The Revd.

Matthew J Hughes

01689 856931

Associate Rector   

The Revd.
Stephen Broadie
 07722 428553

February Leader:  

Like many of you. I was brought up in a time when Sundays were very different than they are now. The shops were shut, the roads were empty, and people generally had a quieter day in preparation for going back to work on Monday. In such an environment going to church was quite a natural choice and contributed to the feeling of Sundays being a different and special day. I cannot say I enjoyed Sundays much as a child as it always seemed boring, but looking back now I think we were probably physically and mentally healthier for a more peaceful day.

Fast forward 40 years or so, on a rare Sunday morning when I wasn't on duty, I decided to pop into the local supermarket. I was stunned by the sheer volume of people; here the aisles were full, sadly unlike most churches. Standing there I found myself thinking that at the same time I was in this aisle, in St Giles, a small community of people were also in another aisle worshiping and praying together. In that shop the contrast could not have been starker, in front of me was one of the societal changes that we in the Church of England are so desperately grappling with. It is partly a struggle for relevance, partly a struggle for numerical presence, for priority in a busy world, and in some places, a struggle for existence itself. Going to church today is a niche activity, you really have to want to be there, and you really have to defend the time to do so.

Yet where we are in the Church is not all about competition from supermarkets and children's Sunday sports. Part of the issue is what being part of a church actually means and feels like. In past times commonly held values such as duty, commitment, and participation were often enough to keep the Church on the road, but now, commitment and participation in organisations is at a low ebb. Joining organisations is no longer fashionable, whether it be a church, a political party, the Round Table, or a Village Society. If church feels like being a member of a club for the religiously minded, then in today's culture not much is going to happen. However, if church is about spirituality, meaning and God’s love then I believe it will always be of interest and relevance. By Spirituality I mean an inner experience of something that you would perceive to be Divine, Transcendent, ‘other.’ Spirituality is an experience of prayer and an active engagement with truth that brings meaning and purpose to life. Spirituality is turning up to church and having an expectation that through worship you will connect with the life and love of God. This may come in various ways, through a beautiful Choral Evensong, a candle lit service, a time of extended silence within a service. I think you know when the Spirituality of a church is working for people come away simply feeling more calm, more peaceful and connected to God, whom they perceive loves them. Talking of which, churches also stand or fall on the quality of the relationships within them. Life at times can be hard and lonely in this context, churches must stand out as communities of authentic love and real relationships. A place where hurts can be healed, and stories told and listened to.

This is something that each and every member of the church can share and should share in. Some churches have taken to holding a Sunday service outside their supermarkets. I am afraid that I would find this extremely embarrassing, both for myself and the poor shoppers. There is a saying amongst Australian sheep farmers, you have two ways to keep the sheep on your farm, build fences or dig wells, and spirituality is about digging wells

Matthew Hughes