Thursday 30 June 2016

Church-Seeking: Some Advice

It might be a sudden whim, an instant conversion, a pang of nostalgia or a desire for a quiet space. But you've decided to go Church.

What do you do now?

Well, if you live in a small isolated building in the English countryside, go out your house. See that building with the pointy roof or tall tower? Go there. But just check it's got some kind of sign outside saying it's St Somebody's or in the Diocese of Blogchester or whatever. Burton Dasset once spent a Sunday morning in a water tower. Said it was very peaceful but his trousers got wet. And the coffee was weak.

With a countryside church, your next problem is working out when the services take place. If you're lucky there will be a service rota posted outside like in the Trim Valley churches. And then all you need is a friend with an astronomical calendar and a degree in pure mathematics, and you can almost certainly work out when the service is - to a Sunday either side.

If there's no rota then you'll just have to hang around the churchyard on Sunday mornings from 7.30 until somebody turns up. If you're lucky you might only have to wait a few hours. If you're unlucky it could be six months. If you ignored the sign saying "redundant", your bones will be found by future archaeologists who will conclude that you were a ritual sacrifice.

Eventually when you get in and there's a service, then you will get to see what the vicar looks like. Tired, probably. As s/he will have got up stupidly early ready for the 8am, either the Pro Plus won't have kicked in yet, or else they'll already have taken services in all the other 8 churches you can see scattered across the horizon. On the bright side, you will meet with your Creator, meet new people, and acquire a new job such as cleaning or flower-arranging or the maintenance of an ancient building.

Of course you may not want a formal service, and simply want to sit quietly and meditate on things. So why not drop in during the week?

Because it's closed. That's why not. If you're lucky there will be a notice telling you the last known address of the person who had the key.

Then there's towns. The great thing about towns is the choice. You may be wondering where to start.

You could try the reviews from Ship of Fools. They have a tendency toward snark occasionally. But that's the way with personal views. And that's what they are - a personal view. The reviewer may say somebody died after reckless snake handling, and the release of mustard gas to replicate the End of Days was a little over the top - whereas somebody else might have gone away giving thanks for a thoughtful sermon, and tasteful music played during communion.

Then why not try the church website? As a source of architectural history, and pictures of people who have left the area in the last nine years, nothing could be more useful.

Then there's the Church of England's "A Church Near You". It's got the same information as the website without the pictures. The name of the last vicar but one. And a map which, by displaying the parish boundaries, is invaluable in working out where there was a hedge or ditch in the 12th century.

Look, if at the end of the day, you want to go Church - I suggest you try a few. One or two will be scary. One or two boring. In many of them the congregation will all be older than your grandparents  - unless you're over 60. But if you've got that calling, somewhere you'll find the right place. God will be there - God is everywhere  - but you'll also find Jesus's body, sitting about, singing, rejoicing, occasionally moaning, and possibly drinking coffee. Honest. It's worth sitting around wondering when they open.

Unless it's Husborne Crawley church and the heating's broken again. In which case come back when it's warmer.

1 comment :

  1. Things like this are funny only if they're (at least partly) true. If only this weren't so damn funny...


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