While DH is away, I too have ‘taken leave’ from my church responsibilities, including attending on Sundays. People are very well intentioned about not interrupting DH in any way, but they wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to funnel information through me … actually, when I hear a snippet of news I pass it on in any case – particularly prayer needs as I hear them. You see, I have my spies … :D DD2 is still going to DC2 out of a need for routine (not that she pays any attention to what’s going on around her – last week she couldn’t even tell me who was preaching :doh:), and on Tuesdays I go to a coffee afternoon at DC1.

But what about Sundays? Well, I’m doing something of a church crawl … visiting the various churches I’ve heard a lot about but never seen in action. It’s been an interesting exercise.

All of them are on our ‘wavelength’ as regards doctrine, so that’s not an issue as it would be for someone moving to a new area and looking for a church. So instead I can concentrate on the details.

Church No 1 was lively and full, with all ages evident, with a good music band and overhead projection. I was handed a notice-sheet on my way in, but no-one actually spoke to me until I was noticed by the vicar – sometimes there’s no being anonymous as a vicar’s wife! :blush: Then I noticed a couple I knew (retired vicar and wife) who waved at me across the pews. But apart from a conversation at the end of the service (see below) no-one else spoke to me at all, although the chat before the service was very persistent so that one couple sitting behind me carried on almost the whole way through. The vicar is lovely, but rather chaotic, and I guess the service was made in his image :lol: I found it quite distracting, especially when the children came back from their classes during the prayers, so he simply stopped praying and beckoned them in and we had no more prayer although he’d really only just started (I hope!). The preaching was very ‘vicar-ish’ too … good content, but rather rambling structure, with, however, some brilliant illustrations that drew you in. It was rather chilly and I kept my coat on throughout, which made reacting to some of the lovely music rather difficult. As the children came back, I noticed one of DD1’s school friends, so at the end of the service I went to chat to her mother – a god-incidence as I hadn’t met her before and needed to ask her something. Good to know, too, that she has a lively faith, so we can relate to each other in our concerns for our girls. Coffee was served at the back of the church following the service – it was all rather crowded, so I slipped out and didn’t see the retired clergy couple to talk to, which I would have liked.

Church No 2 was also lively and full, again all ages, with a guitar and piano for music, good clear leadership from the front, relaxed ministry and worship. We used either overhead projection or books as the seating is rather unusual and there is no way that everyone could see the screen. The arrangement actually unsettled me, as I sat with my back to the communion table and east window – I suppose they don’t use it. It is a very old church and they’ve had to adapt. Once again, however, apart from a hello at the door, no-one spoke to me and I was left to find my own way to coffee in the hall (I didn’t go).

Church No 3 was large and felt empty, and it was cold. It was also rather gloomy and dull because the lighting is poor. And my first impression was that despite the space it was rather cluttered (or perhaps it was that there were bits and pieces dotted around every available surface, rather than there being a lot of stuff IYSWIM?). Again, we have overhead projection which was adequate but no more, and although they projected the bible reading I like to read in context, so I took a pew bible only to realise the print was so small I couldn’t manage with my reading glasses which I don’t carry with me :( The band were dreadful :( A piano (not their usual pianist as I knew she wouldn’t be there) and voices … I think it was the voices that were the problem, as they were well amplified but not particularly tuneful and in one song the loudest voice simply couldn’t get the timing right so it became something of a battle between the voice and the piano so that the congregation didn’t know who to follow. It didn’t help that for that one song, the overhead projection failed to display the words for quite a while …

Embarrassingly, I hadn’t noticed as I knew the song well and didn’t look at the screen, so I followed the piano in only to find I was singing solo before the voices joined me – and I don’t have a quiet singing voice! :blush:

The ministry was adequate, even able, although it lacked structure (one of the perils of having trained myself is that you become an able critic!). And then it came to communion. I enjoyed the compact liturgy (it was a ‘family communion’ although there were only the vicar’s own three children there as far as I could tell), but the bread tasted soapy, horrid (I wonder if the server had used a hand cleanser, as it had a chemical tang to it) :wacko: I certainly felt able to worship, but in was in spite of, not helped by the above!

It was the largest church of the three, with the smallest congregation, and they were mostly elderly … but of all three churches so far it was by far the friendliest … two folk spent time with me before the service (I was unknown to them), one of them even leaning forward at points throughout the service to fill me in on details, which I could have done without, but which was kind of her. And I was invited to coffee at the back after the service. I took the opportunity to introduce myself to the vicar (I know of him, but hadn’t actually met him yet as he has only recently arrived), and once folk had time to look at me one or two recognised me since DH preached there regularly during the interregnum. But were I to be in a position to think of joining … it seems petty but the gloom and the music would make it quite a struggle!

Over half term we’ll be visiting our regular holiday congregation, but when I’m back I have a few more Sundays to go visiting … I have another C of E on my list and a couple of other denominations. I’m really quite enjoying myself! :D