Does the church make itself ‘accessible’ by being uncompromising in its worship (in the conviction this is what integrity requires and this may be exactly where visitors to that worship might encounter spiritual depth they had not suspected) or by adapting its content or style (in the conviction that this will provide bridges of understanding and experience which visitors to that worship might cross)? On the one hand everything from a Sung Mass to Cathedral Evensong attempts to be a place where visitors encounter the mystery of God on our terms. On the other hand everything from a ‘Family Service’ to the integration of modern music attempts to be a place where visitors find a welcome in part on their own terms.
I was thinking all this again at the Ordination yesterday. There can hardly be a service which carries more weight in its profound statement of commitment and faith; if it does not ‘say’ things to ordinands and parishes which deepens their vocation then it misses something. Yet it is a service at which a significant proportion of a congregation might be expected to be candidates’ family and friends who might otherwise attend church hardly at all; I certainly remember the advice given to one preacher at such a service that he should remember what a high proportion of his listeners this might be.
When the present form of service was being developed, there was an attempt to remove the major Litany of prayer from the service and replace it with intercessions which were shorter and simpler. This attempt was based chiefly on the conviction that the Litany over balances a service into which so much else also has to be included and ends up being tediously long for those unfamiliar with it. This was rejected because the experience of silence, the singing of the ‘Come Holy Spirit’ and the praying of the Litany was valued precisely as almost a Vigil which the heart of the service requires.
So it proved for me at Gainsborough yesterday where the Junior Choir hummed beneath the Rector’s intoning of each of the Litany’s petitions, with the tone rising each time he reached ‘let us pray to the Lord’ and exploded into each ‘Kyrie eleison’. I guess that some visitors, possibly already burdened by listening to a weighty sermon, wondered whether it would ever come to an end. I hope that some of them wished, like me, it wouldn’t.
The Bishop of Grimsby, our new Curate, and the new Curate of Skegness are pictured being marshalled into some order for an official photograph.