Sunday, 2 August 2009

Just went to my first Sunday service in Upper Suburbia. There are a few different churches I want to check out... maybe shopping around isn't the way to go, maybe it's better just to plonk myself down somewhere and make the best of it, but several options look like they might be suitable.

So at Nearest Church, people were warm and welcoming. I'm not entirely certain what I think of incense and bells, but I appreciate that it is meaningful to some. They are certainly in the Catholic end of the Anglo-Catholic spectrum, but they also emphasize inclusiveness and acceptance on their website and seem to be fairly involved with other local churches. They have a cafe they've opened recently which is excellent (I've been twice; good food, cheap too, and absolutely no pressure from anyone: just a friendly community space). The sermon was meandering but thoughtful.

There is a hint of a Song-shaped hole in the music. Different people mentioned various possibilities for paid work, which surprised me a little; I'd been thinking of what I might be able to contribute, but had assumed there would be no financial compensation until after some years of volunteering or apprenticeship, because churches are always strapped for cash. The organist is lovely, has similar views to mine regarding teaching and performance, gave me a run-down of the local church music scene, and is happy for me to essentially use that organ--quite a nice one--to teach myself how to play and write for organs (a major hole in my background, especially in the context of writing for small parishes who don't have many trained musicians and may not be able to get the resources for SATB a capella but can probably scrape up an organist on occasion and probably have organs left over from a time when people spent serious money on church music).

And it felt so good to sing again, to sing in worship with other people. And to go up to the altar for a blessing... it's been more than a month, and I don't know if it's just me, just wishful thinking, a sort of psychosomatic grace, but it feels like something happens there. That's for another post, perhaps.

I don't know if this particular parish is the right church for me but I feel more confident now that church, more generally, is right for me.

14 comments:

UKViewer said...

There is nothing wrong with shopping around until you find a church you feel comfortable with. Your gifts are transferable and music is central to worship.

There are lots of Christian Churches who would welcome your sharing worship with them.

Song in my Heart said...

Thanks for the reassuring comment, UKViewer. It's sometimes difficult to strike a balance between learning to see God at work in whatever situation I find myself, and actively seeking a situation where it is easier for me to see God at work. And a lot of my life is in transition right now.

Kathryn said...

You didn't mention the bells & smells yesterday - now I'm even more excited about this place - but totally agree that shopping around is helpful. My forming church, St John the Divine Kennington, was something like number 5 on my list when I first moved to S London. And I went there for 3 weeks before committing (which given my tendency to leap first and reflect later is pretty miraculous)...but it was so much the right place for me. Loved it!
So, praying that you'll find somewhere lovely to settle and grow...xxx

Song in my Heart said...

I've attended/participated in such varied worship formats over the years that I think I will probably adapt to and come to treasure most forms, given familiarity. I know I love singing best and like to have a certain amount of ritual, and preferably a sense of that ritual having continuity over time and geography... but the underlying message is more important to me.

So I'm not sure what I think of the smells and bells, and I have little or no idea of the background of them (though I can find out), but I'm pretty sure they aren't a dealbreaker.

UKViewer said...

I would say that smells and bells are incense being used at certain points of a service and bells ring as well.

Having been brought up in the RC in the 40's and 50's in the days of Latin Mass and having served as an Altar Boy, I was well used to them.

Later things changed, but traditional Anglo Catholic practices can out RC the RC.

If you look at the Missal you will find the meaning, or look at Liturgy in use, which will help you to understand what is going on.

Just be comfortable. I attend a Parish within a Benefice, which has 5 churches, ranging from high to evangelical. I am comfortable in each one.

The underlying message is worship and prayer and music as a community and as part of the Body of Christ here on earth.

I wish you well on your journey and seeking.

Song in my Heart said...

UKViewer - thanks for your comment.

I was replying to Kathryn's comment about smells & bells... I do know what the term refers to, but haven't encountered it much in worship before now. Perhaps I wasn't very clear about that. I was going to start with good old Wikipedia for interpretation of the symbolism but I might see if I can find a Missal, too.

Later things changed, but traditional Anglo Catholic practices can out RC the RC.


Oh, why does this not surprise me? ;)


Just be comfortable.


I'm not only looking for comfort... I expect a healthy spiritual life to bring me challenges. While it is important to have a comfortable environment in which to respond to those challenges, I think that something too comfortable could have undesirable results.

Certainly when I was very depressed, one of my difficulties was that I couldn't deal with things outside my comfort zones... and those comfort zones got smaller and smaller and smaller until even getting out of bed in the morning was a major struggle. I don't want to wear any hair shirts, but I don't want to shy away from that which makes me uncomfortable the way I did then.

I attend a Parish within a Benefice, which has 5 churches, ranging from high to evangelical. I am comfortable in each one.


What I have to offer in terms of musical skill will do far more good if I can concentrate it in one place. Suppose you felt equally comfortable in five churches but needed to choose one to commit your time and energy to? How would you choose?


The underlying message is worship and prayer and music as a community and as part of the Body of Christ here on earth.



I might simplify things even further and say that the underlying message is that we are all beloved of God. That is both a comfort and a challenge. I see worship and service as our acknowledgment of and response to that love.

Sadly I have been to churches where that message didn't seem to be on the agenda; the liturgy had it but the preaching did not and the actions of the church in the wider community did not. And I think that whether a church is seeking to act as an example of God's love--to serve God by loving the world, in thought and word and deed--is more important than whether I feel comfortable. That's paradoxical too, of course, because I'm far more likely to feel a certain degree of comfort in a community which does attempt that sort of service.

Thank you for your well-wishes; I've been seeking a while, and I think I'll be seeking for a long time to come. Hopefully I'll find a local church which has a number of people who can share some of the journey. Thankfully I don't have to decide immediately which one that might be.

it's margaret said...

Song --don't look for symbolic meaning in incense and bells. Just go for the experience. Worship should engage every part of us --sight, sound, smell, taste... worship should be totally physical--especially for Christians --in celebration of bodiness --Incarnation! So, just go for the experience....

any way, that's my thought...

Grandmère Mimi said...

No advice, Song, but I know you'll find your place - maybe through searching, or maybe through settling. Prayers that you find your way.

Song in my Heart said...

Margaret

Thanks for the comment. I think the smells and bells have got a lot more airtime in comments than I thought they would...

...and if I can get used to and grow to love a four-hour-long service in Hebrew, I can probably deal with some incense and a bit of noise. Really. Though I miss the high proportion of singing and I still want to lift up to standing on my toes three times at the words "holy, holy, holy" and I suspect nobody else there would know quite why.

Song in my Heart said...

Grandmère Mimi, thanks for your faith and your prayers.

Grandmère Mimi said...

I still want to lift up to standing on my toes three times at the words "holy, holy, holy" and I suspect nobody else there would know quite why.

I do, too, and I know why - at least I know why I do, and I expect that I know why you do.

Song in my Heart said...

Grandmère Mimi,

I do, too, and I know why - at least I know why I do, and I expect that I know why you do.

I am surprised and comforted by that, as well as curious as to where you might have picked up such an inclination. And I'm taken down a peg or two, as well: I shouldn't make assumptions about where others have been or what they might know or not know.

Thank you.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Song, images and stories are vital to my faith. With the words "Holy, holy, holy...." comes the image from Isaiah 6:1-6, with the Lord lifted up on a high and lofty throne and on through the rest of the description to the end, "Send me".

And contrary to most, I love the Book of Revelation because of the gorgeous imagery and the many passages on worshiping God. I am not ashamed to say that I love to worship God, especially in song, and I actually want to go up when I sing.

There I am, Song, in all my craziness.

As to where I picked up the inclination, I have no idea. Grace, maybe?

Song in my Heart said...

Grandmère Mimi, I don't think that's craziness.

In the kedushah -- part of the amidah, the core of Jewish prayers -- many in the congregation I prayed with would stand on toes at "kadosh, kadosh, kadosh". I still want to do that, even using an English translation. I imagine their reasons and yours are similar. Grace abounds!