Sunday 16 September 2012

Not Going to Church

You know how it is.  It's early-ish in the morning. The alarm's gone off. And you lay there thinking "do I really want to go?" And if you think it's bad for you - how do you think the Beaker Folk feel? We have Ceremonies and Occasions at all hours of the day and the night, every day of the week. I tell you, it's like being in a mediaeval monastery. Except without the drink and sex.

That's where our "Not Going to Church" checklist comes in. As you go through your favourite Sunday morning excuses, you can check against the list until you find your own.

1. I'm tired.

Yes, we're all tired. But you were the one playing "Black Ops - Zombies" until 4am..

2. It's the BCP Communion this morning. I won't understand it.

Yes, the confessions are a bit wordy and involved. But you've been attending BCP Communion since 1951. Which means you've heard it more times than Cranmer. I suspect you're probably fine with it by now.

3. Old Mr Williams is preaching. The sermon's going to be long, and surreal.

But God will still be God. And if Old Williams preaches that bit about how firing rockets into space is a bad idea because God lives there, you can zone out and improve your "Black Ops - Zombies" strategy.

4. Nobody will notice if I'm not there.

You're the one on opening-up duty this morning, and it's pouring with rain. If you don't turn up then everyone's gonna notice.

5. I don't like the other people in the Church.

You're not required to like them. You're supposed to love them.

6. I can worship God in my garden just as well.

(A) no you can't. Your little solitary prayers in your flowery bower are no substitute for joining together in Jesus's name - although they're a great supplement to it - maybe you could do that this afternoon? (b) take the morning off church and you ain't gonna be in your garden. You'll be back on "Black Ops - Zombies". Just as soon as you wake up at lunchtime.

7. I'm in a bad mood and I won't be very Christian.

I see your confusion. You think this is the Premier League, where you practice all week and then "perform" for 90 minutes* at the weekend. No. This is the other way round.

8. I don't even believe in God.

You're not the only Minister to have this problem. Wesley said you should preach faith until you receive it. To which I should add, that people looking at an empty pulpit for 15 minutes is going to be pretty surreal.

9. I get frightened in crowds.

You're a member of a village URC chapel.  You're clutching at straws now, aren't you?

10. The coffee's rotten.

Good point. I suggest you show a bit of initiative and bring your own. Just ask for a cup of hot water - milky if that is your preference - and put in a spoonful of posh coffee or a coffee bag according to choice. Going farther down this line, why not start a campaign to have decent coffee? The extra costs are marginal in a church budget and - who knows - other whingers like you might start attending.

11. There's a bloke in the church who keeps sitting next to me, talking to me after the service and following me home.

He's your husband. It's the only time he gets to see you when he's not working or clearing out the garage..

12. The pews are hard.

Then bring a cushion. Do you give up all your initiative and independent thought when you go to church? Actually - forget I asked that.

* oo-er, Missus.


  1. I've often thought churches should have special services for atheists like me.

    I love the buildings, the atmosphere, the traditions, the sense of belonging to a community that stretches back over a thousand years, but can't believe any of the metaphysical stuff.

    1. Well, CB. There are concerts held in many churches, especially around the Christmas period. Many are open during the day time, so you can sit and soak up the atmosphere.

      Or failing that, there's probably a Church of England congregation somewhere near you that's just right.

  2. Well I never!!

    I've heard some of these from different people over the past few years, so there must be some element of truth in them.

    BCP - I've been going for 4 years to an 0800 and a mid-week BCP service and I'm well used to the language. The language is quite modern really, you just need to be comfortable with thee's and thous's and thy's to get on with it. And Beseeching is something my spouse does every day for a cuppa.

    Hard Pews - that's because they are made of hard wood. But they are designed to keep you on your knees in prayer and worship, not lounging around like a lounge lizard.

    Fair Trade Coffee - well, we all know that it tastes awful, the solution is to empty the fair trade out of the packs and to substitute some good quality nescafe - just tell the punters that fair trade have gone upmarket.

    Feeling Tired - I feel tired often, the remedy is early to bed, early to rise....

    Services and sermons are overlong and boring - they are character forming, they deserve to be endured, not enjoyed. Not everything that does you good has to be nice. Try Horlicks and you'll see what I mean.

    God in the Garden - well, seeing as he is everywhere that shouldn't be a surprise. Next time you are sitting on the WC, imagine him with you there and you will see the benefits of going to church to pray.

    Being Moody - the ideal mindset for BCP, get your confession in meaningfully and knowing that God's mercy has forgiven you will brighten your day. Off course, in Common Worship it's quite near the start of the service, so you can brighten up quicker.

    Not believing anything - well, welcome to the club. I believe in God, not anything or everything about him. There's loads of stories that are bunkum. In the end all you have to believe is that he exists, is a good old geezer, who showers blessings and grace and his providence on you if you love him and her next door who keeps emptying her bins into your garden.

  3. A couple of years ago I was zoning out during the reading of a Patriarchal encyclical when a lady of the Moscow jurisdiction leaned over two pews (yes, we have them, unfortunately) and hissed "It's too long!"

    "Of course it is!" I hissed back, "It's always too long. We're Orthodox, remember?"

    1. The time I went to an Orthodox service (in a Thomas Hardy-designed church), I discovered that "Many Years" is both a blessing, and a description of the length of the service.

  4. The late Fr. Hugh Thwaites SJ, of happy and holy and holy memory, dissolved into giggles on learning the Latin Mass Society's title for its new magazine: "Mass of Ages".

    1. I'm guessing the good SJ was, like many SJs, a bit light in his loafers?

  5. I remember a European visitor once saying, many years ago, how surprised she was to see whole families in church. Attending services. In Europe, I was led to understand, people go to church to listen to the music. (Maybe it's only if they're members that they also go to complain about it?) If that lady is still around, she might be pleased to see we seem to be following the European model these days.

    And this afternoon, I met a 70 (or so) year old friend of my mother and aunts and uncles. The conversation was something like:

    Your mother says you go to church. Which one? Oh, I know that one, we used to go when we were in training (said training class is now celebrating the 50th anniversary of its graduation), when we didn't go to St. Michael's, you know them, they're terribly high. I'd like to go back to church. Not every week, of course, maybe a couple of times year (I mentioned that we were in fact having a come back to church day the very next Sunday) What are the times of the services? 10:30? That's rather odd, isn't it, it's usually 11:00 to 12:00. You mean the service is LONGER than one hour?? Why can't they finish it all in an hour?

    I don't think I'll hold my breath waiting for her to attend!

  6. So many times made the effort only to think, 'Why did I bother'?

    1. Absolutely; you're not more moral afterwards; you have to pay for something you don't really want or need; the people there are usually boring and eccentric; you're supporting a group that claims privileges for itself based on no rational basis whatsoever.

  7. So if I understand this correctly, church can be as boring, uncomfortable, incomprehensible and full of unpleasant people as it likes, it still claims to be the only place where Christians can rightly encounter God.
    If church were a person it would be a very very lonely chap.

  8. I never heard that churches were the only place Christians were supposed to encounter God! Another gap in my theological education, if I can call it that, perhaps? And they don't make you pay here, although people who go regularly tend to toss in a bit of money to help pay for the heating and support one or two of the appeals that are always on the go.

    Having had very lengthy periods in my life of both attendance and non-attendance, I've given the matter some thought. I think one of the main reasons I go is because it keeps me on track, sort of. Lifts me out of myself. Without it, I tend to become more and more absorbed in my own little problems that I have less and less time for either other human beings or God. And somehow, showing up regularly seems to push me a bit in the other direction.

    Also, it's one of the very few places people will let me sing. Admittedly, I don't always get to choose the music, but I am allowed to sing.

    1. Amen, Cheryl. That bit about church keeping you on track and focused on other people instead of yourself is what church is supposed to be all about. "Therefore let us encourage one another to love and good deeds." And I'm totally with you on the singing, too. ;-)


Drop a thoughtful pebble in the comments bowl