My Dear friends,
Why do you like coming to Church? That’s a dangerous question for a Vicar to ask. Someone may reply “I don’t enjoy it, I just come out of a sense of duty”. It would be enough to make the shoulders of the heartiest cleric sag.
I do fundamentally believe that coming to Church should be an enjoyable and pleasant experience. I can still remember when I first went to Church, and how good the world looked afterwards and how I felt better inside. I don’t know if I learnt much theology or faith in those early days, but such intangible feelings kept me coming back for long enough to start picking up the occasional bit of Christianity.
The trouble is, those memories are getting more and more distant. I am so used to going to Church, and my busy Sunday rush around the churches is so atypical of most newcomer’s experiences that I must be a very poor judge of what going to Church is like for the first time. Perhaps some of you might tell me before it becomes too dim and distant in your memory too?
It matters because unless we have a steady stream of people who are in a service “for the very first time” ; and who enjoy it, feel welcome, and aren’t bored stupid; and who still feel like that ten visits later and have started wondering if God might have something to do with it; then the Church will be on it’s last legs.
How does that change what we do? I think it prevents us from simply demanding the services that meet our own preferences. It prevents us from being so hidebound to tradition that it is impossible to change anything. It says to us we must be intolerant of the discomfort of visitors, and put their needs before our own personal tastes.
Next time you come to Church remember that the stranger in the row in front may be just such a person. Be nice to them, they are looking for God and God is looking for them. They may even end up being a Vicar one day!
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