I'm in exile. Exile that is from my 'home' parish church. During this term, when those in the second year of my course are focusing on their placements, we are required to effectively stay away from our usual parish churches to focus on our placements and not be distracted by duties in our home parishes.
Ever since Easter and Easter School I have been at various churches and as a result haven't had to think about where I was going to worship on a Sunday. For three Sunday's I was in my placement parish, two in my In-Laws Parish and one Sunday at Easter School, so last weekend was the first time I had to put some thought into where we, as a family were going to worship. It actually surprised my as to how difficult it was to find a 'suitable' church.
Naturally, my first stop was the internet and a Google search for 'churches in Hampshire'. It returned a number of options but what generally disappointed me was the lack of general information; the Church of England website and their 'find a church' section wasn't up to much - a bit like a National Trust search in that there were very nice symbols to indicate whether the church had stained glass, parking, loos etc etc......but didn't give me an awful lot more. Those with a website link often didn't go through to a website at all......obviously the link needed updating.
Anyway, our aim was to go to the Garrison Church in Aldershot. However, I (or someone...perhaps their website) made a mistake (probably me) and we arrived to find that communion had been at 9am and that there was a veteran's service at 11am. We were stood outside at 9.45am. Bundling everyone back in the car and thinking on my feet (or seat more accurately), I headed for the new-ish estate on the other side of Fleet to worship there at their 10am service. I knew that it wouldn't be communion and that it was at one end of the tradition 'spectrum' to mine, but I wanted to go to church and got to church I would.
I had a bit of a shock on arrival. We were welcomed very warmly. However, in the main body of this wonderfully modern building people were sat around tables. I had a nervous twitch that went back to some worship I had experienced and had found very uncomfortable with last year. However, it wasn't anything untoward, but that the church, having been on the site for four years was re-examining it's mission and strategy and the best way of doing this was on a Sunday morning with the regular congregation. We participated as best we could, but I have to say it worked particularly well with prayers, a talk and songs wrapped around short group discussions. Hats off to them for that. I came away feeling well and truly refreshed from the worship.
We will return to the Church on the Heath. Probably for their communion service. But I would recommend it. It is in a lovely modern light and airy building. The congregation were welcoming and there was a true sense of community with worship involving young and old. Here's their website: http://www.churchontheheath.org.uk/. It is also clear that the church is very involved in the community and it is refreshing to see.
Just as an aside, I was delighted when we sung one of my favourites...that always has an effect on me. Stuart Townend writes some great music and lyrics.....
So, a simple choice this weekend - down in Salisbury with my STETs friends for a residential weekend. No need to choose where to worship on Sunday. Week after at http://www.bigchurchdayout.co.uk/ with the boys...looks as if I'm just postponing choosing another church!