organism of mission we are.
Oh, give me a pity, I’m on a committee
Which means that from morning to night
We attend and amend and contend and defend
Without a conclusion in sight.
We confer and concur, we defer and demur
And re-iterate all of our thoughts
We revise the agenda with frequent addenda
And consider a load of reports.
We compose and propose, we suppose and oppose
And the points of procedure are fun!
But though various notions are brought up as motions
There’s terribly little gets done.
We resolve and absolve, but never dissolve
Since it’s out of the question for us.
What a shattering pity to end our committee
Where else could we make such a fuss?

Copyright (c) Phong Ngo
(I have been trying to track down the author to get permission to use this but can’t find a site to point to. This piece seems to be readily available in lots of places but none are the original. I’m very happy to attribute or remove.)

Journeying in Faith

journeying.jpgI am really bad at flagging up/reviewing books that I’ve read on the blog, it’s something I mean to do BUT I read a book, then time passes and the writing never quite happens. Really Really wanted to flag up “Journeying in Faith” (subtitle, “in and beyond the tough places”) by Alan Jamieson.
It’s a book that I related-to, found-useful and thought-important in equal measures. The text is a follow up to “A Churchless faith” and reflects on (and with) those who find themselves no longer at home in ‘institutional churchianity’ but nevertheless find themselves on a journey toward “unknown horizons of Christian Faith”.
Anyone who finds themselves in a post-christendom, post-modern and/or post-evangelical paradigm will find something of themselves in this book. Importantly too, there is much wisdom in here for ministers in general, both in helping those who are on the edge, and reflecting on what this conversation might mean for our ecclesiology.
(It’s also interesting from a youth ministry perspective as it begs the question of what sort of faith are we helping young people to be equipped with).
I particularly appreciated Jamiesons reflection on faith development stages, not just of the individual but of churches.
WELL worth a read!

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