Sunday 26 March 2006 (again)

Today’s double-header of a church review kicks off with the morning gig at Partick Trinity Church of Scotland, which meets in a traditional old building near the university. As I walked in, a woman dishing out intimation sheets asked me if I knew I where I was going. I paused for a second, wondering if she was offering me some spiritual counselling, but I realised that she was just recognising me as a newbie, and when I said “no” she press-ganged the first person to pass by into looking after me, who showed me into the church and then afterwards came over for a chat and introduced me to others. So, top marks for the welcome.

The church was a very traditional-looking place, with a beautiful but austere interior, rigid pews (more on them later) and a rather elderly looking congregation. One doddery old bloke carried a huge big bible in at the beginning of the service and set it on the lectern, and took it away again at the end (we all had to stand during this), and looked like each shaky step he took was dangerously close to being his last.

On the other hand, the minister was an energetic younger guy, was engaging, cheerful and humorous in his delivery, and used powerpoint brilliantly as a guide through his helpful and practical sermon. I can’t remember much of what it was about, because I was so tired (see previous post) and was trying to cope with the awful pews. They had cushions on them to minimise posterior damage, but that still left the horrible hard backs, and the pews were set a tiny width away from each other – so close that when you stood up your knees were pressed against your own pew and your crotch against the one in front making it rather uncomfortable to stand up straight during the songs.

Afterwards the church was laying on a lunch as a way of bribing people into staying for their Stated Annual Meeting, and over lunch I ended up chatting to two young guys who had only recent connections with the place about our experiences of visiting new churches. It was so nice to be able to talk openly about what makes a good or bad church. We all agreed, incidentally, that the processing in and out of the Bible was a bit of a sad ritual… after all, we’re called to revere the Bible not a bible.

I also discovered that the horrible pews are due to be replaced at some point in the future by normal seats. It was apparently somewhat of a contentious decision. Contentious?? Why?? How can the choice between comfort and utter lack of comfort be contentious? Honestly. It is an example, though, of new ideas slowly trickling into the church – though I didn’t speak to him, I get the impression the minister and others are gradually dragging Partick Trinity kicking and screaming into reality.

So in short – a bit staid and potentially uninspiring and frustrating in the long term for someone like me, but it was friendly, and there was good teaching and lots of evidence of a thriving, caring, focused church. They just about nose it into round 2.

This evening was the intriguing Re:Hope who I blogged about on 17 March after visiting their website. Did I love it? Did I hate it? I’m too tired to write any more just now, so come back and find out tomorrow!

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