Friends, a thought has come to me.
In the last year or so I have gone less and less to church, and that grieves me. I never thought it would happen. But two things have changed – one is me and the other is the church.
As I grow older, through middle age and onwards toward old age, I find myself (whether I welcome it or not) following the same trajectory as my father did, needing solitude and quietness, avoiding groups and gatherings. I love my family and my friends, and I delight in the theology group that meets at our house. I find parties difficult, and anything multi-stranded where there are several personalities to concentrate on at once, and the space is full of stimuli. I feel so intensely the power (I don’t mean they are dominating or strident, I just mean their soul vibration) of each person I meet that it makes going to church difficult – many people want to greet me, often with special voices on communicating something about my not having been for so long. They are kind and loving but it feels unbearable and I can’t face it. I love the prayers and hymns, the communion; and in Quaker meeting I love the silence and the Light. But the web of interactions is too strongly felt, so that most of the time I cannot muster the force to encounter it.
So I have changed, but so has church. It used to be not a very social occasion, focusing on prayer and singing and quiet homilies, then going home. It has changed – and for the better, I’m sure – to feature more variety, electronic media, opportunities to interact, and a greatly increased focus on community and friendship. And inclusiveness (for which I worked so hard in my own time as a minister of religion) has brought a change in ambience, with children playing in a loud and lively manner, Church is, among other things, community. I don’t regret or object to these changes, but the end result is something I can’t relate to.
Quaker meeting is lovely, but it is not particularly Christian. If you see what I mean, I’m fine with people not being Christian but I would choose for the worship to be Christian. As it is in our Theology Group; you don’t have to be a Christian to come, but it is Christian theology we study and discuss. I love Buddhism and Taoism; I am so grateful for them, they have taught me as much as I have learned in church about how to live as a Christian. But I don’t want to become an actual Buddhist or Taoist, because for me Jesus is the centre.
I miss the quiet gathering for worship of God in Jesus. I miss it a lot.
And the thought came to me today of Quiet Church. I googled to see if anyone else had thought of it and is doing it, and it seems that within the context of regular church communities there is a phenomenon of Quiet Church – basically a bit like Quaker Meeting or a Julian meeting. Just sitting together in silence. But that’s not really what I mean.
If we could ever have a musical accompanist – pianist or guitarist, I’d be happy to sing a hymn or song or chorus. I’d like sometimes if we could break bread in an agape. I’d be happy to use a minimalist liturgical form sometimes. I’d be happy to include an exposition of a scripture.
What I have in mind is just a gathering you could come to, similar to a prayer meeting I suppose, an hour long and no longer, with no refreshments or socializing, only for the worship of God. No money involved – no plant to maintain or preacher/musician fees. Just the people, just in our home.
And, to be clear, this would be inclusive church. Anyone could come who loves Jesus and can sit quietly for an hour. I know babies can wake up and fuss a bit in worship, but the occasional squawk from a baby would be okay, and it would be fine for a mother to breastfeed. Just so long as it was all held within the peace. No chatting, no commotion. And LGBTQ friends would of course be most welcome.
Low-key, peaceful. One hour. Quiet. Holy. On a Sunday morning. Perhaps not every week. Maybe once a month.
What do you think?