Monday, February 28, 2011

Church in the World

As hubby and I had a few days away in York last week, I had some brain space to do some random thinking. I pondered the place of churches in the community especially as we wondered around York and Whitby. Being a visitor I was able to have those unknowing eyes which we in our own churches can never have. I saw lots of churches in York but not a great deal of Church. There were buildings but little evidence of Christian service. Now to be fair, I was being a tourist and not living in the community and was there midweek but I was surely like many others. With a viking festival on for the week I wondered how the churches had engaged with it and there were events at churches but only as venues it seemed. I contrasted this with the proliferation of crystal shops in Whitby cashing in on the ghoulish reputation as beign the place Dracula landed in England. How about how the churches engage normally? The minster sadly charges for entry (and I'm sure that is a sad necessity for the community) but the neighbouring St Michael le Belfry offered a space for quiet and reflection, with a gentle welcome and a clear sign that the congregation are an active church community. I did spot the Salvation Army with its usual list of all kinds of social action. Some of the churches do seem to have been transformed into particular ministries - one for a club for the elderly and one in a village was a gallery and arts centre.
We need perhaps though to be visible outside our doors. I spent a lovely afternoon in sunshine listening to a pair of buskers and these could easily have been a pair of Christians sharing songs of hope.

I'm aware that these are somewhat vague ramblings and only the beginnings of thoughts about how Christians should be visible in our communitites. My current conclusions include:

  • We can't rely on our churches to be visible signs of our Christian communities as people see them as interesting historic buildings not as bases of mission.
  • We need to be seen outside our doors
  • We need to make our buildings seem more open from the outside and easy to enter.
  • We should be seeking out parts of the community culture where we can engage and show we exist - a church team at the local pub quiz? an ancient style service featuring during a viking week? a chaplaincy to the local shops/schools/hospitals/prisons
  • As individuals we need to be bold in talking about our vocations as Christians to the jobs we have be that teacher, carer, gardener, musician, artist etc

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