Monday, 31 January 2011

If you have love for one another

Yesterday we had the last of our 'circumstance-dictated' joint services with the two churches in my parish. The heating in the older building has now been fixed, so the two congregations can return to separate spaces. The past three weeks of togetherness have been good, with a larger congregation and the voices of two choirs, worshipping and fellowshipping together. Many old grievances and walls between the two churches are melting away as time passes and each church reaches out to the other. The diocesan GAP (Growth Action Plan) process has been helpful in speeding up this process as both churches work together in mission, as has the patient care and hard graft of the vicar, my training incumbent.

This parish has an interesting history. In the early days, the two churches each had their own vicar. Then for a while the parish consisted of three churches, under one vicar. Subsequently, one of these churches joined with a different church as a united benefice, leaving this parish with its current configuration of two churches under one vicar (with curate).

I have said before that these two churches are very different in style. One is in an old building, built in the 1850's, and has more traditional forms of worship, with an 8am Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion service (written in 1662), without any hymns or songs; a 10:30 Common Worship service (written in 2000), with traditional hymns, organ and robed choir; and a 5 pm service of Choral Evensong, which again is from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and again incorporates traditional hymns, organ and robed choir. The interior of the building is traditional, with pews, formal choir stalls, high altar, and Lady Chapel. The chancel walls are painted with beautiful frescoes, but they in need of repair. There is no church hall, as it was sold off years ago, but there is a space at the back of church which has been re-ordered to make room for fellowship, with a kitchen and lavatories, and a small room for Sunday School (there are 2 children who attend regularly at present).

The second church's building used to be old, too, but the old building had to be demolished and a new, smaller building sprung up in 2001. As you come in the front door, the new building has a small coffee lounge leading to a worship space (people here refer to that part as 'the church'), and on into a hall, where the uniformed groups such as Brownies, Cubs, Guides and Scouts meet throughout the week, and where the Sunday School is held on during the main service. There are about 8 children who regularly attend Sunday School, and once a month we have a Parade Service with the uniformed groups, where there are about 40 children present. At the Parade services, a band plays with brass, keyboard, flutes, clarinets and guitars. It's an all-age band, which I am in, as are my two kids. This church has also got a robed choir, but they sit in normal chairs like the rest of the congregation. There are no pews, and there is no Lady Chapel. There is a small organ (not a large pipe organ like in the other church), but there is no organist at present, so the music for worship comes via CD's. This church uses some traditional hymns but also more contemporary worship songs, and they do not use hymn books, they project the words onto a screen.

Recently with the joint services some people from the traditional church were inspired to comment after experiencing the worship at the less formal church that they would like something different from time to time in their more formal church. My heart leaps in hearing this. The all-age all-instrument band has been invited to play on occasion at the more formal church, too, and so far has been well-received. Things are moving, and it is exciting to witness. One church member is going to start up Messy Church there soon - how wonderful is that?! In fact, the GAP process has invigorated both churches in many ways. Its such a privilege to be part of the church as the body of Christ and to be involved with others as we all seek to be faithful disciples. May we continue to listen and be open to the Spirit's leading.


  1. Thanks for these interesting details! What is "Messy Church"? Praying for continued energy and love in all the churches *:)

  2. PS--love love love the clay "people circles" in the image at top of your article here. Where did these come from? Do you know I have two like these? One larger and one smaller--they represented the seven writers in my dissertation group *:)

  3. Its a new adventure in being church - especially for families, where all ages come together in creative (hence, messy) ways of exploring bible themes and gospel truths, and there's also food involved. Its usually held at a different time to the main Sunday service.
    Messy Church has been a successful way of engaging people/families in the churches that have tried it.

  4. great idea!!!! i think so many families don't go to church cause of the pressure (read mother having to get all the kids ready) of getting dressed up, etc., or that's the way it used to be anyway.


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