Monday, May 31, 2010

Sheer diversity

Yesterday I experienced two different services. One prayer book. One not prayer book. One singing modern words to familiar older tunes. One singing new words to unfamilar tunes; and very loud, pulsating music at that. Both services were well-led, had good attendance, and an excellent spirit of fellowship. Each service had a sermon, though one was better than the other (mine was not the better!!). We are a diverse church.

Each service had its own integrity. Both services (as far as I could tell) sought to 'connect' with a particular community of worshippers (while also being accessible to potential 'outsiders' or 'newcomers' to that particular community). The respective connections were made excellently. A diagnostician of congregational life would, on closer examination, determine these congregations were healthy.

The differences in the two services raises intriguing 'bigger picture' questions about the life of our whole church, since each service was representative of wider phenomena in the NZ church (Anglican church, other churches) of great services with good attendance connecting with important particular communities.

What features of one kind of service could be grafted on to the other? (The answer might be 'none'!)

Is our aim in planning, preparing and executing worship services to reach, to connect with particular communities (the elderly, families, youth, Maori, Asians, Polynesians, South Africans, men, women, the townsfolk, the farmers (and within that community, the dairy farmers who have a different set of inflexible demands on their daily timetables), students) or with whole communities? ("Should" one or other be our aim?)

To what extent should we as a particular denomination include the wider church scene in our determinations? For instance, "all the twenties go to the Calathumpian Independent Church of Great Band Music in the next suburb, no point in trying to match what they do, our task it to connect with the older people of our suburb". Or, "Why should Anglican teenagers be lost to the Anglican church as an unchangeable characteristic of 21st century life? There should be a place for Anglicans of all ages and stages in Anglican churches!"

No simple answers to such questions appearing here. Church life is a challenge. But let's give thanks for the great services we experience and for the fact of the connections they are making with different groups of people in our society!

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