Today was unusual for me and included two very difference experiences of worship.
The morning at Syston Methodist Church
This morning was great, but busy. I was at a vibrant and full Syston Methodist Church. Fortunately, there is a strong set of people to work with and so there is very much a team feel about preparing for worship. With both Baptism and Holy Communion, over 100 people and the projector to set up there is quite a bit to get ready so it is busy right to the start of the service.
This was my first baptism at Syston with another one in a couple of weeks (twins next time) and it is not that common here to combine baptisms and Holy Communion (with some experiences from the past a view I would often share). Currently the data projector brings challenges for Holy Communion as well, because it gets in the way of the normal flow of people.
All in all it meant some thinking about how we would do things, which we did at the recent Stewards meeting, and that resulted in doing things somewhat differently, particularly for Holy Communion. That of course creates more potential for things to go wrong, of which the worst is if it stops people from experiencing the presence of God.
In fact the service went well. Sheila, one of our worship leaders now training as a local preacher, led some beautiful prayers throughout the service. Joseph's baptism went smoothly (although the pop star style radio mike that we use, the sort that comes from behind your ear round your cheek, is obviously a very attractive handle for babies), it was really nice to have his granddad reading the scriptures for us and his sister collecting the water for his baptism. We had a range of fairly modern songs that the congregation clearly knew and enjoyed singing.
The Holy Communion also worked well for most people, although if we do it in that continuous style again I'll make a few changes as some people felt a bit rushed (I think it was lack of enough time/space between the bread and the wine that was biggest problem). In fact numbers we high enough that there was only one little glass of wine left after the congregation had been served so when I served the stewards, organist and myself at the end we used the chalice.
With the family I had chosen Mark 10: 13-16 and Matthew 18: 1-4 as the readings, it seems to me that these are a massively relevant challenge today to our understanding of Jesus, ourselves and what it means to follow him that they are a delight to preach on, hopefully in a way that helps a very diverse congregation.
One of the many things that I like about Syston Methodist Church is how relaxed people are at the end of the service. There is no mad rush to get out and there is a very friendly and gentle atmosphere as people have a drink while the kids weave in and out – getting extra biscuits as they go All this makes it much easier, as a minister, to connect with people rather than just shake their hand as they rush out. Of course that is only made possible because of the teams of people who quietly get on with making everything happen around you.
Having manipulated ( ) the plan for the next quarter of services (Dec through Feb) one of the things I am very much looking forward to is spending more Sunday mornings at Syston as I am still at the early stages of getting to know people.
With all this and with new people being trained as Local Preachers, with three people from Syston on the Fresh Expressions Mission Shaped Ministry course, plans to install permanent data projection facilities and also to consider our music resources (including looking at the new Methodist Hymn collection) I look forward to the next few years of worshipping here. It is going to be good!
The evening at Robinson College Chapel, Cambridge
By some quirk of the current circuit preaching plan, it turned out that I was not planned for any evening worship this week. As I was thinking about this I saw this tweet:
I am preaching on Sunday, on theology, art and the annunciation. Visitors welcome! 6pm in Robinson College Chapel.
So Jane and I decided to go and have a night out together as a bit of a treat including the chance to actually sit together for worship. I know, it is a bit crazy (and yes very environmentally insensitive and greedy) to drive to Cambridge from Leicester for an evening service but I have a reputation for mad ideas to keep. Anyway, it turned out that Robinson College Chapel is gorgeous modern architecture a lovely place to worship.
Of course the whole service was a complete contrast to this morning, including three times as many hymns from the Methodist hymn book, Hymns and Psalms Plus a choir, amazing organ and a very thought provoking sermon from Maggi. It was beautiful to be in God's presence in that place tonight.
I find it interesting to note how I have changed in relation to worship over the years, remembering some of my struggles with worship during my ministerial training. I now appreciate a far wider range of worship than ever before (not that I am placing either of today's services at extremes on any spectrum but just that the contrasts made me think). Plus there is the added dimension of variety between leading worship & preaching (which I love) and being a member of the congregation (which I also love but don't do as often).
It made me wonder if we do enough to encourage and support people in broadening the breadth of worship that they experience or whether as the variety of worship styles seems to ever increase if people get stuck in every smaller niches.
I am wondering if it might be interesting and helpful to arrange some worship excursions for our local preachers and worship leaders. Maybe we could go out for an evening service somewhere different and follow it with a meal to reflect on the experience and how it might enrich our worship.
Meanwhile, with these thoughts echoing around my head, Jane and I went out for a meal together (while the boys at home practised looking after themselves by ordering a Dominoes pizza). A nice end to a good day.