At today's Sung Eucharist, a couple who've been attending St John's for several years occasionally, and of late more frequently brought with them their son and daughter in law, visiting from Ulster, with their first new grand-daughter, Eva three months old. They'd announced that they were all coming to church last week, with much delight, and asked if the baby could have a special blessing, which I was pleased to agree.
I offered a prayer of blessing and welcome for the family and their new arrival just before the Peace, so that everyone could go and greet them and have a look at the baby, proudly in Grandpa's hands. The family shared a super chocolate cake with us all afterwords, and Bethan - Andrew and Ceri's daughter also had a fifth birthday cake to share, and we all sang 'Happy Birthday'. Eva is just the same age as my grand daughter Jasmine, currently in the Canadian Rockies with her parents, much missed.
Andrew, our seminarian on parish placement from St Michael's this year, preached for the third Sunday in a row. He's nicely thoughtful and confident, and was willing enough to add the extra sermons into his workload - last week the Principal came to assess him. It's refreshing to listen to someone who is still in the process of learning how he can convey his convictions, and is putting in the necessary work of sounding his own thoughts off against the Christian writers he is studying. It means I get a glimpse of Andrew's ideas and the ideas of those he is finding stimulating. Second hand theology? Yes. Only ideas that are transmissible and intelligible are worthy of consideration.
The other nice thing is that Ceri and their three under-five children accompany him to church. Along with our two regular under twos, and three older children, twenty percent of the congregation were under thirteen. When I think of the young adults who are also coming regularly as well, our main act of worship for the week is truly all-age representative, even if there are only four dozen of us. And with us always, there are people from different parts of the world, either regulars like Chieje from Nigeria or the Chinese woman visiting from Hong Kong, part of whose graduate study programme is here. There's a constancy and consistency about this encounter in worship that is healthy and encouraging, no matter how traditional some may regard it. Yes, it's quality rather than numbers. It's a small congregation that somehow always succeeds in visibly reflecting the church universal when it meets.
You just can't beat it.