Thursday, 19 February 2009

Service Taking

One thing I've missed since joining in and participating in Anglican services has been preaching and presenting within worship, and though I have written and delivered occasional intercessory prayers it has not been the same as preaching, which was actually producing whole service material and presenting it as once I did. Having said that, I do enjoy presenting theological material for discussion, something that can go on as long as others want or permit it and then I'm happy to give way.

Dealing with and hanging on to some Unitarian related archives once held by the late minister at Hull Unitarian church, and trying to decide what to do with them, and hearing that the last minister in place has now moved on, and that various people are asked to take services now, I said I would take one for my travel expenses if wanted.

Where I live, the nearest Unitarian churches are at Hull, Lincoln and Doncaster, and it is both cost and distance that keep me from even visiting. We have a bridge over the Humber, but it is not a bridge but a barrier. It costs £5.40 return in a car, and is due to rise to £5.80 in July, and then the return petrol is about £5 plus other wear and tear. People often park at either side and get the bus: working week buses will be increased in frequency shortly. So I'm not exactly going to cross the Humber at car expense to go to the church there at about 30 minutes drive away, and I'm not going to Lincoln at minimum 50 minutes away or similar (but more expensive - faster) to Doncaster.

However, Wednesday I tool a telephone call and was reminded that I'd said I'd take a service, and would I - yes - and the first available is on 12th April. Yes, fine. So I wondered this evening if this was a date of any interest that might possibly go towards any theme. So I looked it up. Oh yeah, just a small theme there: Easter Day.

I thought that was quite funny. For a number of years on Easter Day I've been getting up to arrive at the Anglican church for 6 am and I was wondering about it this year, as I have fallen off the edge so to speak and stopped taking the Eucharist (having ceased saying the creed earlier). I am one of the more frequent attenders and turning up to those services with a handful of attenders (Wednesday mornings are well attended) has become a bit difficult, in that I go to a Eucharist service and then effectively sit out at the main point of it. I go for the spirituality: and the first part (service of the Word), the Peace and some extra bits like the Lord's Prayer have my full participation.

There is something of a crunch point about this coming Easter Day then and that first service of the new morning. Have my beliefs changed? Not really, no: I have never believed that anything happened in terms of a reconstituted set of bones or indeed a revived consciousness inside a renewed body of Jesus, so this Easter Day was always an expression of newness and revitalising after the darkest of darks, that whatever the difficulty and however severely lived through, the small flame can be there and then burst out one day in that unknown future, and indeed is as bright even in the difficulty. That was connected with the vision and purposes of Jesus and what he represented; clearly the man is a symbol of something greater and so is used as a focus. The myth of Jesus's death into resurrection is a reflection of the uneven nature of living, which is its power, rather than the nature of living derived from some into history hinge event.

So my participation was to join in with the myth, but so long as the train stays on the rails. But when the promises would be asked for, and the commitments made, and I thought no I don't, then I slipped off these rails. I stopped the most visible versions of promises, and then realised everything was out of kilter. And thus I stopped communicating. But what of the Easter services?

Not only is that 6 am service the Eucharist of Eucharists, but it also contains a rerun of baptismal promises of commitment. So it is the credal thing again and it looks ridiculous to go and yet to sit out, including not making those asked for promises.

What is interesting about this is that for the Easter Day service I will take, I have a full (if responsible) freedom to write and present what is compatible with my own beliefs. I cannot ask anyone to give promises to anything. Now obviously worship relates to a given congregation, but I'm not asked to pitch it in any particular direction. So I won't be preaching in a manner that something sounds like this when what I mean is that (though I don't object to preaching in a manner that something offers many possibilities when I prefer one of them). I won't be preaching or participating in order to fit in with a set of promises or a collective position, but offer something that can be expanded upon.

So this is quite fascinating really, writing a full service (I shall produce much of the material myself), for the Christian day of the year, which will test and present what I do actually believe in the context of worship for others. Obviously the theme will be Easter (it doesn't have to be but for it not to be would be bizarre, even for me).

Here is something else as intriguing. A very few British Unitarian churches may just have a Eucharist service on Easter Day, and it might be the only day of the year they have such. They will throughout central Europe, and some will even in the USA, and a number of Unitarian Universalist churches will do something equivalent. I won't as such. My last presented service in that church six years ago was an experimental Eucharist service, and it was frankly divisive despite attempting otherwise, because it's what a number of people precisely do not want. If there is a Eucharistic element in it of any kind, it will not be of a participatory sort, and would be of the most general references and actions, and I intend something moderate and sensitive and lower key rather than experimental and bold. After all, I'm there to facilitate actual worship for everyone and experiments are few and far between by those well in the groove - which obviously I am not as I have not been there for some four or more years.

And I'm going in to take the service, and not going in to then join the congregation - not at £10 plus a trip. So the time I'd go next would be to take another service, really, if they wanted me as a resource. I have no objection to taking services: indeed I'd take them in other denominations, but on the basis that what I say does relate rather closely to what I think without in any sense hiding what I think. Not that I ever have.

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