Sunday, 12 February 2012

Long Way In

It amazes me the distances some people travel to get to the church. However, a couple who were attending Friday mornings, and showed every intention of coming to services on a Sunday, who would have come from the coast, asking how and when can they join, suddenly vanished, never to be seen again. Today, from behind the curtain, I heard the notices giving greeting to a new face, which is always that sign of hope for the future. This person seems keen and says she has found what she was looking for. She even took the initiative to look at the mixer and equipment behind the curtain; she'd already called me 'The Wizard of Oz'.

After a span of twenty eight years, nearly, I am still the baby of the congregation. This does not mean it is no different. It is very different. New people have come in - but they have all been older than me. Many have died, and that's what's brought the average age down. There's a number of people now in their sixties, who were once younger but have reduced the average as others have gone. I'm 52 now, and I was the youngest when I turned up for the very first time in 1984. Yes, there have been occasional students in between, including the Muslim lass now back abroad, but the congregation ticks along with new blood from time to time but, still, older blood than me. Maybe this is now ending - I'm old enough for some new people to be younger.

And this is how it survives. The service today was a good one: well presented, to the point (discussing loneliness but not exclusively themed), and the sort of service you hope new people would hear. I did the music and I tested the CDs in tray prior to the crowds arriving - and yet one hymn scraped into life (Oh no I thought after, not when someone new attends!). The service could be a bad one, or one like last week and thick snow when I spoke to a handful of people (but then my services are online, like last week's, and I don't peddle my same services elsewhere). Next week should be good: home grown but he does it well.

Friday morning coffee rarely delivers anyone to Sunday. So the secular outreach just has to be seen for what it is. Many value that contact on Friday and it is its own space and time.

What really makes the difference - what may well save Unitarianism from the past steep hill downwards - is the Internet. It has all but ended the isolation and the unknowing. Unitarianism was always part of United States culture (congregationalist origins; transcendentalism and all that), as well as that country having a churchgoing culture as a means to identity, whereas in the UK the denomination was simply disappearing. However, this cannot be so any more. The recent Anglican-URC service about the Great Ejection in 1662 might ignore the Unitarian descendents (after all, the URC is hardly a bunch of Calvinists), but the wider religious landscape is becoming more aware of the religious lefties that are closest to the never disappeared Quakers.

Like the seaside couple, that vanished, this new visitor saw about Unitarianism in general and this church in particular via the Internet. And she travelled in from well outside the city.

One who also comes from beyond Hull has a Unitarian ancestor who lived a time in Kent and was a minister. He has asked me to read his book on this chap and the overlap with Charles Dickens. It is a book that one might say has very many trees in terms of detail, whereas I want to see the wood. His book is in and out of the toilet, as I read mainly in the toilet, though I also write my diary in the toilet. I'm sort of duty bound to read and report, even to try and sell I think. He joined this congregation much after I started attending, but he is older than me and a reason, just one reason with others, for a better male - female balance in this congregation than in some. I'm bound to think, though, that among younger, intelligent and more feminist women is where the future best exists.

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