Holiday diaries. (The one where we find going to a new church a little strange) 

It’s Day 14 of my recovery from the tonsillectomy. I feel way way better than this time last week but still far far from any kind of normal. Thankfully there are pages and pages of blogs on the internet given over to recovering from an adult tonsillectomy. It’s a universal hideous experience which reassures me somewhat.

Anyway. I’m sure I should be having some sort of spiritual epiphany about living slow and immediate and how my identity is rooted deep in something stronger and more lasting than my work, friends, life, ability to leave the house etc. But mainly I’m mainlining Gilmore Girls (almost 5 seasons in 2 weeks) and listening to Harry Potter (book 4 now) and trying not to worry about the impeding arrival of September and new routines and the no church community situation and many other things I don’t feel ready for.

So, I have a lack of epiphany but fear not, I wrote some holiday diaries from our jaunt around Ireland that I shall share here for your edification. All out of order just to confuse things. First up is from the day we went to church. I’ve never liked going to church on holiday but we were with family who had been invited by friends and it was a Good Thing to do. But it got me thinking. 

Holiday diaries pt 4 or 5 

Sunday again 

We’ve made it to the north. A long long day of driving yesterday through mountains, green lands and into the familiar world of flags and separation that sadly marrs the landscape. We’ve made it to our second holiday cottage, an improvement on the last, and to more country roads for me to run around in the morning sun. 

Today we went out for a standard ‘fry’ this morning followed by a walk on the seafront. We then experienced church with the family, invited by a friend of theirs. Going to new churches is so so hard. It makes you remember that you can’t judge a church by one service or even any service. Going to a service at a church you don’t know is weird. Nothing this morning was really explained that well, the people leading didn’t introduce themselves, there wasn’t anything to even vaguely engage the kids in the first half an hour before their group (if kids are there I think there should be something to help them interact and help it not just be a how quiet can my child be exercise) their group in the end consisted of bible quiz knowledge, sweets and no welcome for the new ones. Sigh. I imagine if you are part of the church and know what’s going on all that is maybe ok. (Or maybe not eh) But- the people were friendly and one couple met us again in the car park later and started chatting more. It wasn’t a bad church. It just wasn’t a great first time experience. 
So if you get new people in the doors this summer, or even if you’ve just got a bit slack at explaining things – here’s my helpful list of things to check on… 

1. If you are leading- introduce yourself. I want to know your name and whether you are the leader etc. 

2. Explain what’s going to happen. And when/if kids will go out. (If they aren’t going out help me out as a parent and don’t have a 45 min talk or tut when they act like 3 years olds cos they are and maybe provide a space with toys we can go to. Or provide hooks they can grasp onto) 

3. If you are the kids leader, welcome my kids into the group, invite them to sit with the others, check if I want to stay or not and assure me that you’ll take care of my kids if I choose to leave and they won’t just be in a corner forgotten about. Also be clear about the end of the group and what happens next. 

4. Explain any in-church jargon. We were told it was Cornerstone week- what that was I still have no idea… 

I’m sure there are more things we can be doing to help people feel at ease about stepping into the weird world of a church service. I’m pretty comfortable with churches and church jargon, I’ve been doing this for 38 years. I still find it hard. Now imagine I’ve never stepped into a church in my life. I’m not sure what I would make of it all. At best it seems to me like going to a club I’m not a member of. We need to get better at being really clear about what we are doing and why. Church services are weird. Maybe they need rethinking altogether. Maybe I can say things like that more easily in this odd inbetween churches world we find ourselves in right now. 

Today’s experience kind of put me off even wanting to start looking for a church back home. It’s so hard and alien to rock up somewhere new, or even familiar if you don’t know the routines and where stuff is and how things work. 

Urgh. Aside from the thorny issue of church we are enjoying catching up with my father and sister in law and our nephew. The boys seem to be getting on well at the moment and although we only see each other a few times a year it is good to do the familiar routines of holiday over here. I hope these weeks are highlights of our boys year and they grow strong awareness of their northern Irish heritage.  

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1 Response to Holiday diaries. (The one where we find going to a new church a little strange) 

  1. louisemabbs says:

    (Sorry this is what I meant to post hope you can eliminate the duplication of your part above!)

    Hi Kath

    I can really commiserate both on illness score though it was mostly Alex who went through it (one thing after another which meant he couldn’t work or do his share of childcare/housecare for long periods when our children were at your stage, but also on the new church experiences. Our job has meant me trailing round lots of congregations in our denomination where he, as the preacher, has been made a great fuss of and I have been left to flounder, mostly I am completely ignored for the whole time – at least half an hour before the service and then until the service is over when a few deem to talk to you if you stay for coffee. Frankly most of them I would never go back to if I was a real new visitor. I’ve been considering doing an article for our national magazine on how to welcome people, so your comments on having the little children is very appropriate too. One church set aside a elderly lady to sit with me & show me around which was kind & thoughtful. One (the most evangelical congregation of the lot) invited me to join them in the pre service prayer meeting which was great – being recognised as part of the team for once!

    As for finding a congregation to settle in, now we don’t have our own to run for the time being, has been a real eye opener too. Tried loads of places locally, mostly unfriendly even when we’ve been several times!, very little solid preaching, mostly overly loud music and a lot of stuff for the ‘in crowd’. If I wasn’t a long term Christian with lots of experiences in lots of types of church I think I’d never go back to most!

    My children being late teens have even less to engage them, nothing for their age range and hardly anyone bothers to talk to them either. They have been enjoying One Church which seems to be more open, has reasonable worship and good sermons usually, but it’s so far away from our house, either a long car drive and parking (& goes against our environmentally responsible life choices) or an even longer and not so frequent bus journey. Though with family holidays and textile show’s I’ve needed to be at over the summer I haven’t been to church for about a month which feels really bad.

    Let’s hope we both find a good spiritual home where our families are welcomed and we are challenged too, before too long

    I hope you get well soon & hope hubby’s mood is doing better with the medical help too. Hope you’ve enjoyed the holiday inspite of the current pain too

    Must get on with some work!

    Love Louise

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