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.