The weekend was spent in a long planned and much anticipated break with some friends. We availed ourselves of a company perk of v cheap accommodation which turned out to be fantastically welcoming and well equipped but somewhat behind the times.
The weekend presented a great opportunity to catch up and enjoy company and scenery alike. We shared cheese and stories, cheese and wine, cheese and mead (yay) and cheese and cheese. Spot a theme? On Sunday we, like the good Christian children we aren’t, went to the local church service. Never have I wanted to wretch the poor limp, lifeless body of the service out of the preacher’s hands so soon into a service! Technically I don’t even think it had started!
It’s probably worth clarifying before going any further that this was a guest preacher who’d never been invited before and I strongly doubt will get a return invite.
On appearing at the pulpit she had the normal time for notices to sort her papers but she evidently didn’t as when she arose she then explained she needed to find the right pages so we’d start with ‘a half minute of silence… Amen’. I can’t honestly say it was any the more obvious she’d found them when she carried on but I guess she must have!
A time of praise would also have given her the opportunity to get sorted and for us it presented what in hindsight was the best of the time. During it, however, our concern and disapproval was clear amongst the five of us. A very formidable school marm-esque lady (of uncertain name) led the singing. At one point she informed us our singing wasn’t good enough so we’d have to do it again better. On another she apparently told off the choir and the computer in the same breathe for apparently not using the right words to a hymn (the computer had spelling errors apparently… It didn’t. It had the wrong words spelled correctly). The finest moment, however, was suggesting all cold callers should be met with bible in one hand and tea in the other to be invited in for discussion. It turned out she only meant religious door salespeople e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses. She made it perfectly clear that she wanted them to be banned from proselytising but that opportunities for us to convert the heathens were important for us. Kinda worrying for these 5 hellbound liberals when that’s the lightness.
As we returned to the main ‘preacher’ she continued in her dithery way through a kids address which would have been effective in anyone else’s hands. Well, almost anyone. Praise lady had a go in a way which only managed to further condemn this failing activity. Afterwards the kids were removed to a safe distance for junior church. The mrs wanted to know if she could be a child on this occasion.
On their departure we were introduced to the hymn with the immortal imagery that our walk with Jesus is like walking a dog (for him or us, we wondered? I also wanted to know whether if I clicked my heels together three times Jesus and I could go home). The Mrs finally gave in at this point and cracked up in tears and laughter. We weren’t sure whether the looks from the woman in the row in front were of sympathy or solidarity, or both.
The prayers, all of them in one go, were shared in appropriate style: wittery, incoherent and unpc. They included little direction but many uncertain uses of the words please and ‘Jesus I just erm’. Highlights included ‘the dark parts of Africa’ and only prayers for the Christians. Even the lords prayer was introduced with something like ‘i wonder if we could now say the lords prayer, erm, please?’
Our one reading was shared, despite two being listed (and the second being more interesting) and the sermon began. Well, you could say it was a sermon, or you could say it was the incoherent, disorganised, inappropriate ramblings of an ill-informed, ungifted and otherwise hopeless person trapped in 1930’s levels of political correctness and who represented not only an affront to my denomination or faith but to all even nominally religious everywhere. On this occasion perhaps I should call it the ‘sermon’!
After declaring her position as one who was pleased that the church followed the lectionary because it challenged her and others to look for something from the readings rather than just decide what to say and find scripture to back it up. If she’d managed to do this we’d have all found it more palatable. She didn’t. She didn’t even seem to have a theme through what she’d said, despite having proposed one at the beginning. What we did learn from her was that she couldn’t work from the lectionary and the whole of Mark was appropriately bastardised and yet she still failed to make a credible point. The only memorable point, however, was that Jesus is a voyeur but only of Christians. Apparently he doesn’t watch other peoples lives. If that’s not an advert for defection nothing is! She also clarified that Jesus hears everything we say and sometimes we should hold onto that and be quiet. We all wanted to suggest that this was one such occasion. She didn’t, however, say anything about the reading we’d heard.
As the ‘service’ drew to an end we had to sing the wrong hymn, thus confirming we were not singing from the same hymn (book) sheet. As we joined hands with those around us for the grace out eyes were met by pleading apologetic eyes who also were uncertain about which of our many sins had led to such punishment.
As we turned to leave the sympathy continued with an invite to the next service with the very obvious subtext that it could in no way be that bad, and should we be brave enough to return on that occasion we could even get an apple for our troubles. Bribery is always the way forward. 😉 More covert apologies were offered and we made the swiftest exit we could get away with. On our return to our own space all 5 of us cracked up in equal measure of tears and laughter. Never have any of us been to a service which has led to such levels of disbelief, anger, frustration and entertainment. The people seemed lovely and welcoming but the service really was an experience to be beheld but certainly not one to ever be repeated!
(aside: is it inappropriate to tag this in the ‘worship’ category?!)