Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A Very Strange Alternative Universe

There is a very strange alternative universe.

It's one where the people who join together, on Sunday or during the week, to break bread or read God's word mostly go away at the end of it thinking they've done something pretty worthwhile - both on an eternal and on a finite, local level. Where they try to live out Jesus' example without necessarily thinking that their way of doing it is uniquely right.

Where people visit the sick in their houses. Set up small groups to give company and hope to people in prison. Set up charities to assist the homeless. Give moral and sometimes financial support. Make sure the streets have somebody who cares hanging around on them, of a Friday or Saturday night.

It's a place where, in the great scheme of things, people aren't that fussed by other people's sexuality - as long as it's not lived out too graphically in public, and it's not illegal. Where the vast, vast majority of church leaders are in fact pretty comfortable with their own sexuality as well - and neither to be feared nor pitied. And where some people may think it's new or unusual to have women in leadership - but mostly they figure they'll live wirh it. Where children will be blessed or baptised regardless of their parents' marital status, and people welcomed into the fold in a likewise uncondemnatory manner.

It's a place where mostly nobody cares about your politics - whether you're right or left - as long as you're not wearing a pillar case over your head or planning to nationalise the font. Either way you'll still be expected to put your hand in your pocket, or go knocking on doors, whenever Christian Aid Week comes round.

Over all, it's a place of some great joy, a few niggles, and a lot of good work. It's a strange little place. But of course it must be an alternative universe. Because otherwise, surely we'd have heard about it?

1 comment :

  1. I've heard about it. It's the Pop-In parlour down our village high street.

    Run as a joint effort by the Council and Help the Aged, it's a meeting place for the whole community, as you see Boy Scouts helping elderly ladies off of their scooters and into the Parlour (whether they want to go in or not).

    It's a place where we gather together to feed the lions (or aged) with food or drink, some prefer either or, or just want a gossip.

    We occasionally have a bit of liturgy, when Donovon (well he calls himself that) turns up with his barrel organ and harmonica and gives us a few rousing worship songs, such as 'Roll out the Barrel' or 'Knees up Mother Brown' or occasionally 'There'll be blue Birds over, the white cliffs of Dover'. One day he played a Cliff Richard number 'Summer Holiday' and since it was droughting quite hard outside, he got a round of rock cakes thrown at him.

    And, of course the place runs on charitable giving - so we have people out shaking collection tins in people's faces (that reminds me, I must bail Mabel out for hitting the youth with the tin, when he told her where to put it).

    People are normally generous with their milk bottle tops and German 1 pfennig pieces. We were thrilled when we got an US 1 Cent on one collection.

    When we can't force the aged into the parlour, we go round to their places, mob handed, and take the parlour to them. It really adds to community cohesion when we go straight there from the pub with a 10 pack and have a rousing party - I was disturbed to find that 'Old Sid' was teetotal and in fact a Jehovah's witness - his reaction to our visit was just a bit over the top. Not to worry, Volunteer Jonas has now managed to have the can surgically removed from that particular orifice.


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