On Sunday The Curate took two very different services for the first time, in two of the churches in the area where we are now living. It reminded us both of how broad the Church of England has to be. In the morning The Curate led a family service with a worship group, overhead projectors, an elaborate sound system and not a traditional hymn sung. In the afternoon we travelled a few miles for The Curate to take a traditional service in a very small moorland church with wonderful organ playing. This was combined with the local Methodist church.
The first church is well organised and everyone seems to have their role - although they were asking for helpers in the young people's church. It was an enthusiastic lively service. When it came to coffee afterwards, people gathered in their groups and it was quite difficult to know how to fit in or who to talk to. Yet again, I felt like a bit of a spare part and wondered whether I should just walk home rather than wait for The Curate. Don't misunderstand me, I am quite able to start a conversation if people don't have their backs to me. But I will persevere.
We took the dogs with us to walk up another tor before the moorland service. It was such an exhilarating experience. Afterwards,The Curate went to the church and I walked the dogs around the village until I left them in the car and joined him there. It was easy for me to slide into this service - it all seemed so like the services of my childhood. In this setting, I loved it.
There were the same number of children as the morning service and they all sat together giggling and helping each other to follow the service book - no word searches here. One girl read the bible reading by standing up and turning to face the small congregation. No microphones here. It felt as if the church had seen generations of people meeting to praise God together.
During the communion, The Curate crouched down to bless the smallest boy there and was asked, " Will you play hide and seek with me?". The Curate replied he was a little busy at the moment and both mother and grandmother found this highly amusing.
Tea was served at the back of the church in china cups with saucers and homemade biscuits. I was quickly scooped up into conversation and got to know many people. Some walkers dropped by to see the church and were invited to have a cup pf tea with us all. When the sun came out, I collected the dogs and they joined us in the churchyard. Several of us took turns to play hide and seek with the young chap. This involved being told where to hide by him, then he would count to three and come and find us. It didn't take long and we had the time.
It all felt so 'English' - to be sipping tea from china cups, in the sunshine, in view of the sheep on the Tor and children playing in amongst all the people. It's hard not to romanticise it all. Perhaps you might think that it's stuck in a time warp. But it appeared to work very well that afternoon.