Some sound sense here from Linda Woodhead on the proper use of the church as provider of services to the general public. Very different to any concept of it being some kind of distinct entity, separated from the ways of the world.
I think it's really important we understand this distinction. The moment we start using words like "kingdom", we are implying we might in some way be critiquing, or even rejecting, some of the ways of the world. To be a church "family" or "body" implies some kind of exclusiveness. How different from our calling to support the world's ways; to work within its power structures; to take sustenance from it.
Especially important, I think, are these comments:
"It is the difference between asking parents to have their child baptised in a Sunday service, among people they do not know, and making the family the centre of the event."
Quite so. The church has largely forgotten, in its bizarre belief that baptism is some kind of membership ceremony - involving solemn promises and self denial - that baptisms are, fundamentally, about holding baby showers and surrogate weddings in attractive surroundings.
That's why we ban all regular members of the community from Beaker "christenings". They might clog up the parking spaces, or ask why we only ever sing "Lord of the Dance" and Robbie Williams's "Angels". They might expect a sermon, instead of a five minute reflection on how lovely little Merton, Merlot or Chrysanthemum is. They might ask in what sense we can call it a "christening" when we don't use any water. I'd have to go through that whole explanation about how water can mess up those lovely christening outfits.
And so, by keeping the regular worshippers away from the baptism people, I can have the best of both worlds. And, should the regular worshippers all die out - my income streams are secure for the future. Indeed, by ensuring we have no doctrines or views at odds with society, once I've shed the Beaker Folk, the Moot House should be OK for a grant.
Now I know what you're thinking. By isolating the christening people from the regular congregation, I'm neglecting pastoral responsibilities. But far from it. In fact, we send the babies a card every year. Reminding them they can hire the Moot House for birthday parties. And, for a very reasonable rate, "Smudge", our lovable, magical and CRB-checked clown.
Yep, this church, at any rate, will outlive its need of a congregation. That's why we hold our main weekly service on Thursday evenings these days. Stops it getting in the way of the prime Christening slots - 11am, just late enough for people to get here through quiet Sunday traffic. And just late enough that, after the photos, the pubs are open.