Sunday, 10 May 2009

Body of Christ doing our job properly!

There are occasions when one wonders why we bother with evening services in many churches. Numbers are low, sometimes only those with jobs to do turn up and a lot of heat, light, service planning, etc goes into the event.

Not tonight though. Five minutes before the service was due to start two women came into church, both in tears and asked if they could light a candle. The steward made a stirling effort and found some tea-lights and holders and even matches (non of these being out for the casual visitor's use).

The younger woman's sister's baby had just died, only a few days old, following a very difficult labour and birth. The older woman was her mother-in-law and had come along to support her in praying. 

They stayed for the service, surrounded by church members who had never met them before but who quickly put flowers into a vase next to the candles (and gave flowers afterwards), who sensitively offered support without being overwhelming. 

The prayers and hymns I had prepared were worryingly appropriate! To the point where at times my heart sank as we sang another hymn that talked about God's children, life out of death, joy out of grief - all perfectly standard hymns but suddenly much more pointed and meaningful.

My own niece was still born at 39 weeks gestation and, though some years ago, there was no escaping the pain that washed over me in the face of this desperately sad story. I struggled to preach and singing 'abide with me' as the planned last hymn was almost too much - but somehow facing the pain was better than changing at the last minute to choose something less meaningful.

I was so proud that the church was open and able to support these two women. We may never see them again (they may associate us with this painful incident too strongly - as well as with care and compassion). The Kingdom of God broke through in the welcome, the hospitality and even in the 'too appropriate' liturgy and hymns. 

Who knows how many people walk to locked churches looking for a comfort or space that is not there?


  1. I think it is becoming more common for folk to just wander in seeking comfort, we had a lady come in half way through a service the other week to ask us to pray, thankfully the congregaton reacted in a similar way to your folk!

    We must be ready for this to happen. I will pray for them, my daughter Sarah was stillborn at 35 weeks ( 20 years ago but...)

  2. Thanks Sally. I understand the 'but...' carries so much.

  3. Thank you for sharing this, Micky. Our poor evening attendance has been the subject of concern - and argument - at times, but has been picking up lately. I will point our Stewards to your post. My third child was stillborn - in 1952, but I still remember!

  4. Thank you for sharing this.
    I like evening services both to preach at and to recover from preaching in the morning.

  5. Thanks Micky. I found it moving.

  6. Thanks Micky. A deeply sad but very wonderful story. I'm a great believer in the power of worshipping in a small group, so in larger churches I feel that keeping an evening service on the plan (if the resources allow it) is invaluable precisely because it is likely to be a much more intimate affair.

  7. Alas, Micky. I mentioned your experience (briefly) at our Church Council but only two of us ever attrend the evening service and the Council voted last night to close the evening service for six weeks again this summer.