One of the greatest surprises since I first walked into the SAP’s church in May, is how the structure of getting along to a service most weekends pays dividends. Not because there’s a tally, but due to the support of being around a family of people who have one rather significant thing in common with you.
I use the word family because, without fear or favour, that’s what happens when you begin to attend a church regularly. You get yourself another family. Which, for little Ms Independence here, took some getting used to. Welcome me, talk to me, but for heaven’s sake, don’t care for me!
But they do. Any church doing a decent job will be brimming with a friendly congregation who welcome and, should you decide to settle in, nurture you on your Christian journey. When I don’t make it along? I miss it. The structure is a bit like watering my seedling of faith each week. Without fail, my brain comes away with something new to ponder and explore, whilst my soul not only lifts in homecoming, it also gets to come out and play with all of its mates.
Back in that job interview, I didn’t understand how attending church regularly – or any place of worship – would have an impact upon Christian faith. Yet to keep my body healthy I choose good habits, such as running daily, eating healthy food, drinking green tea and water…and understand that as I do, my body thanks me with vitality and energy. It’s the same with faith. Hebrews 10:25: ‘Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship. But we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other.’ Attending church weekly strengthens my spiritual core just as a four-minute plank each day strengthens my muscular core.
Spiritual Planking By The Sea
So, escaping Sydney recently, I found myself camping in a secluded spot on the south coast over a weekend. Unable to attend my church (SAP, please note the use of the possessive determiner. I’m palpitating, but I used it. Go me!) I thought I’d play the tourist and attend another Anglican service nearby. A small part of me was interested in seeing ‘how it was done’ in another church, but for the most it was maintaining good habits. Spiritual planking.
A quick JFGI on the phone told me that the closest Anglican was a short ten-minute drive away. The website had a picture (beautiful sandstone) and the address, like most small country/coastal towns, was Church Street. Easy. 0945 start, so I had plenty of time to get a surf in beforehand too.
I failed to allow extra time for the difference between my Sydney metro driving and the more sedate rural approach. Getting stuck behind a Sunday driver on a loose gravel road turned the short ten minute drive into slightly longer. As a journo I don’t do late well. Siri found me Church Street, I spotted a sandstone church and skidded into the car park via a nifty side entrance with a minute to spare. Hustled inside. Grabbed a beautifully printed service handout, chose a pew and looked around.
Ah, this was more familiar to my childhood in England. Some lovely stained glass windows. And, ouch, those wooden kneelers. Lots of ornate gold work. And, hang on, various religious statues? I glanced around some more. Noticed that people were genuflecting and making signs of the cross as they entered. Didn’t remember that from C of E…or my newer Anglican experience. I looked more closely at the alter. Was that a thurible? A slightly uneasy feeling started in the pit of my stomach. I flipped over the service handout to check the name of the church pastor.
No pastor. Father Michael. In my haste, and use of the side-entrance, I’d failed to spot I’d come to a Roman Catholic Church service. I glanced backwards wondering if I could make a subtle escape. Just as Father Michael, in his robes, carrying the tools of his trade, with his posse (I’m not sure of all their job titles) made a rather splendid entrance and marched down the aisle.
Okaaay. Les Mills Body Attack, here I come.
How many churches can a small country town have?
Six it turns out. Mostly on Church Street. To plead my defence I’ve collected some pictorial evidence. Without any signage to give you clues, which out of these would you pick as the Anglican church?
The SAP probably did some specialist subject to do with religious architecture at Bible College, so he is in all likelihood yelling at the screen now: “Pick B, pick B!”
But I’m afraid I ended up in A. Which was an education. At least I didn’t have leather pants on this time.