Recently, I had a week holiday away – that’s always a chance to see things differently; see church differently.

Church buildings are mostly locked – they are valuable properties used rarely by a small, shrinking, ageing group. Much church property is for sale. The image that springs to mind: selling off the cutlery in order to be able to keep on eating!

I found church buildings with two noticeboards… next to each other… with different service times!

I found church websites that gave me little to no information (where? when?) and/or were so unattractive, why would I consider attending? Sites that had not been updated for years, where the last photo was of a lunch some years back of old people, or of the bishop’s visit some years ago (with just the bishop in the photo), or of a photo where, yes, there were children, but it was an animal-blessing service over five years ago…

I saw a notice where the church website was “https://sites.google.com/site/changedtoprotectidentity/”. You REALLY need to learn how to shorten URLs using:
TinyURL
Ow.ly
Rebrandly
T2M
or something similar (put your own favourite one in the comments below).

[I made the following shortened URL for this post: tinyurl.com/2020hols – try it.
For my post on Sunday’s resources: https://liturgy.co.nz/resources-for-29th-ordinary-18-october-2020 I made tinyurl.com/Sun18Oct. Longer URLs are obviously no problem online with a clickable link – but it is ridiculous on a notice board or, say, a pew sheet or other written material.]

On cafe noticeboards and many other places, there were a plethora of posters advertising free meditation sessions, body and spirit expos, yoga, mindfulness, you name it… There were leaflets about this in information centres. Did I ever see a single poster advertising church or what Christianity offers? In the three different places I stayed in, amongst the local information provided by the motel, was there any information about church?
At a time when Kiwis are travelling in their own country, unable to visit church buildings as they would in Europe, how many have opened their used-once-a-fortnight-for-an-hour church building with its amazing history and architecture and real sense of presence and peace, and provided a volunteer or even simply an attractive leaflet or an updated website people can follow on their phone?

At an Anglican service I attended there were, in a small congregation (of about 30 persons), a number of young people (in their 20s). Not far away, a large congregation of mostly younger people with a band, loud music – you know the style… After the service I attended, I spoke to these younger members of the small Anglican congregation: what attracted them to the Anglican one, this style of worship rather than the band-and-youth style? They mentioned appreciating tradition; they mentioned participation rather than watching a show;…

I understand the participation point in part – I expend a lot of energy to help to make worship a participation-by-all reality; I also focus on educating people to see liturgy as the work of all the people gathered, not simply the work of the clergy or worship leadership. I wrote “in part”, because many people would look at the service I attended and see processions, special robes, complex rituals – elements of show.

They also mentioned the ability to think differently, to use one’s own brain and not need to follow the leader’s position. We also talked about younger people attracting more younger people. Younger people go where the younger people go. This links back to the beginning of this post: how do we move into the Third Millennium?

There are other questions: are we all simply fishing in the same pond – trying to move around the same “religious” fish into different nets? I think there is the same interest in spirituality, the same hunger for meaning that there has always been – even though this may have been expressed this way in the past, going to church may not be the way it is seen nowadays. What might be our new way forward?

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