March 2011 Letter

So what else goes on in church these days?

 

Last month, I started to go through some of the different types of  services available in our churches, beginning with the Eucharist, or Communion services.  This month, I will run through some of the other services on offer.  It’s a good month to be doing it because Lent starts on March 9th; the forty days which lead up to Easter and during which it is traditional to do a bit of spiritual ‘spring-cleaning’ of one sort or another.  So this year, instead of (or as well as) trying to give up chocolate or sugar in your tea, why not also join in some of the special Lent services or activities, or try another service that you don’t usually go to.

 

When I used to go to church as a teenager (frighteningly long ago now!), there were only three types of service – if it wasn’t Holy Communion (tucked away at 8 o’clock in the morning for those who had been confirmed) then it was Matins or Evensong from the Book of Common Prayer.  All of them were normally led by a member of the clergy, although some parishes also had ‘Lay Readers’ who were (and still are) trained ministers who are not ordained but who have been approved and licensed by the Bishop to lead services and to preach. 

 

These days you might see ‘Lay Led Family Service’, ‘Morning Prayer’, ‘Morning Praise’, ‘Morning Worship’, ‘Lay Led Service’, Evening Praise and – yes- Evensong is still going too.  And in the future you might  see the heading ‘Messy Church’ as well – which is not just what happens when the church cleaning rota falls off the wall but is a particularly active style of child-friendly worship.  What all these have in common is that they are not Communion services, so they can be led by someone who is not a priest – in church jargon, that is a ‘Lay’ person.  Sometimes that ‘someone’ is a Lay Reader but at those described as ‘Lay Led’ it is simply a small group of people from the congregation who get together to plan and lead the service.  Or sometimes it may be the vicar, or a visiting priest, or a minister from another denomination who has been invited to lead the service.

 

All the services will include hymns or songs, a reading or readings from the Bible, and a sermon or talk or meditation or some other kind of activity to help us understand the readings in a way that is relevant to everyday life.  And of course they will all include prayer – and it is always possible to ask for particular people or situations to be prayed for, either by name or anonymously.  Just ask the person who greets you at the door.

 

All these variations help to ensure that we can continue to worship God in all our village churches Sunday by Sunday, whoever we are.  Nationally, the fastest growing services are Lay-led Family services, and this is probably true here in these churches as well.  Having local mums and dads involved in running and leading the services makes sure that they are really in tune with what children enjoy.  Both Clyst St Mary and Woodbury Salterton have a service like this, and Woodbury has a popular Sunday Club where the children meet for an activity in the Church Rooms and then come into church towards the end of the service.  And Clyst St George is going to be running a Messy Church experiment on a weekday after school –starting at the end of this month, March 28th

 

People who get involved in these services, whether attending or leading them, find that there is more to church that just sitting there.  The same is true of other lay-led services.  What may originally have started to try and stretch one vicar over several churches has become a positive benefit as people are encouraged to use their own gifts and we all realise that we are in this together; trained or untrained, clergy and lay, long-time churchgoers and newcomers alike.  The church is no longer a distant and forbidding institution.  It’s just us – the people of God, coming together to worship and be refuelled by the Holy Spirit for the lives God wants us to leave.  Or perhaps we aren’t quite there yet, but at least we are travelling in the right direction.  And we are journeying together.

 

Rev’d. Karen Spray  01392 877400 church@revdkaren.org.uk        


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