I’ve just had a vision of what church could be. We’ve just been down to St Marks for part of the farewell celebrations for Paul, the vicar who has been with them since 1995. I was already a regular attendee and member of the church at the time Paul arrived and, he was inadvertently responsible for my beloved and myself getting together, during Holy Week 1999 and, he certainly conducted a memorable wedding service when he married us in February 2000.
On arrival at the church we were given a ticket to go around to the marquee where food was being served and a whole programme of music had been arranged. A brass band played outside where later, in the marquee, there was to be a violin recital and some jazz whilst in the main body of the church a group performed songs by Corinne Bailey Rae and Carol King before rocking the joint with a Beatles medley – this really was a case of dancing in the aisles.
The group were followed by some wonderfully witty male five part close harmony singing. Here’s me sat in church, tapping my feet and having a laugh – absolutely brilliant. Shattered after the week’s earlier travails, I managed to stay with the celebrations for an hour and a quarter; in crowded premises that’s something of a record feat of endurance for me these days but, it really seemed more like pleasure. The fact that people could, and did, freely wander from area to area of the building and grounds, during the evening. alleviated my usual sense of constricting claustrophia, experienced in church, theatre or cinema. My only regret was that I lacked the necessary physical and emotional stamina to stay for the rest of the evening’s events. Fortunately, we were able to have a word with Paul (the vicar) before we ambled our way home.
A church, in the building sense, should be a space for fun rather than only being thought of as a place one goes to in order be preached at. When it comes to worship, I enjoy a sense of reverence as well as joy and, I really like to be challenged by the preaching of the word. Apart from demanding, and acting upon the calls for, justice and compassion, the church should be a place of welcome and support for the whole community. Fellowship can be found in entertainment as well as in acts of worship and, it’s great if that can be supplied; the buildings should always be open and welcoming to all sinners, not just the pious ones.