It has been too long since I got around to posting. Work has been busy and somehow I never feel like picking up the laptop in the evening when I’ve been stuck in front of it all day. It hasn’t helped that my head has been elsewhere. Yesterday, however, I felt inspired to write a short season of posts.
In recent years I have started to use the summer holiday season as an excuse to visit different Churches. This is a reflection of my personality. No-one will be particularly interested in learning the full ins and outs of my personality profiling, suffice to say that I get bored and quickly lose interest if life is not varied enough. This goes for everything, including Church services. I like listening to varied preachers, singing more than just the same old hymns/songs (as long as I actually recognise the tunes – different issue…), being involved in different styles of worship in fresh places surrounded by new faces. The summer seems like the perfect time to visit other places and receive some spiritual refreshment. A sort of summer pilgrimage. And so it was that yesterday morning I made the effort to visit the Church of the Ascension, in Westdene.
This is no ordinary Church. The Ascension was the Church I grew up in. I know many of the people there very well, and they know my Mum even more. I haven’t been there for many years apart from one lively, packed out service celebrating a big anniversary of the Church a few years ago.
It was wonderful to be greeted with such amazing warmth and genuine love and care by all who I met yesterday morning. From the front steps where I met up with a very good friend of my Mum’s and another mutual friend of both of us, to the loving welcome I received from so many over coffee at the end of the service.
The Church building itself has changed a little since my day. It is lighter and more airy after an old wall was brought down to make way for clear windows and a small, new kitchen inside the Church so coffee can now be enjoyed in the same room without the need to traipse down to the hall underneath the Church. The new kitchen had only been open for a few weeks and is a lovely addition to the space, with the added benefit of making the premises more suitable for renting out during the week. The rest of it is much as I remember. The altar table is still the same old heavy dark wood, the same wonderful blue carpet tiles cover the floor and we can still sit on the ancient blue plastic chairs that I remember my little brother swinging his legs against when he was only a toddler.
Sadly there are rather fewer chairs laid out than there were back when I was a regular attendee but this didn’t stop those of us who were there singing out some wonderful hymns and choruses with great gusto. It was great to recognise, know or be able to quickly pick up the tunes of all the songs in the service. A pleasant change from a recent experience in my now current Church of not being able to sing a single hymn in one service (yes, they were hymns, not choruses or “modern” songs unlike yesterday’s sung worship). The sermon was excellent (thanks to Roger) and the pace of the service felt good – enough quiet time to reflect or pray which is so often lacking in many Churches today. The service was the expected one hour with time at the end to catch up over tea, coffee and biscuits served in pretty china mugs (think Cath Kidston style).
All the songs and details of the verses for the reading were displayed on the laptop-linked overhead projector. Helpful images were also displayed to help remind us why we were there. Each of us were given an NIV translation of the full Bible so we had the same version to read from as was being read.
I went into the service with my heart fairly heavy, loaded down with too many thoughts, worries and concerns. I came away uplifted, supported and encouraged by this group of people who still thought of me all those years later and were still interested in finding out how I was, how I really was. Perhaps there are some lessons for us all. A challenge to really care about those around us, particularly those in our own Church who we perhaps just assume are doing well because they are capable of putting on a brave face.
Jesus tells us to love our neighbours. At the Ascension that is exactly what they are doing.