Keep Sunday Special!

Picture the scene for a moment and try and put yourself in this person’s shoes.

I want you to imagine that rather than being a regular churchgoer or church leader, you are a seeker. Someone who on a Sunday morning wakes up – perhaps with a sore head from one too many -  and wonders if there might be more to life than their day to day life which despite many attempts to find meaning and purpose, still doesn’t feel right.  There is something missing that you can’t put your finger on.

So you take a punt, and you Google your local church, and find out its only 5 minutes’ walk, and their service is at 10.30am which is a relief because any earlier would be a struggle!

Nervously you walk up to the door, and think about abandoning it all and going for a cappuccino in the next door café – but you then go for it and cross the threshold. Your heart  is beating, as if you were going into a stranger’s house – and a stranger’s house which you felt both guilty and unworthy to be entering.

But you do… and what do you experience? Let’s think briefly about that experience

·      as you get in

·      when you are in

·      and as you leave.

As you get in

How we are greeted matters. As someone famously said “First impressions make lasting impressions”. Our welcomers need to be intuitive. They need not to smother people in Christian kindness, but to recognise what different people need. This is a skill, and a gift, but it also a ministry. Our Welcomers have a distinctive ministry in the same way that, say, musicians do; and they need to be affirmed, and trained for that. Customer Service matters!

When you are in?

What about the content of the service? We bother and worry and prepare the content above all, but in doing so, I wonder if we miss something.

St John Vianney said this as advice to priests:  “Say the Mass as if it’s your first, your last, your only”. It’s another way of saying that every act of worship is a unique on-off never to be repeated beautiful offering, and so needs to be the best it possibly can be. “My utmost for his highest” in the words of Oswald Chambers. And whilst our worship is not a performance – it should be an event, and it should be dramatic and theatric. After all, in a communion service we are remembering the gift of the food of Jesus himself which he commanded us to do. So worship needs to be brought to life.

But this is not just the job of the priest/leader. This is the job of anyone and everyone who is contributing to the service – reading, praying, welcoming, making coffee, distributing communion. Every aspect of our worship should bring life – whether vibrant or reflective.

What I am saying is to make every Sunday morning the best it possibly can be. Quality and Excellence should be our aspiration and as LyCiG always talks about … using the talents we have to the best however few people we might have or however many we do.

And as you leave

Welcome is still going on as you leave. If you are dipping your toe into church for the first time, or for the first time for ages, you may have been completely bemused by the worship and language which although familiar to us is so alien to others. Don’t worry about this – we don’t need to understand everything in worship, but we do need to be drawn into the drama, and part of that drama is the Christian family itself.

So by all means invite people to stay for coffee or wine or whatever you serve, but don’t let them go without saying hello and making them feel as if they matter. Make sure you have one or two “people people”, whose sacrifice is not to talk to their friends after the service but whose ministry is to talk to those who have come for the first time.

Generous hospitality is not just a plate laden with Jaffa Cakes (other confectionary is available!), but the hospitality of the heart. It is this – and the sincerity, integrity and raw passion with which we lead worship that will compel.

Let me leave you with some words from Professor Brene Brown, who paints an amazing picture of the capacity for worship to lead to new birth:

"I went back to church thinking that it would be like an epidural, like it would take the pain away. But church was not an epidural for me at all; it was like a midwife who just stood next to me saying ‘Push. It’s supposed to hurt a little bit’ ...
I thought faith would say, ‘I’ll take away the pain and discomfort’, but what it ended up saying is, ‘I'll sit with you in it’.”

Canon Tim Sledge, Head of Fundraising, Portsmouth Cathedral


Message us