Monday, December 10, 2007

Day of performances

An overnight trip for us to Kenilworth to watch granddaughter Rhiannon and fifty other under fours sharing in the same playgroup take part in a nativity tableau in the Parish Church of St John the Evangelist. This year she was one of the Wise Men, and mum bought her a special costume in Woolworths. It was wonderful to behold the enthusiastic involvement of all these little ones, parading around and singing (or shouting) with gusto.

Despite the evidence of sophisticated display technology (a huge state of the art screen hinged out from one wall, showing larger than life video feeds of the stage for all at the back to see, neither church heating nor amplification was switched on, making it daunting for the audience on a chilly day, but the kids didn't seem to notice. They were either all grins, or awestruck with amazement. It just amazes me how making the church welcoming to all comers seems so difficult to get right. There wasn't even an apology or a welcome from anyone representing the church. However, the playgroup leaders did an excellent job, and my personal word of congratulation at the end seemed to be appreciated.

We had to drive straight back to Cardiff after the performance, so that I could be on time for the usual God on Mondays. Fortunately the weather and road conditions were good and enabled us to make good time, and I was able to grab some lunch and catch up on necessary details before going down to school. Then there were final preparations to take care of in order to present the CBS Ltd. Annual Report by tomorrow's deadline, involving a lot of waiting for others to turn up, followed by spending the rest of the evening in and around church waiting and the clearing up after the day long visit of a production team working with choirs and a live audience to film the Christmas TV broadcast of the Welsh S4C channel's 'Dechrau Canu Dechrau Canmol' hymn fest.

Having a full TV crew in church is always a nightmare as they turn the place upside down to make it into a temporary studio. No matter what precautions you take, there's always collateral damage caused by men absorbed in their task ignoring their environmental impact, banging into things and damaging them and hardly noticing. This was encapsulated for me once, watching a film of a Latin American solider shooting dead the very cameraman who had him in focus.

Philip the organist was justifiably hopping mad to find a long score mark across a century old pristine oak panel, caused by someone trying to squeeze their equipment into a tiny space for a special angled shot. He vented his fury in the most sustained and controlled way to the producer afterwards - which saved me shouting at him, I guess. I was also annoyed.

It's always the same. We want our lovely building to be well used and well publicised, but whatever we do there's a price to be paid - extra time sweeping up and caretaking after the crew or visitors have left thinking they've put things right. But they're tired too, after an intense day's work, and know nothing of who will follow them in using the church the following morning.

Those last out of the building are the ones who remember what it's supposed to look like. I'm just so lucky that it's rare for me to be alone and last. Other members of the church welcome team are there too keeping an eye on events, forestalling problems, limiting the damage of the careless. It's what has to be when you can't afford a caretaker. It's just wonderful that practical responsibility for being a 'church for others' is seen as a shared task. When St Paul spoke of his "daily burden of concern for the churches" though, I don't think this was what he had in mind.

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