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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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101 Responses to 571

  1. soniamain says:

    That is why you need cushions, so you can also fall asleep! :)

  2. Andy in Germany says:

    Do you just mean pews, or the church generally? If it’s the church, maybe that’s not so bad that we aren’t comfortable

  3. We had a big ‘do’ in the church last night and the Bishop of Donny was talking about this (we were supposed to be getting the AB of York but he’s sick) I’m just glad the Anglican church (at least parts of it) understand that regular church doesn’t ‘fit’ every christian and are trying to do something about it.

  4. Carole says:

    One of the benefits of having a modern church (they are a bit like modern houses – lovely to look at but you have to live in one to realise just how small and pokey they are!) is that you have nicely cushioned seats. This was a great relief when one of our priests decided he was going to go for the deluxe three hour Easter Vigil mass with ALL the readings and an infant baptism. Mind you, he did reward us with cava and cake afterwards, bless him.

    Back to the cartoon, that is possibly why we Catholics do so much standing up, sitting down, kneeling and crossing. Not only does it keep the circulation going it doubles up as brain gym for the congregation.

  5. AnneDroid says:

    Lol, Carole. Catholic aerobics!

    I sometimes tell people that the only reason I became a minister was so I could stand at the front and not have to sit on a pew.

  6. amywatson says:

    I usually opt for the crossed leg position – if not necessarily more comfortable, it does make the time more amusing observing the reactions of the old people around me…
    at least I take my shoes off!

  7. Ben says:

    I normally go for the shoes off, feet resting on little book shelf thingy on the back of the pew in-front of me. Or if the one in front is empty I rest my feet on the back of the pew.

  8. gilly says:

    similar to travelling at rush hour on the buses or trains

  9. dadube says:

    Ha ha….to be honest that looks like a clothed version of me from Sunday!

    Just stopping in while I have a quick minute – for anyone interested Poppy Isabella was born on Sunday 12th October at 10.13am. She is beautiful :)
    I may have more time for asbojesus now I’m on maternity leave – woohoo!

    PS Jon – there have been some cracking cartoons recently – sorry I’ve been too knackered/busy/lazy to comment on them!

  10. jonbirch says:

    hahaha! i’m plumping for ‘lazy’! :-) congratulations dadube!!! brilliant news!!!
    so do you have a little chairman mao or a little winston churchill?… i find that newborn babies generally fall into one of these two categories. :-)

  11. markb says:

    it’s not the chairs – it’s the content. my church has very comfortable chairs but on sunday i was squirming at point 5 out of 10….. what i want is a remote control for church, so that i can flick to something more interesting whenever i want……

  12. Caz says:

    No Christian should be comfortable in church.

  13. janetp says:

    :lol: This sums me up pretty well at the moment, even though I love the people very much.

    Robb (1): You pinched my response! ;)

    Congratulations Dadube. Enjoy! :)

  14. Forrest says:

    Comfortable physically?
    Comfortable emotionally?
    Comfortable spiritually?

    If one has reached and is maintaining a point of spiritual comfort, is one stil gorwing?

    More time for ASBO now that you’re on maternity leave? More time? You ever had a kid before? :-D
    Really, congradulations, you done well!

    Personally, I find babies to be a lot like busses – they totally wreck your schedule.

  15. AMEN!!! I can’t stand pews for that very reason.

  16. Linus says:

    Congrats Dadube

    Forrest am i meant to assume that having babies somehow involves standing in the pissing rain for half an hour, following which three come along at once?!

    Markb: genius, and far too tempting!

    Jon: Dadube has had a baby GIRL. Just as long as she doesn’t look like Maggie…

  17. zefi says:

    It’s good that he’s uncomfortable. Good opportunity to go out and fulfill the Great Commandment.

    Or it’s time to go back home to his proper bed.

  18. andy t says:

    ah should we be comfortable in Church? I like the McDonalds approach the chairs are designed to be comfortable for as long as it takes the average ‘Joe’ to eat a burger and chips. May be after we have been thier for a while we should be getting up and getting involved? ;-) and thats a challenge more to myself than anyone else, espeically as I am a back of the Church pew sit’er

  19. Jonathan says:

    Jon, you visited my church then..?

    Anyhoo, if the discomfort forces more people to go and figure out what it means to be a believer outside the context of trad church alone, then lets fit some more pews!

  20. Ben says:

    That’s why we have soaking rooms now… cushions in soft pink and green colors, sweet music on the background and certainly no conviction of sin preaching :-)

  21. Forrest says:

    Linus :-D
    Yep, you stand around in the stores while she shops for the ‘nest’. You stand in the rain loading those purchases in the car. You stand in the rain doing yardwork/fixer-upper work on the ‘nest’. And then – bammo! you’re hit with triple paperwork, triple bills, triple honey-get-this, triple honey-get-that, for every offspring you counted.

    And then ya love’em with three times the love ya thought you it could ever be possible to have.
    Even if while changing one of them you occasionally get ‘rained’ on. =O
    But they still make hash out of your schedule. ;-)

  22. Robb says:

    if the discomfort forces more people to go and figure out what it means to be a believer outside the context of trad church alone, then lets fit some more pews!

    I think that misses the point of the emerging church quite well.

  23. ED... says:

    It does say confortable there, doesn’t it?

  24. jonbirch says:

    not anymore it doesn’t ed! :-)

    just call me ‘mr typos’ this week!

  25. ED... says:

    That’s reassuring. I wondered if I’d missed a wordplay joke!

  26. anita says:

    I love this one on every level.

  27. Pingback: “Comfy” : The Daily Scroll

  28. drew says:

    Little boy after sitting with his granny in church.

    ” Nanny are you sure this is Gods house?’

    “Yes dear”

    …………….”Why doesn’t he move?”

    Asides from that we have just got rid of the blessed pews and installed posh chairs – They are much more comfy and welcoming.

    However I found that if one allows ones butt to slide slightly towards slipping off the pew and one wedges a ‘Super holy Hymnal’ between your knees/knee and the back of the pew in front then comfort can be obtained. – You may not be able to recover from this position without help – but it is almost comfy!

  29. Caroline Too says:

    uncomfortable in church?

    a good thing, huh…

    maybe if it was a discomfort of challenge to our comfortable norms…

    … but too often church is uncomfortable because it (and we) are odd, just plain odd

    and I don’t think that gives God any glory or offers the world any hope.

  30. Eric says:

    If all the people who fell asleep in church were laid end to end… they’d be a lot more comfortable.

    At my previous church, 4 of the 25 pews were weighted so that if you leant back on them, they would topple over. This meant they were normally at the back of the room, even when it left a big space between there and the next one forward. But people would still sit in the back one.

    But we got rid of the pews in favour of chairs. The church I was at before, while I was there, went the other way, replacing the hard plastic chairs with padded pews.

  31. subo says:

    reclaiming the pews

  32. Carole says:

    Congratualations, Dadube, great to hear that the sproglette has arrived. Savour this time, it is over so quickly.

  33. janetp says:

    Caroline Too (30): One of my all-time favourite quotes – and certainly my top ‘religious’ one – is from the wonderful Mike Yaconnelli:

    “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall ………
    make you Odd.” :razz:

  34. Steve Lancaster says:

    Oh, welcome to Asbo Jesus, Poppy Isobella!

    You’ve got a beautiful name.

  35. subo says:

    yep, big congrats Dadube, Poppy’s a cute name

  36. subo says:

    I don’t mind stiff pews and draughty buildings,

    it’s the controlling atmosphere in church, – where the leader does church to you, taking charge by adopting a silly voice, and where I know I’m not going to be invited into a conversation, then I leave bruised, oppressed and lonely wishing there was a context to say ‘why do we do it like this?’

  37. Dave says:

    who was it who said, “the church is the place where the uncomfortable should be made confortable and the comfortable should be made uncomfortable”… ?? shalom – dave

  38. Chris F says:

    I’ve just started to go to a church in a poor area of Bristol which have uncomfortable wooden chairs like the cartoon. They would love to buy some better ones but have no money.

    I feel uncomfortable that the “supermarket” big central churches are wealthy and can afford the best chairs and lots of other stuff, all the while making it easy for christians to commute in to the comfort of such places. I have no idea what be can be done tho

    This church is made up of local people who walk to church. One thing that could be done is for more christians to catch a vision of the local “corner shop” church, stop commuting to the place where it’s easy and get stuck in locally with some faith that things might just pick up if they did

    If only more christians would choose to worship where they live – or where they work – where they can be part of a local community and be seen to be involved in a christian activity as well

    But that’s always been a band wagon of mine

  39. subo says:

    “the uncomfortable should be made confortable and the comfortable should be made uncomfortable” – great quote, am always getting wound up because I want church to be a place of healing, and I find it a place of struggle

  40. marcus says:

    I read all this about the pews being uncomfortable but most Sundays I’m in the pulpit and I have to say it isn’t comfortable in there either!

  41. Carole says:

    I bet that is the least comfortable place of all, Marcus, with the weight of everyone’s expectations bearing down on you…

  42. Robb says:

    The most uncomfortable pulpit position is having just asked a question and no one will talk to you. Most disturbing.

    Perhaps I am too used to being a teacher in a classroom filled with opinionated self confessed know it alls….

  43. Louise says:

    I honestly feel like church would be SOOOo much more interesting, enjoyable and inspiring if there were beds all over the place.

  44. Chris F says:

    Phew! You’re back! When no-one posted for a day and half I thought the rapture had happened and I’d been left behind…

  45. Carole says:

    It’s OK Chris, we thought you were the rent man and we were hiding behind the sofa! ;)

  46. Caroline Too says:

    Well then, Marcus #41 stop giving sermons then!

    They don’t help people learn

    They tend to privilege the ‘up-at-the-front’ people

    They tend to develop passive congregations

    there is NO redeeming feature to them…

    oh dear… I fell another link coming on (ignore if you want)
    http://celtic_difference.typepad.com/a_difference_that_makes_a/2007/06/preaching-and-t.html

  47. Robb says:

    Sorry Caroline Too – I’ll have to disagree again. People should stop giving crap sermons.

  48. Robb says:

    I honestly feel like church would be SOOOo much more interesting, enjoyable and inspiring if there were beds all over the place.

    That was last month at Inspire.

  49. Robb says:

    It’d help if I spelled the address right wouldn’t it.

    http://www.inspiremorley.com/

  50. marcus says:

    Caroline Too (47): I shall stop giving sermons when I feel God asking me to.

    As for being privileged by being up front…pleeeeaaase! Walk a week in the shoes of a Pastor

    Sermons can help people

    And sermons alone are not to blame for passive congregations

    There are redeeming features whenever God’s Word is proclaimed.

    I am glad however that my post helped you get that off your chest, hope you feel better for it…seriously :-)

  51. subo says:

    in defence of the well crafted sermon, it can be done.

    the pastor preached a few weeks back on a parable,
    he teased ideas out of this one I’d have never thought of -
    (even if I’d got round to reading the parable,)
    slowly the hope and possibility woven into his preach really began
    to intrigued me, he engaged with the gritty depths of life, and
    the possibility of new things happening by faith

    I like that feeling of finding my viewpoint stretched, of
    finding life interesting, of being able to see beyond my
    little bubble for a brief moment

    God is out there, doing interesting things, – you can’t
    keep him down, and I sometimes think he likes escaping
    from church occasionally, just for a chance of a laugh

  52. Caroline Too says:

    Marcus, I got nothing off my chest.

    Do good things occasionally happen when a sermon is preached. Of course, we have a God of grace, and if (s)He is able to work throught the damaged life that is me, then (s)He can certainly work through a sermon.

    You’re waiting to hear God tell you to stop preaching? Just how might that happen? Possibly the prophetic word of an adult educator?

    No, silly me, only a theologically trained person could possibly speak in such a way.

    And how could you ‘hear’ God over the ‘shouting’ of centuries of tradition and monochrome experience … have you seen anyone seriously explore how adults could learn, develop and grow as disciples other than preaching?

    I’ve hung around the Anglican church now for 40 years… sigh… and I’m yet to see anyone really try something other than preaching.

    and what gets me, what really saddens me, is that I’ve seen more life changing, more turning around of lives in my secular job as a university teacher than I have done in charismatic, evangelical, great ‘teaching’ or even, more recently, contemplative churches.

    …and you know what, not once, despite my research and scholarship, not once has any priest, pastor or minister asked me to help him/her explore new ways helping disciples be disciples (learners).

    Now maybe that’s my fault, but there’s more going on here…

    and I just sense that the pulpit walkers aren’t listening…

  53. Robb says:

    My dissertation was based upon this sort of concept. I guess that is what happens when a kinaesthetic RE teacher trains for the priesthood…….

  54. marcus says:

    Caroline (53), my listening to God happens each day through a myriad of ways, songs (secular) reading (both secular and sacred), conversations, thoughts, images, nature, etc so please do not patronize me by daring to suggest that I might not listen to God if His voice were not coming from a theologically trained person.

    My experience of God is far from monochrome – as for the centuries of tradition are we to simply set all tradition to one side or is some tradition helpful (and this is coming from one who cares very little for tradition, but the longer I walk with God the more I appreciate some of the traditions that I once had no time for…but only some of them!)

    Of course discipleship is a result of more than just preaching, it is a way of life, a discipline, a determined effort – and speaking as a “pulpit walker” I see a lot of people who are only willing to give a couple of hours a week to gathering as part of a wider community of believers and they expect their spiritual life to flourish because they turn up!! Now I ask you is that really going to happen? And when it doesn’t they blame the person who spends countless hours each week with that community listening to their problems, praying with them, drawing alongside them and trying desperately to encourage them into a deeper life of communion with God through various ways, not just through listening to one maybe two sermons each week, but through engaging, participating with and in the communal worship each week that we have come to name “church” not to mention trying to equip such people for the hard work of Monday through to Saturday when we are all missionaries wherever we happen to be.

  55. The sermon giver isn’t necessarily the problem. I’d question him or her if they weren’t hearing from God on a daily basis. There are probably some out there who don’t and they should not be preaching. The problem I’ve found is the people sitting in the pews with me and the church pecking team (the chosen ones) who should be the ones who help and support the pastor/priest/vicar by helping and supporting the congregation (especially newcomers). If people come to church and they stay, unless they get some direction they’ll just do what everybody else is doing. They might, in time, be invited into one of the cliques but as far as I can see (unless they go directly to the vicar and ask) there will be no spiritual guidance. Being filled with the Holy Spirit takes some understanding of what He is and unless you have some measure of Him what happens in church (including the sermon) won’t mean a lot. I admire men and women who can week after week stand up there wondering if there’s at least one person out there who gets it. So I’ll add to my list…

    11. The men and women (ordained and otherwise) who carry on sharing the word of God with the blind, deaf and heard-hearted in the hope that they can reach some of them.

  56. subo says:

    Hi folks, and Caroline too

    It’s so good to read your honest comments Caroline:-

    “…and you know what, not once, despite my research and scholarship, not once has any priest, pastor or minister asked me to help him/her explore new ways helping disciples be disciples (learners).”

    I recently witnessed a couple of professional ministers walk all over someone – yet again, and tried to swallow my rage – yet again.

    This time I did send a email reply, only to get a professional rebuff. (thus am still raging, so thanks ASBO for the space to say how it feels)

    to be honest, I’m not surprised the church appears to be struggling, I don’t know any other profession, where people could get away with being so rude, so self opinionated, and so disregarding of the thoughts and feelings of members of their own organisation.

    We who work outside the church, watch ministers putting down people, who’s success in demanding jobs they couldn’t even begin to match, take the incident above, the two ministers involved in insulting my friend, could not begin to undertake his job.

    Luckily I have also met ministers with a real healing ministry and an ability to listen, who are gracious and inspiring – interestingly, one person who comes to mind, holds down two jobs, only one of which is in ministry.

    The reason I find this especially sad, is that I believe a community thrives from people listening to each other.

  57. I agree that a community thrives through people listening to each other which doesn’t happen in many churches I’ve been part of. Most recently I’ve noticed that the vicar leaves the day-to-day stuff up to his team (which he inherited) and I get the impression that he’s fed up with the ‘in-house’ back biting so he just leaves them to it. I wish he’d have the balls to kick the lot of them into touch but too often we don’t rock the boat for fear of alienating the majority (good or bad). He spends most of his time out in the community, probably not intending to go down with the ship.

  58. Robb says:

    I suspect we should walk a mile in anothers shoes…

    …at least then we shall be a mile away and have their shoes.

  59. subo says:

    Hi botticelliwoman,

    sorry to sense so much frustration from your post, it sounds grim

    I wonder if there’s a loss of confidence within the group at the moment, as though know one knows how others are feeling, or what might change things, the minister dosn’t sound over happy if he’s leaving others to get on with stuff

    I church I go to recently had a go at the Birkman Workshop through Care for the Family, (have pasted some info here), I have been surprised to see how it’s bought people together and increased an awarness of each other, the way the Birkman highlights peoples skills seems to boost peoples confidence and enjoyment of getting involved

    there are a number of situations documented, where one person has made a difference, by their ability to listen, their emotional engagement – i.e. showing a dislike for gossip, and an enthusiasm for getting people together

    ……

    Birkman is behavioural in approach
    Care for the Family “got into” Birkman through our Executive’s personal experience of doing it as individuals …. Over time the results were proving to be helpful in different areas of the organisational’s planning and outworking. The Birkman consultants we know have had much training and experience in using the tool and value has been added internally, across church groups, within families and corporate organisations.

    In the States many top companies use the tool as well e.g. T&T, Walmart, Estee Lauder International, Disney, Hewlett Packard, National Park Service, Chevron USA, KPMG, Shell Oil, Sony Pictures,

  60. subo says:

    Hi guys, this cartoon reminds me of Philip Yancey’s comments in his book ‘Soul Survivor’, I got the impression church had really become an uncomfortable box for him – until he met and read about people who were actually exciting

    anyway, it’s a great read

  61. Linus says:

    Caroline, would you be prepared to share with us some of your ideas for non-preaching based learning and discipleship? I for one would be interested to know more of your thoughts on this matter.

    Subo, Yeah soul survivor is a great book, both in itself and as an introduction to loads of other great writing.

  62. Caroline Too says:

    Linus, how interesting…

    somebody asking how?

    prior to your comment I was just raising my eyebrows that my posts had raised defences rather than questions…

    I like questions, they help me learn… questions rather than opinions help learning (I have to remind myself of that sometimes! :-) anyway, I shouldn’t hijack the wonderful Jon’s blog for my own agenda so

    I confess that I’m not sure that I have answers yet, but you can find my workings on my old blog
    “a difference that makes a difference”

    then wander into the section entitled “Learning and how we go about it”

    http://celtic_difference.typepad.com/a_difference_that_makes_a/learning_and_how_we_go_about_it/

    will get you there… you might, of course regret it though :-)

  63. Robb says:

    Linus, the way that educational theory is undertanding learning at the moment is that people learn predominantly in different styles. This means that some people really engage with auditory learning and to remove the sermon would be to remove their primary mode of engagement. However, anyone who learns in a visual manner, kinaesthetic etc etc will be less able to engage with a talk.

    Lets put it in simple but stereotypical terms*. When I was teaching the caste system to year 8 there are many different ways to do it. If I (a) remove the furnature and play a game with the kids where they all get to move around their pretend village and interact with each other the naughty kinaesthetic boys will love it and be able to explain the caste system at the end. If I (b) talk about the caste system for more than 10-15 minutes whilst everyone sits at desks the good girls who are predominantly aural learners and sit quietly at the front will sit and listen intently. In scenario (a) there will be a good proportion of the good girls (like my wife) sitting in the corner disengaged. In scenario (b) there will be a large proportion of the naughty kinaesthetic boys tearing their books apart and maiming each other.

    Either situation is crapola. People may learn in a predominant style but whilst that is true, they learn best in a variety of styles.

    Put this in church and we find that people congregate along these lines.

    a) Evangelical church with a good long sermon focussing upon written and spoken words.
    b) Catholic (in all of the variety of denominational allegiances) church filled with people who like visual symbols and movement.

    Etc etc etc etc.

    Question is, how do you hit each of the prefered styles within one worship gathering? I guess this is where political church ties to a certain form of worship are blurring.

    *Gender whilst not exclusively dictating this, does have a statistical basis. Lets face it, naughty boys are recognisable to anyone who has been in a classroom so the stereotyping works for the purpose of the illustration – but it is just that, an illustration.

  64. Caroline Too says:

    hold it Robb!

    ‘learning styles’ is one way that some people are theorising about learning at the moment.

    There are many of us who would challenge the idea of ‘learning styles’ and argue that it is a very unhelpful set of ideas.

    ..mind you, one has to say that ‘learning styles’ or as I would prefer ‘learning habits’ (I don’t think that is just playing with words) would explain why so many people are so uncomfortable with church… which, if I remember aright is where Jon started this conversation with a cartoon a little while ago! :-)

    … and we haven’t mentioned Poppy Isabella for a while…

  65. Steve Lancaster says:

    Robb, 64,

    “Question is, how do you hit each of the prefered styles within one worship gathering? I guess this is where political church ties to a certain form of worship are blurring.”

    Good question. One big issue with the Catholics for Kinaesthesia/ Evangelicals for Everything Aural is that huge rafts of theology have been built up to substantiate the choice of one denomination over another.

    It’s like, to take yours and Caroline Too’s professions, all the learners were divided into separate seminars/ lectures/ apprenticeships and then told that their way of learning is intrinsically the best. Or even, the only right way.

    Thank God these distinctions are breaking down. [Off-topic from here on out] Now all we need is the distinction between those who follow the bible and those who don’t to break down. Then (IMO) we’d be getting somewhere.

    As for pews, I reckon the start of a solution is not to replace the old furniture with new, but to preach that Christians don’t have to sit in church unless they want to.

    Where’s Jon? Hope he’s OK…

  66. Steve Lancaster says:

    Hi Caroline Too (65),

    Reckon I might be guilty of over-simplifying a subtle debate in M.66.

    What’s the latest on learning theory? Could you throw me a few names? And does “niche construction” figure in any of this? ‘Cos if not, I reckon it should…

  67. Carole says:

    Dare I say, at this juncture, some may not actually go to church motivated by a desire to learn, but rather to feel a sense of belonging.

    Steve, you don’t want to know the latest on learning theory…any buzzword that you bandy about becomes the in thing with little or no evidence to back up its effectiveness. What would church, based on comtemporary schools of thought on learning theory, look like? People constantly glugging on (and spilling from) water bottles and munching on apples; Multiple intelligences with sporty smart people playing ‘keepy-uppy’ whilst reciting the names of God. A little bit of Mozart to stimulate our brain patterns (didn’t they try that in the 18th Century?) Experiential learning – might be a bit harder to sort in a spiritual sense but maybe your ‘good works’ fit into that category. A little bit of brain gym (see my comment at 5) to enhance whole brain learning…it’s all just a bandwagon for anyone desperate enough to jump on.

  68. Robb says:

    Carole – Spot on. I wasn’t trying to suggest that the purpose of worship is purely to teach, but the topic shifted to condemnation of all preaching. What I am trying to suggest is that worship is more holistic than that and that ‘learning’ and indeed ‘engagement’ are more rounded than simple compartmentalisation into component parts. It is very easy to rally an army agains the part of the service or style of worship we don’t like and condemn it outright (‘creed is boring repetition’ or whatever) and thus strip it away from those people who value it greatly and engage with it predominantly within their worship of God. Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean that it isn’t valued by others.

    I like your munching apples and sipping water shaped church. I suggest you look up the pear shaped church group on facebook!!

  69. Linus says:

    I hope Jon’s ok too (?)
    But i’m actually glad he’s not posted another cartoon because otherwise this conversation wouldn’t have run its course as far as this, and this is important i think (what can i say Jon – you’re just *too* prolific sometimes! which doesn’t mean i’m not desperate to see the next one you come up with). I don’t think we’re hijaking at all – i think this is close to the heart of the problem portrayed in the cartoon (or one of the problems anyway), and its good stuff!

    Carole – fads maybe, but it sounds more interesting than the “typical sunday service” bandwagon i’m currently on!

    You’re spot on about it being more than about learning. Its even more than about belonging. Although those are both very important things. We’re called to be living stones, parts of the body – the very agents and representation of God to the world. Wow!

    Caroline i’ve only had a quick glance at your blog, but i like very much what you say about judging the difference made to actions, not head knowledge. I’ll try and read more of what you have to say about this.

    Robb, Steve; when i was a student one of the peeps involved in student ministry explained the choice facing fresher students like this:

    “The first week, the student goes to [church A], they get told – ‘welcome to Newcastle, we hope you settle quickly and find a church community you can belong to. It doesn’t matter which church you join as long as its one that teaches the word faithfully.’ By which they mean ‘does everything exactly like we do.’

    “The second week the student goes to [church B], they get told – ‘welcome to Newcastle, we hope you settle quickly and find a church community you can belong to. It doesn’t matter which church you join as long as its one that is sensitive to the work of the Spirit.’ By which they mean ‘does everything exactly like we do.’ ”

    The sad thing is that what is greatly lacking (in my not so humble opinion) in each community would be found in abundance in the other – it is divide and conquer in the extreme, and their differences would ultimately complement one another if there wasn’t such division.

    Of course, I joined [church C], which is somewhere between the two camps. So we are lacking in both areas =P

    One of the most challenging things for me recently in a formal church gathering context was being presented with a jug of clean water and a jug of dirty water and asked which one i wanted to drink from. I learnt about the effects of poverty in much more than a head knowledge way from that experience.

  70. soniamain says:

    Hi all just to let know Jon is ok, he has cleverly arranged to switch internet/ phone provider and has lost their phone/ internet/ email connection temporarily. They are hoping internet will be back on tomorrow if they can work out how to connect it! :)

  71. Chris F says:

    I long ago gave up the notion that anyone remembers what I say in sermons – can’t even remember myself! I think what matters is the evolving week by week of a culture, a way-of-doing-things, an atmosphere. Peope do need to feel comfortable in church, to be reassured, yes I DO believe this stuff, it’s not just me, these other guys believe it too.

    Sometimes someone remembers a story, an example like Linus’ jugs of water; an insight that comes for the first time. That’s good, and is good enough, for me. When it happens something changes, God is present, I am amazed and grateful.

    God knows when someone needs to be made uncomfortable – I think we should try to tell it like it is as honestly as we can manage – the rest, the encounter with God, is simply and obviously not up to me

  72. will t says:

    thanks sonia i have been trying to contact JB for a while now and was starting to worry.

  73. Robb says:

    Hey Linus, I went to C first of all and started to believe there ;)

  74. Carole says:

    So, Linus, was Newcastle just an arbitrary university town to illustrate a point? Or was it where you did uni? My daughter is there and did a round of the churches there. Would be interested to know which one you settled on, if it was your university town…

  75. Caroline Too says:

    Carole (#68), can I put in a defence of learning (and those who try to work out how to help others do it?

    I take your point about church being about belonging

    and also

    a key descriptor of Christians is that we’re disciples… learners. I particularly like Dallas Willard’s alternative that we’re ‘apprentices of Jesus’ that captures things for me.

    an alternative notion that shapes my thinking is that of pilgrimage.

    In all these ways we can think of ourselves as belonging – yes- but also progressing, changing, developing, maturing and learning is at the centre of this.

    I think that I’d want to go further; that discipleship, learning is a the lifeblood of our relationship with Jesus. By that I mean that if we just accept, believe and belong and leave our faith at that… I wonder if we’re abusing God’s grace

    it seems to me that throughout the new testament, Jesus’ followers are urged to become, press on (CS Lewis had the lovely phrase “further up and further in”) From Paul to Jude, passing through James, the letter writers assumed that the faith would make a difference…

    …but I don’t know about you but I find that difference difficult, I need to learn how…

    For me, the church has got things terribly skewed… discipleship (or spiritual formation) of the body of Christ should be at the forefront of our church family life but I don’t think that it is. Is that why we have struggling churches? We should organise ourselves so that we create the quality of relationships that enable us to encourage, advice, counsel, challenge and build each other up… those aren’t easy (and you’ll notice that I’m not looking at discipleship being an academic affair either…)

    I’m waffling too much…

    Linus/Robb… I went to church A and was happy there… in the last few years I’ve drifted c-wards but hung on in there at an ‘A-type’ church… which leads to some uncomfortable moments where I get it wrong (and even more uncomfortable when I challenge where ‘they-we’ are getting it wrong.. sigh..

    fortunately I’ve got a Father in the grace business, and discomfort seems to be one of the tools (s)He uses in helping me grow.

  76. Robb says:

    I left C a long time ago and have been a bit nomadic with work so I have been to churches that look like ABandC. I still have good friends at C though. One of them probably wouldn’t go to C if it weren’t for Ruth and me.

    C has evolved over the last decade since I went there. Now they let anyone in – even Linus ;)

  77. AnneDroid says:

    Congratulations from me too Dadube. Well done! Orra blest, as Christians say in Scotland (well they don’t much but they could…)

  78. Linus says:

    Ah yes, Robb, but they don’t know me like you lot do! [not true, actually, i'm pleased to say - comedy purposes only]

    Yes, you do still have good friends at C =]

    Whilst i might sometimes speak flippantly and/or disparagingly about us, C is a church community i love with a passion, and i long to see us grow into all that God has given us the potential to be. Robb its good to hear you think we are changing (i hope its for the better!) – Thanks for the good things you and Ruth brought to our community, and continue to bring from afar.

    Carole, yes Newcastle was my place of study and continues to be where i call home. There are some great church communities in the Toon (including “A” and “B” mentioned above, actually – i have very good friends at both)… but i’m nervous to start naming names publicly, including the identity of our place. At least not in the context of this thread. I think you know Robb IRL? i’m sure he can reveal the identity of all three churches i mentioned if you feel a desperate need to know.

    Caroline – i guess that’s what i was hinting at, that its really good when people outside the “type” or demographic prevalent in a certain community feels the need (calling?) to get stuck in, to broaden the understanding and to challenge the preconceptions. Not just to go where they feel most comfortable, or where their consumer needs are met the best. I think the sign of a really healthy community is one that supports diversity of age, ethnicity, personality, interests, ways of learning, financial means, skills and all manner of things, yet unites to seek God and attempt to follow Jesus.

  79. Carole says:

    No worries, Linus, I’m naturally interested because of the connection but it’s not a burning need to know. She tried 3 churches but settled at one which is quite small and homely.

  80. subo says:

    great discussion folks,

    and I do think there is something in the Kinetic learning experience, and notice how active some of my friends are in church. There is something active about charismatic worship – boogie away, rock your soul, catch your mates eye across the room and smile. If this context is working well it’s a great place to be for kinetic learners.

    Sometimes I think there’s another layer to these situations – for instance I loath the experience of ‘having church done to me’, I sit there quietly smiling whilst desperately wishing I wasn’t there – so I could look like the perfect language learner, when in reality its the best way I’ve learned to cope with situations I absolutely loath. – my more obviously kinetically disposed partner seems happy in situations I want to escape from and never come back

    (does this mean the good little girls in school have learnt no one’s interested? you may as well just keep your head down and look as good as you can?)

    and while one 35min preach draws you in, respectfully opens up new ideas, another 20min slot has a loaded atmosphere, you feel patronised and talked down to. If your really unlucky the preacher will start dissing stuff you value, or implying someone is defective in some way, the stagnant smell of condemnation settles heavily and the picture of Jesus pointing out how a particular prayer ‘thanked God he wasn’t like that poor man’.

    I guess I think the essential skill to surviving church, is a strong sense of whats total bunkum

  81. Is there such a beast as a church that pleases all of the people all of the time? subo@60, yes I’m frustrated but I don’t worship at the church, just work there (probably the reason I don’t worship is the frustration) I get to be a casual observer. I went through a lengthy stretch of thinking that the pew warmers (who seem to make up the bulk of the congregation) were the problem. I didn’t understand the ‘there for comfort and not for growth’ thing at all. There’s a bible study group (small) where I think you’re allowed to discuss your thoughts but ulitmately are expected to believe it means what they tell you it means and a sunday school where you get to draw pictures (or cut out and paste) of animals for Noah’s ark. You can join the flower arrangers, the Friend’s group, or do your stint at the Friday coffee morning. It’s very comfortable and non-threatening (once you’re in) but it lacks Christ’s presence.
    I’m quite happy just doing my community art workshops but at the same time if a person in the workshops were to ask me (they haven’t yet…phew!) about attending the church, I don’t know as I’d be able to be positive about it from a growing in Christ perspective. Part of the reason I’m joining up for the Mission Shaped Ministry course is so that I can handle such eventualities. What DO you do with people who want to learn and grow when you haven’t found that place yourself? Is it ok to tell people that it’s fine not to do church?

  82. Steve Lancaster says:

    From outside formal church (and with friends in A,B and C churches), I’d want to say, botticelliwoman, that it’s fine not to do church.

    In that mystical, grace-filled way that says that by ‘being church’ instead, you end up doing it anyway, though it may look like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

    Strikes me there’s always a bit of a risk in whichever choice you make – and risk is a neutral value. If you stick with, say, church A, you miss what’s going on outside it because you’ve taken the risk that what goes on inside it will be better, despite what people like me say. If you leave church A, there’s a very big risk that you are kidding yourself to think God might be outside – given conventional readings of the Bible.

    It seems to me that either way you are pushed towards the moment when you have to start relying on grace. At which point you realise that God blesses you regardless of which risks you take.

    Being stripped of my fears outside church was rough and head-spinning at times. Certainly as uncomfortable as sitting in a pew facing a relentless monoculture. I’m not surprised I felt like I’d handed myself over to Satan, as St Paul so helpfully put it.

    All I can say is it lasted seven odd years, by the end of which I was despairing. At that point, I realised God loved me. But He didn’t call me back into Church.

  83. Linus says:

    I think its fine not to do church. I don’t think its fine not to *be* church.

    Steve i suspect you are part of the latter without being part of the former, though i don’t know cos i’ve not met you (although if Nick Cave ever plays up this way maybe that’d change – thanks for the shout in the last thread). Your comment about having friends in A, B and C churches confirms it i think.

    Let me explain what i mean – i think God set up the universe to be relational – i think we are both hardwired by our creator, and called by our creator to live in relationship with one another. I think it is a fundamental human need and would go as far as to declare that it is the very purpose of a human being.

    I think how well you are managing to relate to God and to other people (ie being church) has very little correlation to how many or how few church services or formal church events you attend – although they can be a helpful context for relating to take place – and everything to do with choosing to relate whatever the context. I love the verse in Acts where it talks about the first believers being in and out of each others’ homes daily.

    I don’t think that relating to people is necessarily always easy or comfortable, and i certainly don’t think that comfort is the criteria by which we should judge how successful we are at relating or how important it is to keep doing it. But i do think being in community with God and people is what life is all about at the end of the day: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and love your neighbour as yourself!

    That’s why having a relationship with God (TM) really is living life to the full (tho it doesn’t always feel like it) – cos relating to God is about as relational as it gets, and if you have relationship to the full, you have life to the full i think.

    Steve it sounds like your journey was hard but productive! thanks for sharing it. Being pushed towards Grace is always a good thing, even if it is scary at times.

    BW i humbly suggest you continue to try to make friends with the pew warmers (tho not necessarily through attending services/events). Chances are they’ll turn out to go much deeper than anyone expects. Most people do, i think, once you get past the outward appearance.

  84. Laura says:

    ….”cos relating to God is about as relational as it gets”

    Yeah? But what if God’s not relating to you?

    Then what? It’s really not comfortable to sit in church then huh?

  85. Thanks Linus and Steve. I will persevere with the pw’s,and continue to let God work on my lack of patience. It’s possibly unfortunate that I work in high church which can be difficult to get to grips with in itself (but that’s just my feelings coming into it again) I’m a latecomer to this and haven’t worked out how (or am not mature enough in Christ) to deal with seeing people put down uneccessarily or cruelly. I don’t say anything, I just boil inside when I feel I should be doing something..I just don’t know how (and of course I’m yeller about losing my job if I ‘upset’ the wrong person)I can’t bring myself to recommend this church to any one outide it…yet.

  86. Speaking only for myself Laura; I find it difficult in some churches to feel the presence of God but that has more to do with me than Him. He’s in a relationship with me all the time but I don’t often see that until I get further down the line and look back. When I was 14 I desperately wanted to feel His presence in church, couldn’t and left (for 30 years). It took most of those 30 years to realise He was there inside me all the time and I’d been too busy looking out trying to find Him. I KNOW He’s in me and still I miss Him at times.

  87. Caroline Too says:

    it’s interesting how, despite our best efforts, we keep coming back to Jon’s cartoon of not feeling comfortable in church (with God?)

    Laura, as I read your comment, I just thought of other people who lost contact with God. Their stories, largely in the old testatment part of the bible seem strange – let’s face it they’re often more than 2-3000 years old

    but Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Samson, Jonah, Hanna, David, Habbakuk’s wife… these were all flawed people who had to deal with feeling that God was absent, not relating to them… they handled it in different, and often unhelpful ways,

    and yet, the subtext, even when they couldn’t feel it

    was that God was close by… and caring about the pain….

  88. Steve Lancaster says:

    Linus (85),

    “BW i humbly suggest you continue to try to make friends with the pew warmers (tho not necessarily through attending services/events). Chances are they’ll turn out to go much deeper than anyone expects. Most people do, i think, once you get past the outward appearance.”

    Totally agree. Don’t worry, I fully intend to hang around the pew warmers till they’re/you’re heartily sick of me! The harder thing, sometimes, is to listen past my prejudices. That’s what I’m learning.

    89. Caroline Too – the subtext is everything!

  89. Steve Lancaster says:

    God,

    re: 86. Whether or not you’re interested in relating to us, you’re stuck with us relating to you – you’ve created us that way.

    A bit like the Internet.

    Therefore, please bless Jon and his service providers with the nous to link his IT system together.

    And bless Laura ‘cos she’s telling you the truth, and the truth hurts, but God, you can rise above it. Pull yourself together, God, and get relational with her again.

    Amen

  90. janetp says:

    Steve, Linus, Botticelliwoman: Thanks for sharing your fascinating and insightful thoughts. You’ve all given me much to reflect on.

    Caroline Too: Yet again you manage to sum up the key points of the discussion succinctly and meaningfully. Thanks to you too.
    :)

  91. Linus says:

    Thanks Janet =] Steve yep, listening past your prejudices is always hard, and always worth it. I really like your prayer. Even though (maybe because) bits of it scare me =]

    Laura, thanks for your honesty about how you’re feeling. i believe that God is real and that they* loves that honesty and thinks highly of you because of it. There are no easy answers (at least, there are no easy answers that are actually helpful). Thanks to peeps for some great (imo) non-easy-answer responses. For myself i can say that often i am not sure that God exists, let alone that i am in a relationship with him**. My faith, such as it is, seems to me to be tentative, uncertain, too dependent on ideas and theories and philosophy and history, lacking in trust and practical experience and actual contact. =[ I think that our relationship looks very different from God's point of view though. And maybe so does my faith, who knows.

    One thing that might help (or might not). Find something that makes you feel really alive... sunset, piece of music, whatever it is that rocks your world. Go get some of that. And work out where the joy and gratitude and... LIFE that comes out of that experience is coming from and going to. I hope that helps and pray it will. I echo Steve's prayer: God bless =]

    Same to you all: blessings =]

    *Yes, they. Trinity. Three in One. “And God said ‘Let us…’ ”

    ** them, herm, whatever.

  92. subo says:

    thank you folk, for your passionate conversation

    I have a strong conviction that God gave us church as a place of hope, inspiration and healing.

    Having studied the effects of abuse on a course I did a yr. ago, I am often struck by how Jesus’ invitation to live differently from the oppressive religious order of the day, would indeed be a place of hope, liberation and laughter – especially powerful for survivors of oppression and abuse

    sadly I hear the church we experience is often a place of deadening oppression, where the gifts and uniqueness of each other seems largely invisible, where the ‘trained’ clergy just seem not to know how to restore hope and celebration.

    It really galls me when I see people who have overcome the most harrowing abuse, being put down by ‘the Leadership’. I know it’s human nature to tread on the downtrodden, I just didn’t know it was how Christ wanted us to do things

    and yet I have occasionally gone to service over the last few years, where the people setting it up have gracefully opened up the space for our engagement, have confidently explored a biblical text, not worried that someone might come up with an unorthodox idea if they dare to imaginatively play with it, and where the unexpected warmth of the people gathering has let even me – the outcast – feel I might belong

    perhaps facilitating a group, to make sure people are heard, is an art, taking training, thought and practice, and perhaps an art that might well be valued as a means to bringing healing instead of discouragement, hope instead of despair

    “a bruised reed I will not break, a smouldering wick I will not snuff out”
    “let the children come to me”

  93. “and yet I have occasionally gone to service over the last few years, where the people setting it up have gracefully opened up the space for our engagement, have confidently explored a biblical text, not worried that someone might come up with an unorthodox idea if they dare to imaginatively play with it, and where the unexpected warmth of the people gathering has let even me – the outcast – feel I might belong”

    I hope one day I’ll find this subo, and meantime I’ll console myself with the thought that the majority are comfortable with what they find.

  94. soniamain says:

    I have heard from Jon that they won’t be on line again for another 10 days- sorry no new cartoons for a little while!:(

  95. Laura says:

    10 days?? :shock:

    Surely he could go to someone else’s house and use the internet there…or an internet cafe…or somewhere..anywhere…

    withdrawl symptoms kicking in…

  96. Carole says:

    Sonia, I thought 5 days or whatever was a little optimistic. Terrible how we’ve come to depend so much on technology, isn’t it? He’ll probably enjoy the break. If you see Jon and Clare before we’re next online, send my love.

  97. Caroline Too says:

    Yeah, Sonia

    do tell them that the thought of them brings a smile even if we haven’t the cartoons to help. :-)

    and also tell them of our concern, for most of us loss of computer connectivity would be a frustration. I suspect that for Jon it’s more serious as it links to his business…

  98. Carole says:

    In terms of the comfort thing, I never feel comfortable in church, I always find it a mildly stressful experience. I just feel like a square peg in a round hole. I feel compelled to go, but sometimes it is quite agonising sitting there. I want to run out of the door. It’s only the people that keep me going and they are not a large number by any means. Most are happy to arrive a minute before the service starts and don’t hang around at the end. I suppose that suits them. But there are a few who I warm to, who do genuinely seem interested in me and the feeling is reciprocal.

    In spite of feeling awkward, I do feel it is where I am meant to be. So much of what people have written here strikes a chord. Linus, I’ve been convinced for a while now that it’s all about our relationships, and that is God’s big challenge to me. Laura, yes I often feel it is just me and I can’t find God at all. Boticelliwoman, I have often looked around despairingly at my neighbours and wondered what the point of it all is for them. I suppose I would have to ask them. I might be surprised.

    Caroline too:
    fortunately I’ve got a Father in the grace business, and discomfort seems to be one of the tools (s)He uses in helping me grow.

    Absolutely…thank you for reminding me.

  99. smudge says:

    I tried getting comfortable for 20 years…
    even tried to remake and vary the shape of the chairs once or twice

    but the chair makers were too powerful and believed that the chairs had to be the same…
    and stacked…when the meetings were finished…one on top of the other.

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