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The Priest in Charge writes about ...                         

 

Worship at St. James'

 

At last year's AGM in the Community Hall at St. James' a room full of people made a very brave and courageous decision.  We agreed that we wanted to grow our church congregation.  We could all see that, to ensure a future for St. James', we need to attract new and younger members to our community.

We also know that to do this, we will probably have to think long and hard about what we offer people when they come to St. James' and make some changes.  The words that we say every week and the way in which we worship has remained roughly the same for many years and we love them.  But if we really put ourselves in the shoes of someone who is new to church, we will realise that some of our words and prayers are written in a language that is out of date.  It is not the language of today and so for some will not mean as much as it does to us.   This means that words that lead us to God, for others these words leave them cold.

Some years ago we introduced an informal Family Service on the first Sunday of the month and this regularly attracts good numbers of young families and children.  We can see that people, some with no church tradition, feel comfortable and at ease and have an enjoyable and fulfilling experience of church.  And we have regularly, in my time at St. James', offered Eucharistic services for younger people at Harvest, Advent, Mothering Sunday and Pentecost, where we have slightly shortened the service and included children in what we do.  These have also proved very popular.

So, in the spirit of bravery and courageousness, on Sunday 18th February we will start to offer a more informal Eucharist, which we are calling 3rd Sunday at 10.  This will be a Eucharist and it will be for all the St. James' community, young and old.  Our children and young families will join us from the beginning and be part of everything that happens.  It will be slightly more informal but the centre will still be our meeting Jesus at the altar in bread and wine, his body and his blood. This Holy Communion is at the centre of our worship at St. James' and we want to be able to share it with everybody.  It is a moment when we stand, like Moses before the burning bush, on holy ground.  It is a time when we can meet with God.  We know that the children and parents, even if they are not confirmed, really value coming to the altar for a blessing.

A very wise person has said that children sit in a service just waiting for the next thing that they will do.  So we will involve them from the beginning to the end, in welcoming people to church, in lighting a candle, in singing songs that they know, in readings, in drama, in the peace, in bringing up the elements and in the blessing.  There will not be a sermon for adults from the pulpit but a talk for all from the floor.  But what has been so wonderful in the past when we have done this is the positive response of older members of the congregation to this kind of worship.  People are so pleased to see children bringing life and joy and laughter to our worship and of course a real bonus will be the opportunity for young and old to join together in the activities which we engage in.

This does mean some change.  But I have been encouraged by how many people of all ages have been urging us, as a ministry team, to do this for some time.  I feel that in this new service we are leaving behind some of the words and traditions of the past which, while they have served us well, are now past their sell-by date, and developing new ways of worship that will really engage with people who are new to church.  And, of course, we will continue to worship in the traditional ways on the 2nd, 4th and 5th Sundays.  Can I ask you to pray for the success of this venture - for us as a ministry team as we develop and grow this service and for all of us that we begin to grow a new and younger congregation?

John