Posts Tagged ‘glasgow church search’
It’s been a full week, with two days in Sheffield for a training course and then the weekend in Aberdeen. More about all that another day though, because I got back to Glasgow in time for my flatmate and I to try out another church, St Silas Episcopal.
St Silas is well known as a lively, studenty, cheerful sort of place (at least in the evening) and it was recommended to me by a number of people. Its rector (episcopalese for “minister”) is a good friend of Gareth Saunders and writes a compelling blog himself. So I was expecting good things.
And to be honest, that’s what we found. A reasonable welcome at the door led us into a bright, laid back and impressively grand interior, with plenty space around the seated area and a stage with a band and huge projector screen. We sidled in towards the back and sat ourselves down on the very comfy seats. The church soon filled up with a steady stream of latecomers which added to the relaxed atmosphere – though nobody nearby spoke to us.
The service started with a few lively songs, and the band was good but the musicians and indeed the singing was drowned out by the over-enthusiastic drummer. Then after a short prayer we were straight into the sermon. Delivered by an “ordinary” member of the church, it was good – around 50 minutes and based on James chapter 5. It was well-presented and delivered, peppered with a few laughs, and most importantly of both practical and spiritual benefit.
After the service – which ended rather abruptly – my flatmate and I sat around waiting for people to speak to us, and we gave the welcome a second chance to prove itself when we went to the counter at the side to get a cup of tea. Lots of people were milling around and talking to each other, but nobody approached us to say hello or welcome… not even my flatmate when I left him on his own for a couple of minutes to nip to the toilet.
It was a bit of a shame and a contrast to last week’s warm welcome at Sandy H. The church had a lot going for it – decent worship, a young and cheerful crowd, powerful and useful teaching, and a lot going on judging by the announcements and intimation sheet. They just let themselves down a bit by not recognising two people who were blatantly new and looking a bit lost (a look I confess to overdoing just a little to see if it encouraged people to talk to us… it didn’t). Jesus is a forgiving sort of chap though, so St Silas bounces into round two.
This evening's church was Sandyford Henderson, a Church of Scotland about 25 minutes' walk from me. I'd heard good things about it – good teaching, friendly, and lively. As this was exactly what I'd heard about Findlay Memorial and The Tron, both of which disappointed, I didn't hold out much hope of being surprised.
But I was! Gold star number one for the welcome – no less than three people said "hello" or "welcome" as I came in, and as I sat down in a seat a cheery guy came over, sat next to me and said, "hi, I'm Chris." It transpired his name was Chris. We chatted both before and after the service, and he introduced me to others sitting around us who were equally friendly. That was all so refreshing – and as I've said before, being friendly to new people costs nothing. Consequently I gave twice as much in the offering as I normally would!
The second gold star is for the seats. Although this was a traditional church building, the interior was bright and fresh, and I learned that it had been gutted a few years ago in a major renovation, and nice comfortable seats were put in instead of the traditional rock-hard pews. They were padded, had arm rests, bible holders for the people behind, and the best thing was they had horizontal bars at the bottom, about six inches above the ground. These would, I assume, be shelves for prayer cushions in a Roman Catholic or Anglican place where they go in for the whole kneeling-to-pray malarky, but here they made for perfectly-positioned foot rests. Inspirational!
However, you don't judge a church purely by its seats, as a girl I got talking to mock-sternly pointed out to me when I raved about them to her. The sermon – just under thirty minutes – was substantial in terms of content and message, and the delivery by the visiting preacher was easy-going, chatty and conversational. The worship was not exactly dancing in the aisles but the praise band was excellent, the hymns well-sung, and the accoustics of the beautiful interior made it all sound outstanding. It was a bit surreal singing a modern hymn to the tune of Land of Hope and Glory though…
So Sandy H gets the thumbs-up. A lively place, lots going on according to the intimation sheet, and a keen eye for visitors. It joins Destiny in the second round.
The church-hunting over the last three weeks has been a bit of an experience.
The first place I tried was Findlay Memorial, an independent baptist church that had great teaching but lacked a certain oomph in its praise and lacked a whole barrowload of oomph in the welcome department. When my flatmate came along in the evening, nobody talked to us. We were sitting at the back, two six foot plus guys, looking very obviously out of place and new, and nobody decided we were worth talking to – not even the two folk who squeezed past us at the end of the service to get out of the pew. In the end I suggested to my flatmate that we should count to ten, and if nobody talked to us, we'd leave. So we did, they didn't, and we did.
Week two was The Tron, and I take a vindictive and thoroughly unchristian delight in telling you it boasted a non-existent welcome, excruciatingly uncomfortable pews, heavy and cumbersome hymnbooks (and heavy and cumbersome hymns, come to mention it), and a shockingly awful, dull, uninspiring and rambling sermon that lasted a whole hour and left my flatmate and I so drained of the will to live we headed straight to the pub afterwards to recover.
Honestly, what is it about churches and rock-solid pews? Why is it an essential part of the Sunday morning experience to have your backside numbed and cramped beyond the pain barrier? It maybe explains some churches' condemnation of homosexuality – anything they can do, our pews can do better. Or worse. And as for crap welcomes, a bit of politeness and a keen eye for people who look lost costs a church nothing, and can gain so much in terms of bringing folk into its community.
Tonight, we both tried out Destiny, a charismatic church on the south side of the city. Being of good presbyterian stock, this sort of malarky was a new experience for me, and I found it bizarre (in a good way) that it was as much like a club night or a gig as a church service. The atmosphere was relaxed, and the praise was very lively, led by a very talented band. Although the fact that the band kept playing in the background for the first half an hour or so blurred everything together, and it was hard to tell when we were meant to be praying, listening, singing, standing, sitting or giving our offering (and I can tell you they take credit cards).
The sermon was good, however – well-presented, well-delivered, to the point, and not too long. The venue was beautifully laid out, the seats were grand, and the congregation (or should that be crowd) seemed a young and dynamic bunch. The welcome was a bit stunted, however, and we couldn't help wondering if it was just a symptom of the big city. We're both used to smaller places, so perhaps this is something we'll just have to get used to in Glasgow.
So, loads more places still to suss out, but three down, and one gets voted into the next round.
The search continues…
In church this morning, a friend gave me the web address of the church she went to when she lived in Glasgow. I had a browse a moment ago, and that led me on a search for the websites of all the churches in Glasgow that people have been good enough to recommend to me over the past few weeks. They include both traditional and lively Churches of Scotland, an independent baptist church, a Pentecostal church, and an Episcopal church.
My googling led me to stumble on the homepage of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, an extremist denomination consisting of two and a half grumpy Lewismen who oppose everything, including and especially Fun. In a stroke of inadvertant comedy genius their website is closed on Sundays. I remember reading a few years ago of the internal debate within the Free Ps about whether to actually establish a website or not – opponents of the idea claimed that any site on the internet was “only five clicks away from pornography”. Quite how they knew this, I have no idea.
I can’t quite see why even the most traditional of doctrine should dictate that a website about the Christian faith should be closed on a Sunday – perhaps they think that web-surfing is just a step away from dancing, and of course we all know that dancing is just a step away from sex. However, what with giving women only second-class status and compulsory hat orders; refusing to do anything except constantly repent for the crushing sinfulness of mankind and offer brutal judgementalism to the rest of us infidels; their oppressive Sabbatarianism; and adhering to the letter of the Old Testament to an extreme degree that would put the Amish to shame, I reckon closing their website on a Sunday is not really all that surprising. With guys like the FPs around, there’s really no need for satire – I wouldn’t swap them for anything!
Anyway, back to all these different churches I’ve been recommended – they all seem lively and appealing in their own ways, and I think it might be worth broadening my horizons beyond my own blinkered centre ground. Me going to a baptist, charismatic or Episcopal church? Stranger things have happened. I can’t think of any, but I am sure they have…
With so many places to try out when I move south, I think I could have a lot of fun “mystery shopping” them all.