Monday, 22 December 2008
Carols X 2
Thought I’d sign off for Christmas with a whinge. It’s traditional.
Went to a carols by candlelight service last night at one of our local Anglican churches. On the surface it was very impressive. Up on the stage the professionals and their acolytes were quite a sight in their ecclesiastical Christmas finery. The choir was one of the best parish choirs I’ve ever heard. The organ was played with great skill and sensitivity. The readers were nigh-on word perfect. Even the token child reader spoke with a clarity of diction and a confidence that was remarkable. The setting was beautiful. The sense of Christmas hung heavy in the air. And everyone in the congregation was reduced to the status of near passive observers. I did a count, eight pieces where the choir did their thing and seven where we were allowed to join in. Even when given the chance to sing most did so very hesitantly. “We can’t compete with singing like that! What if we sing a bum note?”
C’est magnifique mais ce n’est pas l'eglise. If this was an act of worship, then I’m an altar boy.
Contrast our own morning service, “Nativity Activity”. Amateurism at its best. Unlike the evening carol concert, sorry service, no one would have paid a penny to see it. But to be there and to participate was wonderful, richly human and genuinely worshipful. Anyone arriving in time for the start at 10.00 (and many didn’t … no problem) would have found a building taken over by toddlers and their parents gluing, dressing up and spraying glitter in all directions. This was a D.I.Y nativity. Get stuck in. Get messy. No lines to learn. "Anyone want to be the donkey?" "Now I need three kings." It worked wonderfully. The combination of carols lite, and doctored nursery rhymes (Twinkle, Twinkle Christmas star) was exactly what was called for. Here was a church creatively connecting with its toddler group and baby club in a way that had “unchurched” parents joining in with enthusiasm, building a sense of belonging and worshiping all at the same time.
Church is what we do, not something done to us. No matter how professionally.