Tuesday, 21 September 2010

"Work of the People"

This is taken from a book called Gathered and Scattered, and was written by a volunteer from 2000.  A guest passed this passage on to me after a conversation we had at dinner a few nights back.

"'Liturgy' means 'the work of the people', I'm told.  That's how it was on Iona most of the time.  We all did services - not just the ministers - the cooks, the shop staff, the maintenance team... Different people had different gifts.  Some were good at writing prayers, some were good at music, some were good at leading, some were good at seeing how the whole would hang together.  You know, like that bit in Corinthians.  In churches it's hardly ever like that.  No wonder they're empty.  Who wants someone talking down to them from a box?  What is this 1666?  When I left Iona it was so dissapointing going back to church.  It was really depressing.  Someone told me I might get to read a Bible passage if I stayed long enough.  'I did sermons on Iona', I wanted to say."

This is really striking a chord with me today.  Perhaps it's because I've spent the day preparing tomorrow night's service.  Or maybe because the end of the season is fast approaching, and I'm starting to think about life after Iona.  Going back to my church back home will be very strange for me.  Not only is the tradition completely different to the ecumenical community I've been living in, but the service will be led by one person and one person only.  I'll have to sit in the pews like everyone else and pretend I'm not capable of being up there myself.

Part of what has kept 'church' alive for me this year has been the fact that it could be anything.  You never really know what the service will be about till you're there.  Some I've led myself have even felt like that.  One night we're praying for Africa, the next we're looking at how a fruit salad is a bit like us really.  Every Sunday when I go to church will I be constantly challenged and engaged?  Or will I just begin to switch off as I get used to it again, remembering what comes next?  When I go home I expect church to feel normal.  But I don't want it to.  I want it to be strange every time.  I don't want to feel comfortable.  Comfortable invariably means I'm not listening.  If I don't know what to expect or what's coming next I have to listen, don't I?

So I should up and move churched, right?  There's a problem with that.  I would have to leave behind what I call my church 'family'.  The church I'm part of right now, even though I've not been there this year, is still a little community I'm part of.  They are my friends... my support in all things God.  We may not share the same views, or want the same from a service, but we love each other and understand each other.  And after leaving the community on Iona, I don't want to have to leave another.

Tough one, huh?!