And so we move churches again.
To be fair, we’ve not had to do that (save having moved house) since about 2001, but this one’s significant, not least because it relates to some of my earlier entries regarding church and children.
The beginning of the beginning of the end was back in the Spring, when one of the other Sunday School team (there are two teams of two people each doing one session a month. In theory that was weeks 2 and 4 with an all-age service (which I can’t recall ever really happening in any meaningful sense) on the 1st Sunday. We had long ago settled on not coming on weeks 3 and 5 (if such there be) on account of maintaining our sanity with bored kids. This meant the current pattern was untenable, not least because we also had issues that our kids were struggling with the dynamic of parents suddenly morphing into teachers of a sort and them playing up. It was decided that we’d replace the Sunday School with a Junior Church for which the Rector had a suitable form of service and would find people to help with the preparation for and leading of. He told us he’d found three teams, and we’d initially do it once a month on the 3rd Sunday.
The beginning of the end was in September, when the 1st Sunday of the Month – allegedly an all-age service – was taken by a visiting preacher. It was also a baptism. And it was the full liturgy + the baptismal liturgy, with not as far as I could tell even a nod towards the needs of anyone under the age of 25, never mind 10. It must have gone on for an hour and a half (some of you evangelicals out there might think that’s not very long, but I’ll file that under “reasons I’m not an evangelical”) and – well, I can’t recall what the hymns were, they were that dull.
I was reminded of a letter to Viz’ Letterbox that went something along the lines of “I saw a sign saying ‘go to church. It may surprise you!’. I did, and they were right – it was far more tedious than I had expected” – because that’s exactly what it was. Tedious. It was tedious enough for me in my forties; the kids were nearly eating their own limbs in an effort to withstand the heavy weight of the tedium.
I came away concluding that the visiting preacher had not been told that this was meant to be all-age, and would bring it up at the PCC later that month. Which I did, and which rather started to catapult the ordure in the general vicinity of the low-tech air conditioning. I was informed that the service was, as they put it, “child friendly” (which isn’t the same thing, but I let it pass). I had to explain that it wasn’t, that it was tedious even for me, and that we were rapidly getting to the point where we would have to consider moving simply to protect our kids’ nascent faith which we thought was actually being damaged by the boredom they associated with church. The first Junior Church session had happened by then, and the kids had enjoyed it, and that was mentioned as well.
That was when I discovered that the three teams had only committed to do one session each. We had people for October and November and that was it. No-one willing to commit to do any more. I could see problems ahead; I didn’t need a crystal ball for that, but hoped that people would be seized with the situation and rally around to help – we had said also that despite our misgivings about the dynamic with us and our own kids we would be willing to do it as well, but not both on the same session, as that seemed to be the trigger for behavioural issues.
Things weren’t, then, exactly great when we arrived at Church on the third Sunday of October to find nothing prepared at all. We were informed that the PCC had “withdrawn it”. I know they hadn’t, because I hadn’t missed any meetings. So we’re not entirely sure what has happened, except we’ve had to go elsewhere. Shame, but there it is.
Funny thing is, in the end it’s a relief. We were struggling to keep faith with what our church was putting on, while at the same time finding somewhere new with some sustainable provision, and also dabbling in http://www.theorderoftheblacksheep.com/ – in a way, this makes it easier. It’s an ill wind and all that.