Monday, 9 July 2007

From One Extreme to Another

On Sunday I went with my husband to church. This may not seem much of a deal for most christian couples, but when you worship in Churches as diverse and different as my husband and I, it can be. I worship at an Anglo-Catholic Anglican Church with fairly liberal tendencies. My husband worships at the local Vineyard church.

Both of us search for ways to embrace our differences and indeed to worship together occasionally. For me the experience of visiting my husbands church can be a little over exposing to the say the least. My church has an average gathering of about 40 people on a Sunday, it is a huge beautiful Gothic structure where there is only one person younger than I in congregation. We embrace silence, contemplation, liturgy, prayer and sacrament.

I imagine if someone were to take my photo when I visit the vineyard church I would look a little like the BBC journalist released last week after months of isolation and thrust in front of the worlds media. For a start even though I am told a lot of people are away sick, there are people everywhere. Children dart in and out babies crawl in the isles and everywhere you look there are pregnant women. (I am not sure whats in the water there!)

Such noise and vibrancy can be bruising for me. Worship for me is usually a gentle deeply sacred communal experience, where as this is a full on shout to the Lord occurrence.

Certain questions are raised for me when visiting the Vineyard church.
Is there a critical mass?
How do you make a connection with people when there are hundreds of them?
Where does community building occur?
How are you able to recognise people are in need, or indeed present when there are so many people?
Where is the stopping to be Still in the presence of God? and indeed is waiting on God in silent expectation important?
Is there Liturgy here? Is it important?and does it get in the way.
And what would happen if I were to turn those questions around and ask them of my community?
Oh yes and did I ask what was in the water?

Its all a bit daunting for this child. Yet there are times like this when daunting is good. It is important for me and I think for us all to get out of our comfort zones, to experience the spirit moving in a new way.

It also helps us to go back to our own churches and investigate how we view and indeed are viewed as Church.

There is much I admire in our local vineyard church. There commitment to the poor in the community is awesome and I would have to say that the men's group has provided a richness and support that has been a gift to my husband. I know that much of the networking and community building that does occur happens through home and study groups. And when the spirit moves, man get in the way!

And there is much that I admire in my community. The intimacy, the mission work for people in the community, the liturgy, the fellowship. Sure not on a scale like Grace Vineyard but every bit as important.

To move between these worlds I can not help but be forced to compare the two but to put one over the other is to ignore the spirits way of touching people in a magnitude of different ways.

And as for our political differences...well that's another post entirely.

So what questions am I left with when I enter my own Church? I'll tell you next Sunday.

In the mean time a question for you?
When was the last time you experienced Church outside of your comfort zone? Enquiring minds want to know.


Anonymous said...

just lost my comment, buggar it was poetic but no time to rewrite, hang in there fringedweller, where are the invisible ones? see u for coffee 11ish 2day

Shawn said...

Just a couple of thoughts. Vineyard spirituality has been influenced somewhat by the Quakers, as John Wimber was attending a Quaker church when he found the Lord. So "Vineyarders" do practice what we call "waiting on the Spirit" in silence. The main Sunday service is our big communal gathering, so yes there are lots of folks there. But community building and intimacy still occurs, especially after the service and in small groups and home groups. Thats how the early church worked much of the time as well.
No, there is no "liturgy" as understood in High Churches as we feel that it gets in the way of the Spirit, and God's sovereignty in worship is too important to us to sacrifice by restricting worship or blocking the Spirit's work in any way.

P.S. What's in the water? Good old fashioned family values :)

Pinarello Man said...

The availability of different churches serves the purpose of meeting your individual needs. We live in a society where freedom of choice thankfully is the norm and so we can move around and find what suits us best. There are big differences between the various denominations / non denominations but both have their place. Whatever brings us closer to God is a purely individualistic experience. I could argue my own experiences but that merely provokes the opposite responses. There are massive changes taking place in many churches that are moving with the times and the come as you are philsophy has lead to massive growth. This may not be in line with the more "traditional" church ideologies but again more people are being brought to God. We all embrace the same God so should get out of our own way and appreciate what ever works for somebody works.

Anonymous said...

Curious, there seems to be almost a sense in the previous two comments that Fringedweller is criticising her experience at the Vineyard church. Yet I see the exact opposite happening. I see that the difference in experience from where you come form FD, to where you have visited is being celebrated here. Of course there are questions raised when such a different experience happens. I do not know what questions would be raised if I went to your Church. Good for you for asking such questions. As a Pentecostal Christian I think it is important to know how we are experienced by people to whom this is not the normal style or worship. I don’t know if we can be objective about our own churches when we are so close to them. As for what’s in the water… you know next time there is a baptism at Grace grab some of the water and slip it into your communion wine … you never know what might happen. Anyway thanks, this encourages me to visit somewhere interesting and get uncomfortable.