Going to Church for the First Time

We weren’t sure about what time proceedings were going to start or quite where it was going to happen but Dr Ruth had seen a sign that said 9 o’clock. Neither of us knew quite what to expect as the notice seemed quite vague but Dr Ruth plucked up the courage and said she wanted to go so we tentatively climbed the stairs.

When we arrived it seemed that we were late. Music was already playing and as we opened the door I squirmed a little like we were intruding. Everyone was in their seats and looked really comfortable. A silver haired lady jumped out of her seat and walked to the door with a smile. She appeared to be holding a wooden bowl with some money on it. I glanced to Dr Ruth who looked back. An unspoken sentence passed between us ‘but I thought it was free’. I can feel the words “I’m sorry, i think we’ve come to the wrong place” welling up in the back of my throat but i feel my hand fishing around in my pocket for loose change. The silver haired lady doesn’t push us to one side but her body language indicates that we are to be moved away from the main group…

“Would you like to buy some raffle tickets, they are a pound a strip”

Through the annals of my mind fleeting questions flicker and crackle like the the embers on bonfire night. Only one crystallises fully and bursts forth from my lips in the split second I am given to make a decision. “What is the prize?” I whisper in hushed tones not wanting to disturb the atmosphere or interrupt the lilting voice of the singers…

“A bottle of wine or a CD of….” the name escapes my memory but the artist was not someone I’ve over heard of. I didn’t want them but I felt that I must buy some tickets. All eyes seemed to be upon me, judging me with a beady glare. I took the perforated orange paper and slinked quietly to the back of the room.

The first thing to strike me was that everyone was so much older than us. If it was not for the guy with the acoustic guitar we would have been the youngest people in the room. This was a little unnerving.

As we quickly glanced around the room we realised that we were out of place. To our left was a man in a waistcoat with a bow tie. In fact, everyone seemed to be dressed as though appearing before high society. We on the other hand had arrived in full bike leathers carrying helmets. We sat conspicuously glancing around and occasionally whispering to each other:

“What do you think this means?”

“They all seem to know each other”

The songs that they were singing were unfamiliar. Everyone was joining in with a tune that we’d never heard and words that they seemed to be plucking from the air. A vocabulary that we didn’t even recognise was pouring out in a unity we were unable to join.

The song drew to a close and then the man who seemed to be in charge announced tentatively that ‘Dave is going to play’. Dave is rather predictably a man with an acoustic guitar. He spends a couple of minutes explaining that this was an older song and that we should all be able to join in.

He starts playing. I turn to Dr Ruth and whisper “I know this, I love this one”. She looks quizzically at me.

She whispers “I don’t know this” as her eyebrows bunch up closer together.

“But you must know this one, it’s a classic” as I enthusiastically join in with the chorus only to find that in the second line he’s changed some of the words. And the timing. It’s just not…. Singable.

Except everyone in the room seems to be familiar with it just as it is!!!

Next the man who is in charge asks us all if we would like to share anything. “Does anyone have a story or a song that they would be willing to bring to us? Anyone?…. No one ?…. Well if not, we’re going to play…”

Proceedings continue like this for a while longer. All the way through Dr Ruth spends the whole time whispering these lines to me:

“They want us to join in”

[“shhhhhh, we’ll just sit here”]

“But we could play SONG X or SONG Y”

[“No we couldn’t, they all seem to know each other”]

At the end we quietly put on our coats and tentatively made our way to the doors without trying to draw attention to ourselves. We opened the door with the minimum force required so as to not make a sound and then scurried away into the night….

And thus ended our first and last evening at a Highland Folk Music Group’s music night, open to all.

The Church and Social Media

Today, the Vernacular Curate has written an interesting post about the interaction between social media and the church.  I recommend reading the whole thing but here is an interesting quote:

98% of Christians, church-goers and other people of faith who will have no inkling about what this is all about. They have heard some of the names on the news, but will have cast them aside in the way that they would anything that held no apparent relevance, or that which had the feeling of fad or voodoo about it. I don’t blame them – but we have a situation where an increasing gulf is developing between social-media aware Christians, and those who are not.

Whilst this is anecdotal, it resonates with the experience of myself and many of my colleagues.  Some of my colleagues have even said that “there is no point engaging with Facebook/Twitter/Whatever as none of ‘our people’ are on it”.  I can understand why this seems to make sense.  In The Church(TM) the population is becoming increasingly elderly.  I can understand why it would seem to make no sense to engage with something that many (not all before you start writing letters to me in little green handwriting) elderly people do not engage with.

Any organisation that seeks relevance in this age must embrace that ages’s self-expression.

Earlier today I posted a blog about QR readers.  I wonder at what point The Church(TM) will notice that everyone else has been using them for years.  I suspect that we will have a training course in 2017 about how to use them.

Does it matter that a poster has something small and insignificant in the corner that “most of our people don’t understand”?  Who is to say who our promotional material is going to be seen by?  What does it matter that there is a convenient link to a social networking site secreted in the corner?  If people don’t know what it is, does it matter.  For those who do, who we freely admit are outside of the ingroup, “our people”, is it not an easy way of connecting in a relevant way with people?

I wonder what would happen if I printed a massive QR code the size of the outdoor notice board that linked to a Facebook Group.  Perhaps people would actually look at it and wonder what it is about.  I suspect that it may have more of an impact than:

Thy will be ‘Gun’

h/t emergentkiwi

Now for almost 2000 years Christians have been ‘lawyering’ the Bible to try and figure out how ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ can mean ‘Hate Thy Neighbor’ and how ‘Turn the Other Cheek’ can mean ‘Screw You!  I’m Buying Space Lasers.’

It is a sad state of affairs when a self-confessed onlooker can do better biblical exegesis than the followers of Christ.

Jesus lays on that hippy stuff pretty thick.  He has lines like ‘do not repay evil with evil’ and ‘do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you’.

The Lord’s Prayer – Retelling Our Story

Sometimes it is good to rethink those familiar things.  I came across this retranslation of The Lord’s Prayer via @lizdyer.

O Breathing Life, your Name shines everywhere!

May our future actions grow from here!

Release a space to plant your Presence here.

Envision your “I Can” now.

Embody your desire in every light and form.

Grow through us this moment’s bread and wisdom.

Untie the knots of failure binding us,

as we release the strands we hold of others’ faults.

Help us not forget our Source,

Yet free us from not being in the Present.

From you arises every Vision, Power and Song

from gathering to gathering.


Check out http://gracerules.wordpress.com/

Fresh Expressions at Synod

If I am honest, it is my day off and I would go mad if I kept working through it but….

This week has been the General Synod of the Church of England (my beloved institution and employer).  The twitterverse has been going mad with comment about the goings on.  One thing that happened was the presentation of a report on Fresh Expressions by Graham Cray.  If you look at my twitter stream from yesterday you will notice that a lot of the comments I retweeted are all about what was said.  Fresh Expressions have itself written a “bedtime reading” summary of it all.

So why am I blogging it and what is my comment on it?

That is just the thing…. I want a minute to digest it all and see what I actually think about it.  It is an unusual thing for me to be saying.  I normally reflect off the cuff as I go along like most extroverts.  There is just so much being said about it from so many sources.  Plus, as I have said, it is my day off and I am already telling myself off for working.

If that annoys you, why not check out what Jonny Baker has said about it in his first post and his second post.  He has some good thoughts on it all and more importantly – he has hopes for the future!!

Jon Birch and the ASBOjesus-ness

For those of you who have no idea what the man is or what he does, check out ASBOjesus and then listen to his his interview from greenbelt!


Some people have been asking to hear what we sound like.  There is now a live recording on our myspace page, check it out.

Some Sounds

People have been asking for some sounds of my band.  Here they are (live).

Hulk Smash!!

The trailer for the new Incredible Hulk movie is out and worryingly I am looking forward to it.  I have to say that the 2003 Ang Lee film left me feeling more than a little let down.  The promises in the press left the film with a lot to live up to.  The rhetoric of ‘amazing CGI’ that perfectly depicts Eric Bana as the Jolly Green Giant contributed to greatly to a truly flat experience when sitting in a cinema staring at an extra from Doom.  To be honest I wasn’t even that convinced by Bana’s ability to convey ‘the inner conflict that goes on inside all of us’. 

With this in mind it was with much trepidation that I saw the trailer for The Incredible Hulk.  I was prepared for another disappointment in the somewhat inconsistent Marvel movie universe.  I have to say, 21 days before the film is released that I was quite impressed by the 3 minutes of footage as it flashed across the cinema screen.  Edward Norton looks to have been a good choice for Banner.  His ability as a character actor is clear from roles as diverse as the dark and brooding Fight Club to the coming of age romantic comedy of a priest in Keeping the Faith.  His internal monologue is always fantastic and he is good at conveying the inner turmoil through subtly facial expressions.  Finally perhaps we will see the real struggle within Bruce Banner brought to life on the big screen.  It will be interesting to see how the CGI has improved over the course of the last 5 years to allow the other elements of this narrative to speak of the human condition.

Catholic Community

Well here we go with a light hearted start to the week.  I was searching the church news on Ekklesia when I cam across this article about a new social networking site aimed specifically at the Catholic Church.  The Church is truly becoming hip and with it!!

I particularly like Dom’s profile picture 😀