Road trip

We had fun this week­end mak­ing a trip back to Adelaide for a wed­ding of two of my pre­vi­ous work col­leagues. It was an excel­lent oppor­tu­ni­ty for a break, falling at the end of our read­ing week, which gave us a chance to relax with friends in prepa­ra­tion for the final month of stud­ies this year.

The wed­ding was a love­ly cel­e­bra­tion and it was fun to catch up with lots of my work col­leagues from the past few years, the pic­ture above is of those of us who were interns togeth­er in 2010.

The oth­er high­lights of the week­end were the valu­able con­ver­sa­tions we had with those friends we were able to catch up with. It’s always hard to fit in see­ing every­one you want to on a short trip back, but we were pleased that the catch ups that we did have were valu­able and invig­o­rat­ing, giv­ing us a real chance to recon­nect and speak into each oth­ers lives. I think it was as a result of these con­ver­sa­tions that we can say we have come back refreshed rather than just tired from late nights and long drives.

One of the sur­pris­ing things for me going back was the cul­ture shock I expe­ri­enced at church. Everyone was super wel­com­ing and it was great to see our church fam­i­ly but I had­n’t realised how much I have become used to a slight­ly dif­fer­ent style of ser­vice here in Melbourne. It’s the sort of thing you expect when com­ing back from over­seas, but not so much just vis­it­ing from inter­state. In no way do I mean to sug­gest I felt uncom­fort­able with our church fam­i­ly in SA, quite the oppo­site, it was just won­der­ful to recon­nect with every­one. Rather, the cul­ture shock was more to do with the style/shape/vibe of the ser­vice itself. So, for exam­ple in our chapel ser­vices, which I go to twice week­ly, we pret­ty much always would have a cor­po­rate con­fes­sion time (some­times read togeth­er and oth­er times incor­po­rat­ed into prayers), where­as this was an ele­ment which was­n’t high­light­ed in the ser­vice at all on Sunday.

I would­n’t say that going to dif­fer­ent styles of church is abnor­mal for me, I have been part of a num­ber of church­es in my life and vis­it­ed many more. I guess this time though the dif­fer­ences just stood out more to me and in some ways sur­prised me pri­mar­i­ly because I was expect­ing to slot straight in to the ser­vice style and I did­n’t. In one sense it was a bit dis­con­cert­ing to have a sense of cul­ture shock, but it has also been a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to think through some of the strengths and weak­ness­es of dif­fer­ent mod­els of church ser­vices, and more specif­i­cal­ly to con­sid­er what it is about the way we struc­ture our ser­vices and lead from the front that com­mu­ni­cates the val­ues and cul­ture of our gatherings.

Simple things like the empha­sis placed on the kids talk or what is prayed for in the prayer time actu­al­ly make a huge dif­fer­ence to how we leave the ser­vice feel­ing as though we have come togeth­er as a com­mu­ni­ty and how we approach spurring each oth­er on. Even the words we use to express dif­fer­ent con­cepts can have a huge impact on how the peo­ple see the ser­vice as either a pro­gram to be sat through or a gath­er­ing togeth­er of peo­ple. Another area might be the impor­tance and func­tion of the sacra­ments with­in the gath­er­ings which can make a big dif­fer­ence (this is one top­ic I’m real­ly keen to talk through in my the­ol­o­gy class next week).

I have to say, it’s nice to be in a place where, when faced with a bit of cul­ture shock in terms of the church ser­vice, instead of just say­ing either “that was a weird ser­vice” or “they did­n’t do this or that cor­rect­ly” I can start to explore what it is that we do in a church ser­vice, why we do it, what ele­ments are impor­tant and what mes­sages we are com­mu­ni­cat­ing when we do things in a par­tic­u­lar way. I hope this might help me build a strong foun­da­tion for future involve­ment in lead­ing services.

I actu­al­ly think there is a huge amount of free­dom in what church ser­vices should look like and in no way do I mean this to be a crit­i­cism of one mod­el, rather just a reflec­tion on how my mind has start­ed work­ing when I come across the unexpected.

Anyway, it was a great week­end over­all, and I’m real­ly thank­ful for all of you who made it such a refresh­ing time away.

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