We’ve had a blessèd Easter – in most ways. We gathered around our Communion Table (literally!) on the evening of Maundy Thursday to commemorate the Last Supper – a ‘faithful few’ of us (around half a dozen) listened again to some of Jesus’ words spoken on that fateful evening and shared the bread and wine together. Attendance at our service of prayer and meditation on Good Friday morning was relatively good, by our terms, and we were able to sing the traditional hymns and think together about Jesus’ words from the cross: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” On Easter Sunday, our ‘early’ (10 o’clock) celebration of the Sacrament of the Holy Communion was encouragingly well-attended (again, by our terms) after which, until the 11 o’clock service, we gathered together in the hall to enjoy tea, coffee, hot-cross buns and other delicious delights* – so what if it did slightly delay the start of the Morning Service? Our apologies to the few who arrived for the 11 o’clock service and found a near-empty church! We had thereby resumed (post-Covid) our practice of gathering for fellowship after morning service, which we hope will now become re-established. The ‘shine’ was taken off our Easter Day only by the attendance at our evening service, which was limited to a congregation of just two – although admittedly one ‘regular’ from our evening congregations had absented herself from all our Easter services, having tested Covid-positive the previous week.
Attendance (at Church Meetings, worship services and Bible Studies) has been much on our deacons’ minds these past few months. As mentioned on last month’s Deacons’ Page, our last two Church Meetings have been inquorate through not quite achieving the eight Church Members required to take decisions. One possible solution would be to elect more Church Members (and negotiations in that regard are ongoing) and another would be simply to lower the ‘quorum number’, but neither of these possible ‘solutions’ really addresses the fact that the distinctive feature of any Congregational Church (its ‘raison d’être’, indeed) is the gathering together of its Church Members in order that the Holy Spirit may direct them, through worship, prayer and fellowship together, to lead the Church in whichever way Jesus Christ wants it to develop. One of the greatest privileges of being a Church Member is being granted the right to attend Church Meetings, take part in the discussions, and collectively take decisions in accordance with the will of the Holy Spirit.
Attendance at worship services and Bible Studies is subtly different. As it says in large lettering on the board which advertises our service times: “All are welcome” – anybody may join us for any reason whatever – perhaps in particular need, or to assess our style of worship, or holidaying locally, or after encountering our website, or simply curious, or for any other reason whatsoever. We hope that they would sense a welcoming atmosphere (neither ‘cold’ nor ‘gushing’), although had they entered our church on the evening of Easter Day, arguably the holiest day of the Christian year, to find only a preacher, a congregation of two and recorded music, they might have drawn an unwelcome conclusion.
Attendance at Bible Studies, to which all are also welcome, is different again, in at least two ways. Firstly, most of us benefit from hearing and having opportunities to discuss and question the opinions of other Christians and however much (or little) we already know about the Bible, there is always more to be learned. Secondly, such meetings are another way of increasing the friendship and fellowship we have with each other.
*We are very grateful to Jeannette Butler, Mary Thompson and others who prepared and organised this and to those like Neha Narne who made and/or brought other ‘goodies’ including that naughty-but-nice chocolate creation and the simnel cakes – and thanks also to all the ‘washer-uppers’.