Church Shopping

Tuesday, 17th July 2012 at 16:28 UTC 5 comments

For myself, a sizeable aspect of settling in to new surroundings is finding a Church I can belong to. This probably shouldn’t come as a massive surprise – Church is an important concept in my life. Starting afresh in a new place offers a challenge and a moment of opportunity: it can take some serious energy to find a church that one can fit into, rather than simply attend as a peripheral pew-filler.

I’ve been wondering what sort of Church I might end up attending when I get to Manchester in 2 months time. It started out with the realisation that I’m likely to be out of town at weekends a fair bit, so a church where I don’t miss Sundays just from being on the road makes sense – evening services are likely to be a big bonus. Otherwise, I could easily only be around a dozen Sundays during my six month stay.

The wonderful thing that is the media tends to reduce all churches to a one-dimensional sliding scale: traditional to modern. This is a hideously simplistic way of looking diversity in churches. Some of that diversity I’m incredibly thankful for: we have churches in Britain that engage people on just about every level – ‘visual learners’ and ‘lecture addicts’, those seeking ancient musical wonders and those seeking guitars, or beats, or no songs at all. There are churches that focus on specific cultures, such as the African Caribbean community or the Goth community.

Then there’s the parameters with big names: Charismatic, Evangelical, Anglo-Catholic, Liberal, Conservative. I haven’t even ruled out a break from the Anglican Church just to widen my horizons for a few months. A city like Manchester has some fairly niche churches that a city like York wouldn’t be able to sustain. Choices, choices…

So what am I looking for? First, I do want a church that takes the bible seriously. It annoys me how often churches which are regarded as great forward-thinking communities actually don’t have their foundations fixed. Second, it needs to be a church that is engaging with the world. Given I’ll be doing 9-5 in an organisation focused on such issues, it would be odd to then go to a church which doesn’t connect with that. I’m not very interested in churches that shroud themselves in a world of upbeat music and back patting whilst the world goes on around them.

Then there’s the stuff I really want to see in a church, but so often accept is just far too rare to count on. I’d love to be part of a church with a genuine understanding and concern for the damage churches are doing in the lives of many people in today’s world. I don’t mean “all those wars” or the Spanish Inquisition, I mean all the little incidences in which the church manages to crush people or fails to ensure their emotional wellbeing. I want a church that takes mental health and disability seriously, not just wheelchair users and children with learning disabilities.

You might notice that I’ve not said I’m looking for a high-church, or a low-church. Mostly, I’m not. I’ve quite happily been a member of both, in neither case have I been frustrated by that fact alone. I’ve been to churches with modern music and traditional music, and in all honesty, I think there’s far more to music used in church than whether it was written last year or last millennium. Does it deal with the width of human experience, or just sweep that under the carpet and put on a pretend face?

I suppose in a potentially-six-month stay in Manchester, I’m not looking for somewhere that’s a perfect balance of everything. They say “if you find a perfect church, don’t join it or it’ll cease to be perfect” but is it possible I could just find one that doesn’t drive me nuts?


Entry filed under: Church, Personal.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sarah McCulloch  |  Tuesday, 24th July 2012 at 18:14 UTC

    I’d go ask the folks at the Boaz Trust what churches they go to, tbh.

  • 2. Unna  |  Tuesday, 24th July 2012 at 23:23 UTC

    “If you find a perfect church, don’t join or it’ll cease to be perfect” – funny you should mention that; that’s exactly how I feel about the Methodist church/Jerusalemskirken. Having “the talk” with one of the Methodist reverends at the time had me running right back to Brorson’s (in spite of only having been in Brorson’s in a few months against the 3½ years of singing gospel in Jerusalemskirken at the time).

    Brorson’s Church is the National Church of Denmark, which is Evangelical Lutheran and the Church/denomination I have been a member of since I was baptized the day before my 15th birthday. Luckily Brorson’s only have one Sunday service per month (the rest are scattered over the other weekdays), thus giving me 3-4 Sundays per month to go elsewhere (which now counts both Jerusalemskirken and Gellerup Church).

    • 3. Graham Martin  |  Thursday, 26th July 2012 at 9:29 UTC

      On that note, could you say hello to Rev Ole Birch from me? Other than being Facebook friends, I’ve completely lost touch with him.

      • 4. Unna  |  Thursday, 26th July 2012 at 13:16 UTC

        Of course. He’s away on vacation right now, but I count on seeing him in church in a couple of weeks.

  • 5. Steve  |  Friday, 10th August 2012 at 4:42 UTC

    A long time ago I spent 6 months in London, and worked for London Transport, so i had irregular hours. I lived about equidistant between two Anglican parishes, and ended up worshipping in both. But I did not participate in any other way in parish life. I can’t remember if I tried or not, it was a long time ago. But perhaps it is well to remember the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

    “Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream… He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and ernest and sacrificial.

    God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions the visionary ideal of a community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself. Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients.”


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