This is my new favourite image of the church, drawn by Sofia for her visit to Messy Church on Saturday. I think the figure may be me, although it's not completely clear. 'I have allwais been happy when I have been to Mesee Church', she comments on the reverse, and she seemed fairly happy on this occasion. It was our highest attendance at M.C. for nearly two years, though mainly because it was wet and a selection of Toddler Group families agreed that they were going to come along for something to do.
Our Messy Church has evolved over the seven years it's been running. Intended by its originators as 'church for people who don't do church', we've never found that that is the case: instead our congregation tends to be a mixture of church families, members of other churches, and only a minority of folk for whom M.C. is their only contact with Church life at all. It functions instead as part of our children's and families work more generally, and there's a lot of crossover with the Toddler Group and the club we run at the Infants School. We've noticed over the last couple of years that the children are on average getting younger, which is probably a function of the fact that our Toddler Group has been doing well and producing more contacts.
So that was that. Sunday was something of a contrast as I was drafted in to lead the main Remembrance service at Hornington as the parish church is in a vacancy at the moment. As in most places, we start with a parade and wreath-laying at the War Memorial in the park and then go back to the church for a service. It's all fairly standard: town band, councillors, uniformed organisations of sundry sorts and varieties. It was the ATC's turn to carry the Union flag this year and I like to think they acquitted themselves pretty well. I have of course had a lot of relevant thoughts running round my mind lately in preparing my sermon for what's always the biggest congregation of the year at Hornington. I was going to allude to intra-national conflict and the need for reconciliation but gradually thoughts provoked by my recent intensive immersion in PJ Harvey's work took me back to the nature of Englishness, war, and how God's judgement differs from ours. This was going to be my Let England Shake sermon, although it would be unlikely that anyone there would recognise the submerged references scattered through it. I did wonder whether this was all terribly self-indulgent, but thinking and praying didn't result in anything else coming to my mind so I went ahead.
A family I knew from Farncombe Infants were there so I could rope them in to begin the theme of how we think about ourselves and others. 'How would you describe yourself in three words?' I asked master Lee, sitting with the Cubs. 'Confident, chatty and cheeky,' he offered, having been coached by his Mum to say that and nothing else, and from there it was into the meat of the thing. I'd requested a lapel mike rather than using the pulpit - I do dislike pulpits, though we had one at Lamford, and for this occasion of all occasions which can so easily escalate from reverent solemnity into unrelieved pomposity, preaching from a pulpit is just too much.
I think it was all right. Our MP had the affrontery to be complimentary, but then I suppose that's what he's there for and would have said the same had I read out a script from an episode of the Teletubbies. While I was on my way back to the car I was called back by a quartet of elderly medal-decked people who thanked me very heartily which is the memory I will be grateful for. They addressed me as 'Father', though I suppose I had been wearing my biretta, which I always do when I mean business.