Do we have to sing/pray/have some sort of liturgy to be church?

It is sabbatical week 8 here and I have to admit that last Sunday like Elijah in the OT reading I had run out of steam .  Like Elijah there was a lot of relying on God to give me the energy to keep going although there weren’t any angels with food for the journey (that just would have been a surprise too many).  It wasn’t that I had had enough and needed a cave to hide in, the benefice are being really caring and know that I cannot be two people. It’s just I hadn’t had the thinking time to be creative this month. 

For the last 4 years once a month there has been an alternative afternoon service at St A’s.  The idea was that it would be something to attract young families that didn’t want to sit through a BCP said communion with language and ritual that was entirely foreign to them.  I tried in vain to explain to the congregation that if they were to survive they might need to sacrifice their preferences for what is appropriate for others but they would not budge.  I hoped that they would all come and support the venture, instead only the two elderly churchwardens caught the vision.  I hadn’t heard about messy church then but through trial and error and seeing what works for the culture we’ve ended up with something that is very similar.  It does seem to be working.  Last year 3 people were baptised who consider this place to be their church.  In October I am taking 5 to the cathedral to be confirmed.

We are now trying to replicate this in two other parishes in the benefice.  Even if you have an enthusiastic team that are full of good ideas, it is tiring enthusing and encouraging them to come up with fresh ideas.  Imagine running messy church on 3 Sundays out of 4, with different teams of people and because you are a benefice and folks move round having to do something different each week.

So I’ll admit it. By this Sunday I was cream crackered .   There was no advertising.  I had nothing planned.  By Thursday, three days before the church wardens were asking what we were doing.  Were we going to have a service?  Originally we had planned to do something for Father’s day so I just spread the word that it would be a bring and share picnic.  I then worried.  Was I being lazy?  Should I put together some sort of worship?  At least get the PA equipment out and play some Christian rock music? Would anyone turn up at all?  Would anyone bring some food?


Lots of people came including our regulars plus some new folk.  There was far too much food, stuff that some could ill afford but shared generously.  Folks bought rugs and chairs and games for the children to play.  The sun shone.  No-one wanted to go home. The teenagers promise me that they won’t put the pictures of me on the zip wire on u tube.

And I looked around and it was good. 

Is this church? I think it is.  We are forming a new community.  Four years ago we didn’t know each other.  On Sunday the worship was in the gathering together, the caring for each other and the hospitality.  I wish it was this easy all the time.

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