If historical literature is to be believed there was a long spell in church history when cathedrals and abbeys and churches were overfull.
Well they would be as life expectancy was short and fear was not.
Easy then for church teaching and / or the professionals to lower the numbers by putting all sorts of bans in place. Men in certain jobs (e.g. tannery) and women after child birth and any people with skin diseases (are they infectious or not).
Today for churches and perhaps other faiths too the existentialist crisis is of a different timbre. The language therefore is of invitation.
Invitation not only to attend, but also to commit. (good business model – think loyalty cards and subscription inducements)
Invitation also in content – we can choose to make of the sermon what we will and choose to engage with whatever resonates. (also good business model – think personalising your new phone)
Invitation also therefore by extension to… ?
- moral compass
- ethical directives
- the meaning of rituals and symbols
- adapted truth…
Where am I going with this ?
As we start a new school year, we are, we’ve been told and indeed hope, at the tail end of a pandemic. For months I have told you (asked you) verbally and in writing and online – to stay home – in other words to stay away from church.
For your own protection and for the protection of others who may be more vulnerable or less protected than we are.
The game changer is not a defeated virus or one that has mutated into a harmless version of itself, though that may yet come. The change is that very many of us who belong to St Catherine’s have now a great deal of protection either because we have been vaccinated ourselves or because many others around us have and therefore pose less of a danger to our health.
After months of staying away, how then are we to resume our communal life ?
Some of us found others to gather around and share online worship and prayer and resources.
Others of us gathered over zoom (coffee and compline and a couple of services) were able to share in prayer or discussion together with others.
Yet others of us have gathered at the OutdoorChurch events both last summer and this and that has allowed gathering and the meeting of new friends as well as worship and prayer and fellowship.
Still others have on Saturday evenings for most but not all the weeks gathered, mostly around non sacramental worship, mostly also without singing, but not without music!
The young people have encouraged us all by leading Bible readings and prayers online and by joining in with seasonally posted projects for them to enjoy at home.
Discussions have taken place in long form (discussion forum) or more briefly (Sunday20:20) when someone has asked for something topical and thus these remain not regular but spontaneous events.
Where we are now and will be in the medium term is a mixed menu. And we are Invited (!) to take responsibility for our own spiritual well-being and needs amid the challenges that remain.
So resources, including liturgies are there online. Services at church are offered 3 times a month on Sundays (fellowship before the service while the church is airing after AK use) and these will be mostly Short Eucharist. Once a month the Saturday service will remain and these will be mostly Evensong.
There have been a lot of factors taken into the process by which we have arrived at this church-going pattern. Also what will remain are some of the Zoom events – Coffee (fellowship and discussion for half an hour) on the weekends when church falls on Saturday, also Bible Study Group on Wednesdays under Solomon’s leadership (they hope to go hybrid soon), also Compline (a brief quiet prayerful liturgy on Sunday evenings) and from time to time some bolt-ons as requests for such come in and these will be largely thematic.
Any formal shape of Sunday School provision will not yet be possible and in any case very many of our children have outgrown that model. But given that church attendance still needs to be signed up for – when young people are present some provision will be made for them. This could be a really special time for family church-going actually. One parent attends with one or two of the children this week and perhaps the other parent with the rest on another Sunday, with a Sunday outing possible on yet another weekend and online resources to fall back on. Those still vulnerable or fearful remain safe at home but not uncared for nor left out. Ditto for those who live a long way off and the travel is prohibitive, they too can join in with online and zoom and hybrid events.
We may thus find ourselves with weekly Bible Study or Compline or monthly Coffee getting some new members. We may thus find ourselves meeting some people at church and others on zoom.
There is every reason to embrace the changes that the pandemic has unleashed, as enriching and even freeing.
May you and your household be blessed as you make decisions and choices about meeting your spiritual needs. Where there are gaps (I am still working on something contemplative) then wing me an email and I shall see what can be managed.
see www.stcatherines-stuttgart.de for more details