Postscript to emptying churches

There is a long story behind it, but this morning I attended a Baptist chapel service for the first time in 50 years. I was persuaded by the enthusiasm and comradely nature of some old friends whom I had not met for many long years. They said that I would enjoy it, and that I would receive a warm welcome. I was also told that the Minister was relatively recently in post, that it was his first post, and that he was young. So I went, and indeed I did enjoy a warm welcome from quite a number of former patients from my time in general practice. But I have to confess that I did not “enjoy” the service.

Talking with my old friends afterwards they said that they enjoyed particularly the informality of the worship, at which I pointed out that the service was just as formal as any Anglican service – opening songs, church notices, Bible readings, more songs, an address, more songs, prayers, and closing songs – and I suspect that the same pattern is followed invariably every week. I knew one of the songs, and the words were projected onto screens at the front of the chapel allowing a few people raise their arms in praise and prayer during the singing rather than be head-down into a hymn book, but the pace was unvaryingly monotonous, as was the 25 minute address which covered a lot of erudite  ground, and which invited – but did not receive – interaction from the congregation.

Perhaps I’m asking too much, but I would truly love to be part of holy worship which had appropriate pace during its various constituent parts, and I have to say that the music leader’s occasional handclapping, and that of the Minister, really did not invoke any sense of joy, or excitement, or even of personal emotional and spiritual engagement. I must pray more about this…

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