by Phil Andrews
Those of us who attend services at Isleworth Congregational regularly tend to take the format pretty much for granted. But what might the passer-by, who routinely walks past our Church building on a Sunday morning or evening, think is going on behind our austere, imposing portals?
Or for that matter what would the casual visitor to our website, who reads our articles or peruses the diary from the comfort of their living room, tea in hand, imagine we are up to when the really meaningful business of the Church – that thing which essentially we exist to do – is being undertaken?
Well, the secret is a secret no more, as I can reveal to the denizens of Isleworth the inner workings of that mysterious edifice in their midst.
A typical day
We are, as we like to remind people from time to time, one of the only local churches which still conducts Sunday services both in the morning and in the evening. Not that we are bursting at the seams on either occasion, sadly (and the evening service tends to be the quieter of the two), but we persevere. And on both occasions the format tends to be fairly similar.
Services are taken either by home-grown preachers or by guests. You can check who is listed to lead a service by visiting the website and they can be attended, or avoided, according to taste.
There is no rigidly-defined sequence of events, and the order in which prayers are prayed, hymns are sung and sermons are delivered may vary a tad depending upon who it is that happens to be standing in the pulpit. Generally though we open with a hymn, read some passages from the Bible, say some prayers (all of this interspersed with more hymns), and culminate with a sermon which tends to last for some twenty minutes or so. Then, with one last hymn, we close with a benediction, say Grace, and retire for coffee.
Some preachers will take a passage from the Bible and examine it forensically for the duration of their slot. Others will speak upon a broad theme, referring periodically to scripture in order to try to validate whatever argument it is that they are making. Some preachers are ordained, others are lay. Different preachers have their own, different styles. There is nothing peculiar or different about any of us – we are all just local folks with a set of beliefs, who like to discuss their beliefs and to test them in debate with one another.
Services tend to last for about one hour, although sometimes they are shorter and on occasions they may be slightly longer. There is no stopwatch in operation, everything depends upon the judgment of the preacher of the day and just how much he or she feels they have to say.
Morning services are followed by coffee and biscuits in the Hall, to which everyone is invited. We have a chat and discuss Church business, and sometimes other business which is no business of the Church. We like to think we are a friendly bunch, and an especially warm welcome is extended to newcomers.
The best way to find out what we do of course is to come along. Nobody walking past or browsing our site should have any hesitation in doing so should they so wish. We always love to see new faces, and we always wish we saw more of them. We hope to see you too.