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So you want to go to a church service?

Part 2

In Part 1, I reflected on a recent holiday and my experience of the church’s lack of using 20th-Century technology to help people go to church: travellers, holiday-makers, people new to your area, people who don’t normally or regularly go to church…

There were lots of fascinating reactions. Best was from people who pointed to digital technology: Masstimes.org and AChurchNearYou

Reactions also included those who wrote to me that their congregants didn’t have the skills to run a website or facebook page because the congregation was too small and most were in their 80s. I wonder which is cause; and which is effect. I have too often said on this site, offer young people Friday evening with pizza & drink and let them produce the site for you…

But this post is about the church’s lack of using 19th-Century technology: notice boards that are out of date; in disrepair; lacking any care; difficult to read; impossible for non-church people and visitors to interpret; some notice boards have paper stuck on them for a special event or service, the tape peeling, the notice faded, handwritten, difficult to make out;…

The visitor reads on the notice board that there’s a 10am Wednesday service and turns up at that time to find the building locked. Surely everyone knows that doesn’t apply in January! Not.

On my summer holiday, I found most church buildings locked. What message is the church giving when they own massive land in the centre of a township with a grand building that the notice board indicates is only used for an hour or so on a Sunday afternoon once a month ?

I even found a Roman Catholic Archdiocesan Cathedral shut at midday Saturday [Roman Catholic buildings, I have written previously, are usually the best at keeping church buildings open]. You could get into the entry porch; no one was there; locked glassed doors prevented you going further; and a varying high-pitched sound – usually to shoo away young people – dominated.

In some that were open, the only way I could find out what time services were was by going in and finding the church roster pinned in an obscure part of the building.

Churches have come to take for granted that for summer holidays church basically shuts down. Why? Why can we not have churches thinking that summer holidays be when we become most active? Offering special holiday programmes? Offering a place to come in and reflect?…

And how hard is it to produce an attractive, up to date printed card or sheet (19th century technology) inviting visitors, travellers, and holiday makers to something that will connect with them at your church and walking round to every nearby hotel, motel, and hostel to have them place them in their information pack that goes in every room?

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6 thoughts on “So you want to go to a church service? <p>Part 2”

  1. It is sad when you find a locked church. But from a UK perspective: very often churches are locked when no one is available to “church sit” because the insurance company will refuse to cover any claim made that might be put down to something that has happened whilst the church was open and unattended. And you really need two people on duty at any one time (even in these days of mobile phones) in case of emergency. In these days of smaller congregations it becomes ever more difficult to find enough people to commit to a regular slot. But that’s no reason for not doing what you can…

    1. Thanks, Peter. I suppose there are many reflections around this – including 21st century technology: cameras. But also chicken-and-egg: is it “ever more difficult to find enough people to commit to a regular slot” because church buildings are now normally closed? Blessings.

  2. I have secretly left the Anglican fold these past few years Padre! When I migrated to the US and settled in Seattle, I attended a number of Episcopal parishes hoping to find one in which I felt welcome and comfortable. Sadly, I was ignored in all of the parishes within a bus ride of my home. Including the cathedral parish. I decided to give the only church with a building in downtown Seattle a visit.

    What a stark difference! Friendly, out-going, welcoming. A lady who sat in front of me suggested that I join the choir. It was a congregation of the United Church of Christ. This month marks its 150th anniversary in Seattle It is involved in vital ministries in this city; seeking social justice, dismantling institutional racism, mental health, homelessness, justice for immigrants, etc.

    And it is skilled in using technology from the 19th, 20th & 21st centuries. What it doesn’t have the talent to do in-house, it pays professionals to do. The notice board is updated weekly. It has banners and flags that advertise that it is open and affirming of LGBTQ folks, is attempting to be racially diverse and supports neighbors of other faiths. Its website is constantly updated by a staff member who has it in their portfolio and is soon to be professionally redesigned.

    It shares its facility with other faiths. There is a noon RC Mass daily M -F in its small chapel. There is a Muslim prayer room open daily M – F and Jumah prayer with a few hundred in attendance is held at noon on Friday in the social hall. A second congregation from a different denomination uses the chapel for services on Sunday while the resident congregation has services in the main worship space. Its facilities are available for local non-profits to use for meetings and other activities. The 3rd floor of the classroom wing house the offices of a number of local ministries & agencies. The Sunday school facilities house a daycare during the week. Both the local gay men’s and lesbian women’s choruses use the social hall every week for rehearsal space.

    Although not as large as it has been, it is a vibrant congregation of which I am happy to be a member. At the 150th Annual Meeting this past week, I was nominated and elected to the congregation’s governing Church Council. I will be part of the leadership that guides the church as it explores its 21st Century vision and ministry, as well as explores possible redevelopment of the 1/2 city block on which it sits.

      1. I would say come, it’s a beautiful city, as long as you don’t suffer from seasonal affect disorder from the overcast skies and occassional rain, especially throught the winter.

        Sadly, Episcopal/Anglican priests are sort of a dime a dozen in the US. You may have to fall back on teaching math & science for employment.

        PS – The follow-up comment service doesn’t function. I never get an email that you have responded to me.

        1. Thanks for pointing out the follow-up-comment issue, David. There have been lots of changes on the way the internet works recently, and software and plugins have struggled to keep up. And so have I. Blessings.

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