Monday, 29 February 2016

Obstacles to the gospel...

I pulled together a Facebook page for the church I serve on the Isle of Bute: St Paul's.  All fair enough, the sort of thing that a modern church should be doing to communicate its life and interests. It's a shop window to the world about the life and mission of Christ's body in every context.

I grabbed a quick shot of the church to start as a profile picture (some more 'peoply' ones will replace it soon) - but there was quite a response to the image as it was published.

After some years at St Paul's, I don't see the "No Entry" sign placed at the bottom of "Deanhood" Place. But when you see that picture, it just screams at you. A church with a "No Entry" sign at the door! How ridiculous is that!

For the Facebook page, easily remedied:

God (or Photoshop) can work in mysterious ways to overcome such problems.

But in real life, the sign is there. Maybe not a big deal, as you genuinely don't really see it as you walk by (I assume...).  But what might it represent? What are the obstacles, the "No Entry" signs that we put up to stop people joining our church communities?

Well, we might stop judging them and rejecting them. Or even just implying that this might be the case.  ALL are welcome. We need to persuade all people, especially marginalised, afraid, broken people that they are welcome to come and make our churches untidy and ragged.

We must effectively advertise our services, events and overall life. Webpages, Facebook pages, a new, fresh up to date noticeboard would do the trick.

If someone is determined enough to beat external obstacles and they actually walk through the door (that can be intimidating - can the door be easier to open, or glass?), we could try making the worship accessible to them. That doesn't mean a change of genre or style or dumbing anything down - but do your worship well and make allowances for anyone new. A little explanation. Some friendly guidance through a liturgy. A "pal" to sit alongside and help out.  But not swamping. No rotas, or elements, or anything like that as you walk through door. Be friendly.  Be kind.  Give time. Give space.  So many little bits and pieces.

There's a much longer set of posts here - and nothing here is very new. There have been initiatives galore at making churches more welcoming and removing the obstacles to people coming to see.

But we can still be surprised when, after years, we once again see the "No Entry" sign that we have completely forgotten was there all along.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Preparing for Lent...

We are on the cusp of the next Penitential season starting - Ash Wednesday this week is the start of Lent.

I find Lent a wonderfully bleak journey (deliberately so) - although one has to work to make a season like this as sparse as it should be, given everything is quite as busy and lively as it seems to be.

The wilderness (where Jesus goes to spend his 40 days and 40 nights) is supposed to be a desert, from the middle eastern setting of the tale.  Here in Scotland do we find wilderness in the sea, sky, islands? On the later winter sparseness of the scenery (like the beach earlier this week on Bute)?

Or do we find the wilderness in ourselves, in our hardness of heart, in the lack of time to focus on others with the grace and love that they really deserve, that God would wish them to have.

Lenten observance - prayer, reflection, space - that is creating a wilderness in the space and structure of our lives to focus on God, on our own shortcomings, on where grace is actually to be found.

Sparseness, silence, wilderness. Lent is a season of all these things.  A journey with and towards God. An uncomfortable journey, but a journey that can lead us into a deeper, richer relationship with God.