Monday mornings: I like them slow. Monday mornings are my sanity time- filing from Sunday, putting Sunday to bed…. leisurely reflection on the Sunday coming, praying, planning and getting some focus for the week to come and then a long lunchtime run around the village….
The last thing I want to do on Monday morning is to go out and see people: it disrupts this time.
One of the small chapels that I am minister of is in a community with no big sense of community: the school closed over 30 years ago- there is no shop, no post office, the parish church is down to fortnightly services with less than a handful attending, the pub struggles and on a good Sunday, the Methodist chapel has just over two handfuls. Almost everone drives to the large market town for everything they need or want.
Monthly for about 6-9 months a year a small housegroup meets: over 50% of the church are part of it. Over time it has become a place where people talk about ordinary stuff, pray through it and then see how the Bible touches what has been talked about. It is one of the least ‘holy huddles’ I know.
A year ago, they began to lament the lack of community. One who was on the parish council leafleted the area and began a once a year Christmas tree lighting (the tree was always there- it had never been lit officially- just turned on)- 50 turned up of all ages for conversation, chocolate and carol singing (spontaneous) and piled into chapel. It was fantastic to watch the faces of chapel people as ‘their’ chapel had muddy footprints all over it and cake rubbed into the carpet: they loved it!
Someone else said: ‘Why don’t we start a coffee morning in the village hall?’ and they did. Community is slowly being rebuilt. It’s on Mondays….mornings….. my worst time. This Monday I went again. Slowly I am being recognised and being part of it. Slowly people are being opening up and talking about what other things can be done; can a toddler group be started? I am begining to see people in the community instead of just turning up once a month to run a service and visit church members. My challenge is: could I be more regular there?
Thing is: I haven’t a clue where this is going to lead. It may just ‘stop’ there. Or things may grow and develop. Perhaps worship may start, perhaps informal prayer may start or maybe something else will grow that will bless the community. Perhaps the chapel may grow in numbers. Maybe it will close. I haven’t got a clue and I feel the delicious possibility of not knowing the way ahead.
Stop: looking at it one way it is ‘just’ a coffee morning and I really should be attending to other stuff:- planning meetings, delving into the word…trying to get the group of churches I am part of financially sounder (I am the wrong minister to be able to do this!)or is being there part of it?
Part of me longs to be in a bigger church with a full range of activities and to be ‘known’ nationally. Most of me, however, loves to be in these ‘church, but not church’ situations which by their nature are fragmentary, loose and tenuous where I can watch, look and listen and hear the music of the kingdom playing gently in the background even if I sometimes can’t hear the full melody or if I sing out of tune…..
…where now, O Lord?