Monday, December 15, 2008

At church on the street

After the main Eucharist this morning, at which Ben preached his second sermon, creditably, there was a hundred strong gathering of worshippers from the City Temple outside St John's in Working Street. They'd decided to hold their main service outdoors among the shoppers as an act of public witness, and had obtained official permission to do so. The occasion was just right, as the sky was blue and the sun shining brightly in the still crisp late morning air.

We arranged for them to have a power supply form the church boiler house for a keyboard and public address system, and this worked well without being overbearing and intrusive. Musical accompaniment was jazzy and the carols went with a swing. Stewards distributed carol leaflets, and gave out little chocolates to passers by, sharing the good hearted cheer. It introduced an element joy and festivity to the streets, as they grew busier with the arrival of shoppers.

Ben and I went out and joined them, when we'd finished in church. It was interesting the see the mixture of reactions from passers by - from joining in, to outright rejection and annoyance. The 'animation' of the event was affirmative, full of genuine confidence, nothing tentative about it. It included a gritty testimony from a converted ex-drug addict. I felt they succeeded in addressing ordinary people with tone of the event, demonstrating that living a committed Christian life does make a difference. Chatting with their leaders afterwards, happy at the turnout and the way it had been received, I discovered that going on the streets en masse was something they did rarely. I'd like to think that they were encouraged by this initiative to repeat the event.

There was no doubt that this community was there promoting the blessings of a life of Christian faith for ordinary people. It was so different from every other kind of promotional activity that is hosted by the city centre streets - driven by the heart, rather than by the bottom line of the balance sheet.

In the later services of the day I got to re-read the Bishops' Advent Three letter appealing for vocations to Ministry and support for training. It was also striving to motivate members to recognise what vocation is all about - but it was all aimed at the intellect - you could say that it's what we Anglicans do best. But does it have to be the only thing? Would that we were as good at telling inspiring stories of faith as our pentecostal neighbours!

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