Sunday 12 March 2006

Last night saw a heavy snowfall, so Glasgow awoke to several inches of snow today. I slipped and waded my way through thick snow this morning, dodging snowmen, snowboarders, sledgers and snowball fights to make it to church.

This morning was Wellington Church of Scotland, a beautiful building at the heart of the Glasgow University campus. Not that you’d notice – the church seems to have done about as much outreach to the university community as Ian Paisley has in the Vatican, and it was hard to see exactly what community it felt it was serving, if not the one right under its nose. The congregation – severely depleted to around sixty by the snow – was old in profile, and the service lived up to the stereotype of an elderly church. The minister was all robes and monotone, the choir somewhat lacklustre, the singing was awful, and the sermon felt twice as long as the twenty minutes it took. My yawns, I confess, might have been partly due to me being up until 5am watching Lost Series 2 on DVD, but that’s another story. There was communion, too, with the wine served in those tiny wee shot glasses that never allow you quite enough wine to be able to swish it around your mouth and remove all the dry bread stuck between your teeth. The whole Wellington experience was rounded off by your good friends and mine, Uncomfortable Pews.

On the plus side, I must say the welcome was good – a few hellos on the way in, and some friendly chat over coffee afterwards. People did seem rather apologetic that things weren’t livelier and that there weren’t more younger people around – quite why they’re apologising for this rather than doing something about it and fulfilling their potential by reaching out to the 20,000 students on their doorstep on a Sunday, I’m not sure. The building though, as I say, was lovely, with grand high windows, a beautiful ceiling, ornate interior, and distinctive and foreboding exterior. I couldn’t help thinking it would make a fine nightclub venue, which would certainly be more relevant to the local community than its current use.

So, good marks for the welcome, but it’s not a church that particularly packs a punch spiritually or socially and certainly didn’t make me think I’d grow or learn very much there. Wellington gets the boot, I’m afraid.

On my way back I trudged through the oldest part of campus and took some nice photos (see the pictures page), then came home to find an email from David McCarthy, the rector at St Silas which I reviewed earlier this month (see 5 March). I guess it was only a matter of time before my covert church-reviewing would be discovered by a “victim”! David was genuinely grateful for the honest appraisal I gave, which he plans to discuss with others, and copied it in his own blog. I am so glad that one visitor’s description of his experience (good and bad) has given a church something to mull over. I look forward to returning to St Silas soon.

Not sure where I’m going to church tonight yet…

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