Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Tuesday 5th June - semantics and services

So why is it called a church "service"? Why is it not a "gathering", "convocation", "get-together", "meeting", "convocation (Latin 'calling together', translating the Greek ecclesia;  a group of people formally assembled for a special purpose", or some similar word implying people all arriving in the same place for a common purpose?

It sounds like a yet another way of concealing what happens in church from people who are "not in the know" - or, to use a despicable and ugly and patronising and hateful (in my view) word, people who are "un-churched".

How else do we use the word "service"?

Boiler service, car service. Um. Not so good. Something that must be done at regular intervals, usually at great inconvenience, which is inordinately expensive, and has potentially horrible consequences if you ignore it.

Performing a service to, or for each other - "Service to the community" - yes, that's a positive notion.
So who are we giving the service to, and why? To each other? Do we just turn up on Sundays to make the vicar feel wanted and give the musicians (band, organist, choir, guitarist, whoever) a chance to play? It is a huge amount of work to keep the show on the road every Sunday. The columns on our rota (prepared as a loving service by a loyal and committed lady every three months, covering an entire sheet of A3 in miniscule print) include prayer ministry, flower arranging, sacristan, four columns for children's work each needing a leader and a helper, two transport columns, readers, intercessors, two columns for music leaders, song-pro, PA, and administrators (of communion wine, not paperwork). Someone else collates the weekly "Pew News" sheets and the service information, produces the masters and photocopies and folds enough for the congregations, and inserts the appropriate liturgy pages. Both wardens tend to be on duty from 8:30am (half an hour before the first services) until 1pm (an hour after the second service ends). I know, because I was a warden myself. "Sunday Lunch" was sandwiches, except on rare occasions, for about 12 years, as I was the music leader for ten years before I became warden, playing on most Sunday mornings (although we only had one service on Sundays then).      

Thinking about it, calling it a church service actually a close description of what it is.

But what is it all about? When I was wardening, and in the years before when I was leading the music, it was all too easy to get so bogged down in everything, that the real point of it all was lost.

Well, here is it. This is what it is all about.... http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+10%3A38-42&version=NIV

Luke 10:38-42

New International Version (NIV)

At the Home of Martha and Mary

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Aha, the church service is the time when we come together and God looks after us! Unfortunately, it takes a massive amount of Martha-ing around before we get around to the Mary-ing sitting and listening bit, by which time we've usually lost the plot and become very grumpy over everything that needs to be done.

So, tell me again, because I'm still confused. What is the service for? Who is it for? Is it a "service" at all? 

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