Yesterday's visit to local Baptist churches took me to one that meets in a primary school. This felt like a blast from my own past as I walked into the door and the smell of disinfectant-mixed-with-wax-crayon hit me. A hotchpotch of three-quarter sized stacking chairs (tick) a (decent) lashed-up PA (tick) and projector (tick), even the lovely banners hung from the windows (well, would have been climbing frame, but 'tick'). The bits of art work and random school notices on the walls (tick). The PE equipment stacked in a corner (tick). Ah yes, I remembered it well!
The greeter at the door was friendly and pointed me in the right direction to find the hall 'just walk towards the music'. There was a bit of a hiatus actually getting in, as several people were bunched around the table where various leflets were laid out (not unusual it happens in most churches) but the church secretary spotted me and welcomed me in. Cover was blown quickly as I know a couple of people in this church, but even so, I was largely anonymous.
The singing with a small, competent band, was hearty and tuneful, and mostly well-known stuff. There was one old hymn to a new, and frankly musically quite dire, tune (why does anyone think 'To God be the Glory' needs a new tune? Sorry Nathan Fellingham but, no). Otherwise all good stuff. There were some intercessions which gets a big tick in my book and a reasonable chunk of Bible read (only one passage thouhg, depsite the speaker several times asserting the import of scripture (stereotypes!!).
Visiting a church when they have a guest speaker who represents an organistation they are interested in supporting is always slightly odd. I loved the enthusiasm and commitment of the speaker, and parts of his message were really important, such as his deep understanding of God's call as 'I can do no other' but it was overlong (40 minutes when he'd said 25-30 at the start) and meant the service had to be cut short as the hire-period ended just 15 minutes after he stopped and the hall had to be cleared... I had some issues with some of what he said (bad science and Biblical mis-quoting in his 'children's talk') and sexism in his jokes/illustrations (every bad decision was ultimately the fault of a woman... men when driving evidently made foolish overtaking decisions because they were frustrated by women who were dirivng too slowly... really? Grr!)
Easy to pick holes, but this felt to be a happy church with good participation of many people. The atmosphere was good, the tea decent (thank you!) and I happened to arrive on a day when they had homebaking (yes!).
Icing on the cake was being invited to lunch by the folk I knew - very kind of them, and a nice way to relax as well as learning a bit more about their church.
It was fun being back in a school, fun being back in a 'lash up' setting, because this is what I know and love, and this the tabernacling kind of church that feels good... I realise that could be misconstrued, so to reassure folk, The Gathering Place is a tabernacling church, we just camp in our own back yard, and I love it.