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.