Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Do churches show the love of God?

This article suggests that many people no longer attend church because they have been hurt by the church at some point in the past.  There are also those who are put off attending by an insensitive first response, particularly when requesting weddings or baptisms.

How do we maintain our integrity whilst welcoming those who have expectations of us which might not be realistic?  The Weddings Project encourages us to find ways to say "yes" when a couple come to us for a church wedding, and the recent changes to the rules have certainly helped this.  It is perhaps easier for me to welcome this from a church with perhaps 1 wedding a year than one with 50 - when each takes about a days work all told, but given the rules are as they are it is possible to treat requests graciously or not.

I understand the theological thinking of those who object to certain requests or behaviours, but as a speaker said on our course:
it is amazing how much you can achieve just by being nice


  1. I hear sad stories everywhere about people who are put off - one vicar suggested at a baby's funeral that they needed to pray hard for the child because it was unbaptised.
    - another man had been married very briefly as a very young person and was gutted that in later life it meant he couldn't have the church wedding that his fiancee had always dreamed of
    - another vicar refused to bury a person's mother because she had killed herself and he considered it wasn't appropriate in consecrated ground - eventually the bishop made him so he buried her in a dingy corner of the churchyard..

    To be honest it doesn't help that the church has rules about remarriage that mean vicars can say no to marrying someone but yes to blessing their marriage - if it is wrong then it is hypocritical to offer to bless it... grr...

  2. My church is next to a hospital. A couple of weeks ago a woman rang me to ask if it was possible for her daughter to park in our car park whilst she did a student placement at the hospital. It was only for 8 weeks, 3 days a week. She lived an hour away and there was no easy bus service. The hospital was unable to provide her with a parking space. Of course, I said "yes." The lady offered to make a donation to the church which I said was not necessary. I told her I thought it would be a sorry state of affairs if a church couldn't do a favour for a young person training to become a nurse. However, I told her to keep it quiet so we didn't get inundated with less worthy requests.

    When my churchwarden found out, she overrode my invitation and told the woman her daughter couldn't use our car park. She rang me and gave me a good telling off. Evidently she has a strict policy of refusing all requests.

    I tried to explain to my churchwarden that a bit of niceness was a lot more effective and far cheaper than any amount of formal evangelisation, but she wouldn't have it.

    Fortunately, my reader, completely embarrassed at the churchwarden's behaviour, contacted the mother and invited the trainee nurse to park on her large driveway. She lives close to the hospital.

    I agree with you. Many people leave the church, never to return, or refuse to consider going to church, because of maybe just one act of thoughtlessness or meanness from a church member (often the minister). I also wonder how many times members of congregations do not take the opportunity for a bit of friendship evangelism because they know that if their friend does decide to try out their church they will be very disappointed by the lack of friendship they encounter.



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