"At this rate," I said to a fellow Unitarian outside, "we'll be having the 'march of troops' that the Baha'is talk about." (The Baha'is expect to be the major world religion organising the uniformity of all through their nine person male only democratic-centralist Universal House of Justice. Dream on!)
I know I am ignoring the short period when our Iranian Muslim friend attended, but no sooner have I said that, since 1984, I may no longer be the baby of the congregation (retained on and off for 27 years), that just a week later we have yet another new attender who also seems quite well researched and intent on coming along. Of course you can never tell, nor how someone considers the experience over the middle and longer distance, but one can always hope. Few come through the door, but also the new attenders represent a dramatic drop in average ages.
To be the baby of the congregation for so long (and I've had long periods away) does not mean no one else has turned up. Quite the contrary. I can say that there are just three people present who were there when I turned up in 1984, two being of the older generation. All the rest are replacements or, I'd say, in one further person, a long returner. And as I drove home I was pleased to see that person, who is so sharp and independent but aiming for three figures, walking with today's new attender in conversation.
This newest attender told me she'd looked us up on the Internet, and was looking for a liberal congregation. Last week's new attender had looked us up on the Internet (and seen my website; she has read this blog!). To me it was important that the new person came to a service that was more than competently presented. Actually, it was extremely good, and better than most, and also highly unusual with a change to the seating. The new person said she was nervous coming in, but even contributed to the discussion element (that was well structured enough never to fall flat). I said to the new person that our 'music solution' is because no one now can play a keyboard, but it does rely on smooth planning and operation. I worry when CDs jump or the volume is not right. I was puzzling today if the stereo was front and back instead of left and right (impossible with the wiring)! Service takers have a special responsibility too. Their most important duty is to be clear and to pause. Please don't go without a gap between a reading and a prayer, a prayer and a hymn. Stop and pause. And be clear - slow down if necessary. It is all it takes. And ignore the microphone as it will find you.
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