Visiting Churches

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Karen
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Post by Karen » Sun Jan 06, 2013 7:35 am

I'm planning to go and visit the cathedral today for the Epiphany Service. I'm actually feeling quite nervous because it is a worshipping community I'm unfamilar with. In my early twenties I did quite a lot of church visiting and I always ended up standing up when everyone else was sitting down or not knowing the songs and settings.

I think I forget sometimes how hard it is to get across the threashold of a church and join in with something that is unfamilar.

So were you welcomed the first time you went to church? If you don't go what would help you join in?
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Post by Josie » Sun Jan 06, 2013 8:34 am

Morning Karen,

I returned to church on Back To Church Sunday. I hadn't been to a regular service since being a child and I was very nervous. It took me a couple of phone calls and eventually one of the church wardens offered to meet me at the doorway.

Being just a small church I stuck out like a sore thumb as the "newbie." I was stunned however at how warm and welcoming everyone was. The vicar was clearly overjoyed to have me there.

It's something I notice each time there are more people in the congregation, people who haven't been for a while or new people. The whole church seems to be uplifted and it's so lovely to see the vicar moved by their presence.

I do have to keep a look out of the corner of my eye for all the sitting and standing. There are too many songs I don't know so I just quietly mouth the words and try to follow along.

Lots of love :flowerface: xxx
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Post by Emle » Sun Jan 06, 2013 11:02 am

I have recently been able to attend a Church in my Commmunity thanks to the generosity of a member driving me the 8 mile journey to make this possible.

I have moved several times in my marriage (19 moves in all ) following my husband and his occupation round the British Isles and have always managed to settle into a 'new church' on each move. But living alone in a very remote part of Scotland and not being a driver brought me to search for an Internet Church and believe it or not I found my first visit to a 'live' service on the internet 6 years ago, far more daunting than walking into any bricks and mortar Church..but that was mainly due to my lack of technological skills at the time.

Today I am attending a Free Church of Scotland service and have been invited to 'share with them at the Lord's table' Am I daunted by this ? well yes to some extent I am but I also know I am with friends so do not feel it will matter too much if I bob up and down in the wrong place ..I would like to have a seat at the back rather than at the front but for some reason all the back seats are spoken for (why does that happen in Churches ?) but the greatest difference I have encountered so far in the services at this Church is that we sit for the sung Psalms and stand for the Prayers.

Isn't life exciting when we try something new to us ??? :biggrin:

:votive1: for everyone attending somewhere new and unfamiliar to them this year.

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Post by Joyce » Sun Jan 06, 2013 1:54 pm

If the instructions of when to stand or sit are not in the book, it doesn't matter if you do things differently. One may feel a bit shy about it so the thing to remember is that nobody minds. The most anybody would think would be that a newcomer is from a different church or tradition. If you are obviously a visitor you are more likely to be welcomed afterwards. A sympathetic leader of the service noticing visitors should say,'Please sit for the ... ' or 'Please stand for the ...' anyway. One would think they'd do so all the time in a cathedral where they must have many passers-through. Of course, if the service leader is also a visitor one can't always rely on that.
If there's a part of the service where it's necessary to leave one's seat, the usual thing is to whisper to the next person that it's the first time you've been and they'll guide you.
Emie, the first live service I went to on the internet was The Church of Fools before i-church was set up and then I went to services on Second Life. I was lucky with the latter because I was guided by the former i-church lay chairman and several other i-churchers who were already there. A problem with anything like that is the nickname business. It's not always obvious on the internet who's new or who is technically able. If I'm on a site that's unfamiliar I just say so and ask. When I was leading i-church services I found it useful if those who came mentioned they were new.

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Post by Karen » Sun Jan 06, 2013 2:34 pm

It was a lovely service with a visiting choir and an excellent sermon. All the stand up and sit down bits were in the leaflet which was a big help as local custom and practice has meant that in the past I've been the only one sitting down at times when everyone else stood up which is a bit embarassing when you are leading the service :redface: but today I was there as a worshipper only so I made sure I got a seat at the back so that I could watch what went on.

What would have helped was if there had been instructions about where the side chapels were when it was announced that the ministry of healing was available. I had to ask several people and a comment about being on the North Side would not have helped anyone unfamiliar which church architecture. I did find it in the end.

There were fellow visitors to chat to after the service so all in all a good morning.

I think I'm going to try and find a midweek service as being at the front all the time is a different experience to being in the pews.
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Post by Pam » Sun Jan 06, 2013 4:24 pm

Karen wrote:I had to ask several people and a comment about being on the North Side would not have helped anyone unfamiliar which church architecture. I did find it in the end.
When I was looking for a church to join years ago, I was surprised at how many service leaders would describe some activity to which all were welcome, and then say 'See Mary/Joe/Balthazar if you want to join' without any indication of who they were.

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Post by Ros » Sun Jan 06, 2013 6:18 pm

Karen wrote: So were you welcomed the first time you went to church? If you don't go what would help you join in?
I cannot remember the first time I went to church. However, I suspect everyone would have wanted to come and look at the new baby. So that one probably went off OK ;-)

I *can* remember the first time I attended an ordinary service of Holy Communion at an Anglican Church. This was in my late teens and was at the home church of my husband-to-be. Prior to this, the only times I had set foot in an Anglican church had been for Remembrance Day (as a girl guide) and for ecumenical youth services. All my other experiences of church had been in a Baptist setting.

On the above occasion, I was totally and utterly confused from the start. I had no idea that the Church of England had a prayer book in which everything was printed and no-one thought to explain that to me. My boyfriend's family didn't use the book because they knew the entire service off by heart. So I spent the first part of the service wondering where all the words were coming from and how people knew what to say and when to say it. Eventually, someone noticed my confusion and thrust a book into my hands. However, I still got lost several times because there wasn't sufficient time to read all the small print and work out where people had suddenly jumped to or whether I should be sitting, standing or kneeling.

When it came to the Gospel reading and people started parading around with candles, I really and honestly thought that this was intended to be some kind of parody; that it would end with some kind of punch line and then we would get back to the rest of the service. So it was something of a shock when it slowly became clear that this was not the case. In this church, it was normal for it to take 4-5 people to read the Gospel!

That was probably the most difficult moment. The whole thing - robes, candles, bowing - looked so ridiculous to me that I found it really hard not to giggle. Yet I did not want to upset people by doing so.

As for the Communion itself, it felt totally and utterly alien. The liturgy seemed endless and used language with which I was not familiar. The robes made the whole thing feel very unreal. Kneeling at the rail felt unfamiliar and awkward. Because I had to leave my seat and tramp up to the front to receive the bread and wine, it felt to me like there was no space for reflection on what I was actually doing. And I missed the sense of togetherness that is created when lay people share the bread and wine among one another in the more informal setting of a Baptist Church.

All-in-all, it was one of the most alienating experiences of my life. As fellow Christians, these were people who I should have been able to understand. Yet I could not. Their practices were so far outside anything I had previously encountered either inside or outside of church that I found it extremely hard to relate to them in any way.

On the plus side, the people were very friendly and welcoming after the service was over. But then they knew my husband-to-be's family and naturally had an interest in the person he had brought home. Without that connection, I don't think I would have survived the experience anywhere near as well. In fact, the sense of alienation might have been sufficient to prevent me from repeating it for a very long time.

What would have helped me? I really and honestly don't know. A few simple instructions from the front would certainly have helped when it came to finding my way through the book/service. But they would have made little difference to the feeling that I'd stepped into a world where the people and their customs were decidedly peculiar and unrelated to every day life.

I hope you don't mind me being so honest about how I felt. Thirty years on, I'm still inclined to giggle at some of the daft things Christians (of all stripes) get up to in their worship. But I also think it does us no harm to reflect on how alienating our practices can be. If we persist in such activities, is formal worship really the best point of contact for someone outside the church? I have my doubts...

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Post by Jae » Sun Jan 06, 2013 6:32 pm

I'm very sorry that you felt so alienated Ros, though I would never go somewhere new and expect things to be done the way I was familiar with....I rather enjoy diversity and experiencing new things.

Anglican worship is full of symbolism and ritual and for me that has a very rich and spiritual aspect to worship with plenty of opportunities to reflect and also for simple, contemplative and uncomplicated private worship too....though I love the simplicity of Quaker worship too.

It is a shame your boyfriend or his family did not help you to prepare for a visit to their church beforehand, that might have made it a better experience for you, I'm sure you know from leading worship yourself that it isn't always possible to stop and explain things, even when you know someone new is in the congregation, perhaps the regulars or welcomers thought your soon to be family had it covered.
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Post by Ernest » Sun Jan 06, 2013 8:30 pm

I think that I was very lucky when I joined the CofE. My new Vicar was also my Army Padre, who I knew well and had worked alongside in a number of difficult pastoral situations.

He introduced me gently, and my family and friends came along to support me. I retook my Baptism Vows and Received Holy Communion for the first time in over 25 years.

That day is special, it's engraved on my heart as are many others that I've been fortunate to share both in my Parish and at Canterbury Cathedral. My Confirmation as an Anglican was a wonderful, spirit led and spirit filled event. Along with over 70 overs with Bishop Stephen Venning officiating. Again family and friends were there to support me which was wonderful.

My new community accepted us all, made us welcome and demonstrated God's grace to us that day, including a Roman Catholic couple who attended and received Holy Communion from the hands of an Anglican Priest. Normally they'd have refused. God's grace works in many ways, hearts and places. :thumbs:
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Post by Ros » Sun Jan 06, 2013 11:58 pm

Jae wrote:...though I would never go somewhere new and expect things to be done the way I was familiar with....I rather enjoy diversity and experiencing new things.
I think the whole experience took me so far outside anything that was familiar to me that it stopped being a case of enjoying or not enjoying it. I was just totally nonplussed. I guess the reason that this felt so alienating was because everyone else appeared to be perfectly at home. As a shy teenager, being so obviously different wasn't something I found easy to handle. But there was also the sense of not being able to relate what was happening to anything that I already knew. For example, my only prior experience of people in robes was when they were acting in a play or on TV. Hence the sense of unreality.
Jae wrote:Anglican worship is full of symbolism and ritual and for me that has a very rich and spiritual aspect to worship with plenty of opportunities to reflect and also for simple, contemplative and uncomplicated private worship too...
I think the richness of Anglican worship is something that can only really be appreciated with time. Such appreciation is not automatic. It's not intrinsic to the forms used. It's something that develops as the words become more familiar and we come to understand more of the symbolism and meaning. Hence the feelings I experienced that Sunday morning had very little to do with personal preference. They had much more to do with stepping into a world that was completely alien.

Jae wrote:It is a shame your boyfriend or his family did not help you to prepare for a visit to their church beforehand, that might have made it a better experience for you...
I don't think it occurred to any of us that there would be a problem. When "church" is something so totally familiar to us that we know it off by heart, it doesn't necessarily enter our heads that other people might never have come across a hymn book or prayer book or that they might do "church" differently. What's more, the Church of England is the established church. As such, I think there has been a tendency to assume that most English people are familiar with its ways. That day I found out just how wrong such assumptions can be.

Jae wrote:I'm sure you know from leading worship yourself that it isn't always possible to stop and explain things...
Indeed. But I don't think we always do as much as we could to help people know where we are. And I'm as guilty of that as anyone else. It's too easy to forget that what's familiar to us isn't necessarily familiar to others.
Ernest wrote: My Confirmation as an Anglican was a wonderful, spirit led and spirit filled event.
.

Oddly enough, I feel much the same way about mine. For me, confirmation wasn't about coming to faith so much as about the commitment to becoming part of a church in which I still wasn't entirely comfortable. There were good reasons at the time why I wanted to make that commitment. My husband had grown up in the Church of England and was happy there. We had also found ourselves in a church where the Rector and congregation were very supportive. But it wasn't an easy decision, nonetheless. Afterwards, I felt there was a certain irony in the fact that I'd felt a greater sense of God's presence on the day of my confirmation than on the day when I'd made my confession of faith and been baptised. The God of surprises ;-)

Perhaps that's why, having now left the C of E, I'm still happy to hang around i-church :)

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Post by Joyce » Mon Jan 07, 2013 12:28 am

Thirty years ago there were Church services on both broadcasting TV channels every Sunday morning and it wouldn't necessarily have occurred to everybody that there'd be anybody who hadn't seen one - but of course churchgoers of another denomination wouldn't have been at home to watch the TV.As for the Book of Common Prayer,one would think there would be scarcely anybody who'd followed a typical school history course who didn't know about it but not everybody followed the same O level syllabus nor found that part of Tudor and Stuart activity very enthralling.
I wonder how much else those of us who've grown up in churches of all hues take for granted ? I'm remembering the christening in Jam and Jerusalem where none of the participants round the font knew what The Lord's Prayer was when the vicar asked them to say it. One of the guild ladies who happened to be in there at the time reminded them, 'It's the one from school.'

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Post by Ernest » Mon Jan 07, 2013 7:41 am

Joyce wrote:Thirty years ago there were Church services on both broadcasting TV channels every Sunday morning and it wouldn't necessarily have occurred to everybody that there'd be anybody who hadn't seen one - but of course churchgoers of another denomination wouldn't have been at home to watch the TV.
I remember Church services on TV and Radio, most were Anglican, so I was always bemused about them - they were so unlike the Catholic Mass that I had been brought up with.
Joyce wrote: As for the Book of Common Prayer,one would think there would be scarcely anybody who'd followed a typical school history course who didn't know about it but not everybody followed the same O level syllabus nor found that part of Tudor and Stuart activity very enthralling.
One of the beauties of the Book of Common Prayer is that while some fail to appreciate it's traditions, is that those like me, who embraced it whole heartedly once I actually knew what it was, the language and history, just made me fall in love with it. I attend at least 2 BCP services each week. I use the Morning and Evening prayer format and recite the Litany each time I get to church early with the time to sit in peace and quiet to say it. Beautiful prayers.

There is also the glory of Matins, Evensong and Compline, I could go on. :thumbs:

This doesn't detract from the modern form of Common Worship, which has it's own glories.
Joyce wrote:I wonder how much else those of us who've grown up in churches of all hues take for granted ? I'm remembering the christening in Jam and Jerusalem where none of the participants round the font knew what The Lord's Prayer was when the vicar asked them to say it. One of the guild ladies who happened to be in there at the time reminded them, 'It's the one from school.'
I thought that the Lords Prayer was engraved on everybody's mind and heart, and was very surprised to find out that it isn't the case. It seems that many schools despite the law, don't follow the regime of assemblies, of which one must be of a broadly Christian content. In past times, even children whose families were not Christians would have at least attended school assemblies and would have heard and known the Lords Prayer, even if they never prayed it. Perhaps the government instead of wrecking education and withdrawing benefits from the most vulnerable, might concentrate of enforcing the provision for religious education and assemblies in all schools.
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Post by truthseeker » Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:11 pm

I have huge problems going to church when there are too many people there. I am not a shy person, but something in the very organised thing called institutional worship or other people trying to involve me to meet the wife of the priest, to come to their house group or some other effort to involve me in social church activities started putting me off of going regularly to any church, except a church where nobody will bother me after or before church service. Not because i don't like meeting new people, but because very often i prefer to meet God alone in some of His houses. I love to choose when to communicate with other people regarding religion, this is why i-church appeals to me.

Going to Roman-Catholic church is something i like doing, because nobody bothers you after the service. You can talk if you want to the Priest, or you can leave silently and go your own way. In an Anglican church there are always
many overactive and oversmiling ladies coming, almost running after you, trying to involve you in some sort of conversation, often very inquisitive and even so curious enough to make you feel frustrated: I see you are a newcomer, so who are you, what is your name, why did you decide to come to our church, are you married, if not, why, etc. Do you live in the area, why do you come to Anglican church if you original religion is Orthodox, etc.

Sorry to share this sort of experience, but I have it.

There are many other churches where people are really welcoming and you feel their sincere warmth and Christian joy to see you coming there. If they involve you in a conversation you would feel their sincerity straight away.

I developed huge shyness going to churches, so if I go to a church service, after the service i am almost running out of the door if i see smiling faces of fighting ladies coming my direction.

Cathedrals: yes! I go to Cathedrals, monasteries - there are the best. I prefer more devotional, contemplative worship styles, so any monastery would do for me.

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Post by Pam » Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:39 pm

truthseeker wrote:In an Anglican church there are always
many overactive and oversmiling ladies coming, almost running after you, trying to involve you in some sort of conversation, often very inquisitive and even so curious enough to make you feel frustrated: I see you are a newcomer, so who are you, what is your name, why did you decide to come to our church, are you married, if not, why, etc. Do you live in the area, why do you come to Anglican church if you original religion is Orthodox, etc.

Sorry to share this sort of experience, but I have it.
I'm sure you do - but believe me, many, many people complain because they've been to a C of E church and nobody has talked to them.

The phrase 'you just can't win!' springs to mind! :lol:

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Post by truthseeker » Mon Jan 07, 2013 7:54 pm

Hi Pam, i am laghing too, because it is no-win situation: we humans are so different, even in our worship needs, and it is difficult to find what exactly we want, like anything else in life. we want to find a perfect church for us, but does this thing exist after all? the congregation makes a church - we are just humans, so our church for now, until we raise ourselves to enter the Real Heavenly church as described in the NT.

:)

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Post by Josie » Mon Jan 07, 2013 8:47 pm

I have to smile too Truth. I am quite a shy person and I really don't do well in social situations. Oddly enough it was the smiley ladies in our CofE church, coming for hugs with open arms that really made the difference for me. :flowerface: xxx
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Post by Caroline » Mon Jan 07, 2013 9:38 pm

Some churches are remarkably well attuned to people's needs. We went to a cathedral regularly for a few months once - we wanted God without the people, I suppose, which isn't too good as a long term thing, but we knew we were leaving the area, and didn't want to get involved. This particular cathedral is a small one, also a parish church, and was known for it's friendliness (I'm sure it still is). They managed to make us very welcome without being at all intrusive, and it was also clear to us that it would have been very easy to become involved if that was what we wanted.

I've been to other churches like this too - I think that most are pretty good - although there are some horrors, as there are in all organisations that are run by humans.

I think we're pretty good here too!
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Post by Josie » Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:06 pm

Yes, yes you are good here! Although I still can't shake my fear of live chats, I still feel comfortable enough for my random brain splurges!

:flowerface: xxxx
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Post by Ros » Tue Jan 08, 2013 12:12 am

truthseeker wrote: Cathedrals: yes! I go to Cathedrals...
This is interesting :) Apparently, the number of people attending worship in Cathedrals is slowly rising: http://www.churchofengland.org/media-ce ... -grow.aspx

At a time when church attendance is largely falling, I find this interesting. What is it about Cathedral worship that is attractive to people? Is it the greater sense of anonymity or is it something else?
truthseeker wrote:we humans are so different, even in our worship needs, and it is difficult to find what exactly we want, like anything else in life. we want to find a perfect church for us, but does this thing exist after all?
In my ideal world, worship would be a lot quieter and more reflective than that found in most churches. Increasingly, I feel that there are just too many words. Because of this, I have considered joining with some local Quakers for worship, but I'm not sure that silence would be right for me either. I think I'm just odd. I do miss church if I don't go, though - both the people and the little flashes of inspiration that come to me in the midst of all those words!

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Post by Caroline » Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:46 am

Josie wrote:Yes, yes you are good here! Although I still can't shake my fear of live chats, I still feel comfortable enough for my random brain splurges!

:flowerface: xxxx
I'm more comfortable with chatting on the forums rather than in the chatroom too. If/when you do want to go into the chatroom, though, you will find it's very easy - and nobody minds if you sit in a corner and listen rather than joining in. No need to bother at all though. :)
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Post by Pam » Tue Jan 08, 2013 10:31 am

Some people love chat rooms and some find them a bit daunting.

Nobody should feel they have to force themselves to use the chat room - it's there for the people who enjoy real time interaction and online worship with other people.

On of the points of being online to me is that people can choose how to engage, if you prefer to use the seasonal materials and/or forums that's up to you. When we look at our stats (numbers of people who view the site) it's obvious there are quite a few people who use the site without posting here or even registering and that's fine too!

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Post by Ros » Tue Jan 08, 2013 1:10 pm

My only experience of chat rooms has been with online church. I persevered because I wanted to take part in live worship, but it took at least 4/5 years before I really began to feel comfortable in a chat room. Part of that was due to fatigue. I couldn't always follow what was going on. But a lot of it had to do with fear - the thought that I might have to say something. In the early days, I would spend several minutes psyching myself up before I could even go in. Often, I would go late so that I didn't have to speak to anyone and vanish as soon as the worship was over.

That said, I really appreciated the opportunity to join in worship. Illness frequently prevented me from attending church offline, so online church became something of a lifeline. Also, because chat room worship often uses the written word as opposed to the spoken word, it tends to move much more slowly than offline worship. So there is often more time to process what's been said, which suits me very well. Some people have found that frustrating and have looked for ways to speed things up, but I've always been quite happy with it :)

On the whole, I have got less out of the more "devotional" areas of the site than I have got out of live worship, blogs and forum discussions. I guess I like the interaction, even though I will read/listen much more than I will talk.

We are all different and hence find our joy and inspiration in different things. It seems to me that this is something to be celebrated, rather than something to punish ourselves over. There will be times when going against our natural inclinations is the right thing to do, but that's something for us to decide for ourselves. The fact that we find it difficult means that it will demand quite a bit of energy. We need to be ready for that.

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Post by Josie » Tue Jan 08, 2013 1:25 pm

Ros wrote: We are all different and hence find our joy and inspiration in different things. It seems to me that this is something to be celebrated, rather than something to punish ourselves over. There will be times when going against our natural inclinations is the right thing to do, but that's something for us to decide for ourselves. The fact that we find it difficult means that it will demand quite a bit of energy. We need to be ready for that.

This is something I try to keep in mind when I'm struggling. I can't imagine that God made us to be somber or anguished in our worship. He must have made to enjoy our lives, so long as we keep trying.

:flowerface: :cross: xxx
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Post by truthseeker » Tue Jan 08, 2013 2:20 pm

I really like that people are honest here, in this forum, because it is immense topic and dig much more deeper in that simply the question do we go to church and if yes, which one, why..

we are not a one type of human/one type of Christian and living in a world of frames where everything and everybody is framed and put neatly on a shelf is something i think is far from what reality is;

if for me it is daunting to go to a church service and to be forced by other people to share all my personal life story withouth actually knowing anything about them or theirs, it is daunting. It is one's personal vulnerability or comfort that dictates where and when we want to chat to absolute strangers. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, but still, are we really yet? The real belonging to Christ's family is yet to be proved in the future.

..would everyone go to a new church and from the beginning feel at ease with everything?

I am very social, but very sensitive on my own terms and can be odd in social circles too, if they are not the right social circle for me. And i have to accept my multifacetedness and to live with it. It is useless for me to force my natural character and to try to belong to a place where I don't feel I can benefit too much others.

I like i-church and participate as much as i can and enjoy it. Being social and shy at the same time doesn't happen to many people, but better to accept what I am and try accomodate my worship needs to that, than to adapt myself to what? - church societies created by other humans. New "edge church projects" as i-church are appearing, as Pam explained recently in one of the live chats and i feel this is right. It is the era of the new technology and the era of the new ways people getting together, discussing and socialising. Some parts of the western world are far more advanced than other parts of the world where traditional church is still strong and where the culture is still somewhere in the 19th or 20th century. Coming from a culture like that i think i can see the difference.
But in the West the people are advancing intellectually and spiritually much more ( this is my opinion, sorry if someone reads the forum and is not westerner) and being individualistic is more than welcome. And I think the Church feels this and tries to adapt to this.

why people stop attending the traditional church? People and theologists speak of that, but do they really want to find the reason why?! Mostly people in the West are not attending the traditional church, there are many other parts of the world where christianity is reaching for the first time and people are inspired to participate in this new for them religion. People in the West have more democracy and more personal freedom, to develop in full freedom their spiritual lives too and with that they can bless other societies too, showing that there is nothing wrong of being different, being diverse and embracing each other, developing new forms of worship.

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Ernest
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Visiting Churches

Post by Ernest » Tue Jan 08, 2013 9:01 pm

truthseeker,

You are not alone in sometimes feeling vulnerable in new situations, particularly with people you don't know or with whom you might not have a shared history. I, despite my advancing years (don't guess 60+) still find some situation difficult. This, despite a full career in the Army, with command responsibilities and Church proved to be more daunting (as far as I was concerned) than anything I did in the Army.

The thing that happened to me was that at the same time as I joined the Church of England, I found i-church, now nearly 5 years ago. I was made so welcome than that I realised then and there that God was at work here, just as much as he might be in any Bricks and Mortar church or in our life outside church. It gave me confidence to participate and to listen, and it led to many marvelous things that I can attribute to people and connections made through i-church.

I now, go to strange churches and just get on with it. Last Sunday, I wasn't able to travel to my parish (my spouse is unwell) and went to an 8am service at a church close to me. I often go there for mid-week services, but had not been before on a Sunday - I was immediately overwhelmed by people coming to introduce themselves and welcoming me to their church. I greeted them as someone who actually attended there, but as part of their mid-week congregation. In fact I do the readings mid-week. This caused a bit of a surprise as they didn't recognise me as one of their 'Sunday Regulars'. I hadn't occurred to them that I attended another church elsewhere as my own Parish.

It was amusing to see their pre-conceptions vanish and we laughed about it all. Laughter breaks the ice so, making light of things tends to be the way that I enter a conversation and it works.

The point that I make is that we can all feel socially awkward and vulnerable in new situations, how we deal with it will differ, but I always accept that people mean well and welcome their greetings because they are offering the open hand of friendship, surely what all Christians should be doing?
Where there is hope and love there is life!
God is Life!
God is Hope!
God is Love!
God Is!!

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