It was the Sunday before Christmas and we went to out a Cathedral to listen to a traditional Christmas service. There was a good crowd in the cafe next door before the service, time to get that coffee and mince pie. Interestingly the attendance was distinctly skewed towards the older generation. I wondered if this was because it was some “Getting to know you” event for those who has enjoyed quite a few Christmases.
And I thought that the service of 9 readings and 9 carols was to listen to the classic readings and carols.
Then we went into the Cathedral-not quite as much tinsel and lights as some of those houses we pass at this time of year. Inside the cathedral it was good to see that there was a bigger audience and the ages more evenly distributed.
It comes to something however that, when I saw a line of about 10 younger generation sat just in front of us it was sufficiently unexpected that I am moved to comment about it.
The place was sadly still not full to bursting. I wondered if that was because there are so many other things to organise around Christmas- the food, the drink and all those presents. One must also not forget that present for Auntie Bridgette who always comes to visit and outstays her welcome after a few sherries (“Just the one please,! but I will have the one large one because its Christmas after all!”)
So we sat through the lessons, These went from Adam and Eve through to The Virgin Mary, Joseph, The trip to Bethlehem, Jesus’ Birth, the Shepherds and the Wise Men. Familiar and comforting and still relevant even today.
The carols were at times traditional and at others very modern- just could not follow all those tremulous voices-still less sing like that. Luckily there was no sermon although, it might have been worthwhile getting us all to reflect. Did we really need to burden ourselves with such a large credit card bill for what will surely never be used once the holidays are over.
There was a collection during the last carol and the Cathedral offered so many ways to make a payment. There was old coins (how many coins should you give, relative to the payment for a pint or a latte coffee). They took notes as well but, as naturally they needed to benefit form Government help through Gift Aid there was paperwork to complete. They even took contact less Payments and PayPal through apps on your phone.
It was only later that the fact that no church gets any money from the state that this all became clear. There is an expectation that the Church does charitable things yet it itself is wholly dependent on money we given to it.
It was difficult to reflect on what we are willing to pay when we readily pay for coffee’s, film or more so for theatre tickets, not to mention monthly gym membership.
Then it was all over and we could feel enlightened and having done/enjoyed another part of Christmas.
To round off the evening we went to that other place of pilgrimage of the modern age.-the gym. The issue of “My body is a temple” is quite a powerful driving force
There use to be many Churches in all towns and every village had its parish church or chapel.
Now it seems that the churches are being closed or converted to posh flats and the towns are influenced through their many gyms.
After all there is a call to meet (at the gym for classes) even at 6 am and several other times throughout the day. (I hesitate to say prayer as despite the evidence of how common gym attendance is, it still does not feel right to use that term). Perhaps the Personal Trainers are lining up to be the faith leaders of the future.
For me, aside from the gym, the morning ritual often involved listening to Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4 when Lionel Blue regularly used to speak. His style was to mix current events with a thoughtful but humorous few minutes and aimed help us keep things in the correct perspective https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0891fkd
We need to look again at what we prioritise and have a more kindly approach to Aunt Bridgette- perhaps why the sherry hits her so fast is that she so rarely has anyone to share a drink with.
I hope that your Christmas is a good one.
My New Year resolutions need to be reconsidered carefully