Sunday, 6 December 2015

New church in Settle!

Christianity seems sometimes to encourage people to pretend that material stuff does not matter. It seems a sticky area to me, as my impression is that places, buildings and objects are an important part of how we retain our sense of self, simply because of the memories that familiar objects evoke. I imagine that if we were forced to become refugees, many of us would lose forever quite significant parts of ourselves as a result of losing all our familiar places and material stuff. Of course we might be able to gain new parts in exchange, especially if we are young, but we still would have been changed.

While in Japan I learned to care a lot less about buildings. It doesn't do to get attached to them, as they can so easily not be there tomorrow, and replaced by something much more ugly a few months later. One extremely nice old house near ours got turned into a horrendous prisoner-block-style (but extremely expensive) flats. I was quite appalled with that. There was even a petition at one point, which I signed. But of course, the building went ahead. Here in the UK the efforts to make new houses blend in to the environment are quite extraordinarily marvellous by comparison.

After that preamble: today was a momentous day in Settle religious life, as the Methodists abandoned one building and moved across the road to another. This is a wonderful thing. So often one sees churches close, but this is more of a rebirth - a relocation to a smaller, very different, building. The old building, which is Victorian (about the same age as our house), is to be pulled down and turned into some kind of housing, possibly using some of the old stonework. Given other developments in the area, I expect it will be well enough done.

Although I've visited plenty of "modern" churches, I have never actually been into a brand new church before. It was quite exciting. The old place had a rather pleasing wooden focus to its interior decor, the new is a refreshing contrast; a simple vaulted ceiling and lots of very white paint. It is actually so white that it was like going into a cinematic depiction of the after-life; unfortunately Morgan Freeman was nowhere to be seen. One really cool feature is an off centre cross-shaped window. The off-centredness of the cross means that this is the only church that does not suffer from the horrendous lopsided visual imbalance that occurs in older, more symmetrical, churches that crow bar in a side projector and screen. (Don't actually know why churches use projectors. I dislike them. The projector to me is the crutch of the poorly communicating scientist, and they make me feel like I'm at a work conference. I also can't see them without my glasses on, and they give me a stiff neck.) Another nice feature is the view to the hills through the large glass doors at the back of the church.  The lack of other windows in the side walls is a bit of a negative. Perhaps it is to encourage people to participate more actively in the services - those facing the congregation get rewarded with the hillside views.

The transition service started in the old church, and then there was a procession of congregation and some official and somewhat symbolic accoutrements (a wee hand-held font, candles, bible that dates from the construction of the older church, chalice, some banners, some sheet music) over the road to the new place. The rain, which has been falling continuously since the start of November (apart from one cold, sunny day when the roads were covered in ice) stopped for the event. Methodists must sing at length about everything, so there was even a specially composed hymn with the requisite too-many verses detailing the adventure.

The most obvious potential design problem which I spotted on the plans which have been up the church for a while, is that the whole edifice of church hall and church is now two large upside-down-V shapes with a flat bit in the middle. I can't see how this cannot leak, but impressively, having just today suffered the worst rainfall in several decades, with some of the village underwater, and the rest of us with buckets catching the drips from our leaking roofs, there was only a damp patch on the ceiling, in this flat area. This is not bad going. I expect new buildings to leak. The other strange thing is the lack of windows on the side of the building. But there are skylights so hopefully these can be opened to prevent the build up of condensation - it very quickly steamed up today. The amplification of the microphone will hopefully be turned down - it was a bit of an earache today - the minister isn't a quiet person. Realising I had my fingers in my ears, I was thinking that next time I could sit near the back, but later noticed that there are speakers at front and back! However, my ears didn't ring at huge volume of the enthusiastic Methodistic singing, which is encouraging. There was also something incredible, which was that the smaller building seems to have eliminated the drag between organ and congregation which normally results in the singing getting slower and slower through the too-many verses of each hymn, a feature which tended to make me choose other places to worship on a Sunday morning. A slightly depressing potential design flaw is that the church does not seem to have been built with much space for the congregation to grow... 

In the 1970s, the Catholic congregation abandoned their little church (now our house) and built their new church (still quite small - it was packed-out when I visited). Now in 2015, the Methodists have done exactly the same thing. The really odd part is that these two hall-church buildings are now within about 50 metres of each other, across a little lane. I wonder if there is any chance that one day the whole lot will be replaced with one nice big church hall and one larger sized church. Surely they could time-share in the building even if they can't agree to worship together. The CofE's Victorian monstrosity is only a couple of minutes up the main road. Maybe its congregation could join the party too... 

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The Grand Finale!(?): Pentecost Together in Settle

As I've been going around the churches, most people have assumed I've been looking for the one I like best, with a view to chosing one and sticking with it. But that wasn't my intention. Instead I was interested in looking at the variety and understanding quite why there are so many churches in such a small town (2000 people). I also wanted to find out if any of the churches had any people in them. 

The answer to the first part is probably history. In the Victorian era there was a lot of growth, a lot of places opened. While the Anglican church grew, a lot also left the Anglican church for other churches. Instead of returning to the Anglicans when shrinkage occurred, they have instead stayed in their own churches which have become smaller and smaller. The exception to this is probably Settle Christian Fellowship which opened within living memory, after buying up an old Methodist chapel. 

The winner in terms of numbers is by a long way was the Roman Catholics. It was full, although they have by far the largest catchment area of any of the churches, of order 15 miles in each direction, compared to about 5 miles or less for the others. Somewhere behind them in terms of numbers were the Methodists, then the Friends and the others. 

I found just one that I wouldn't really want to go to again, which was Zion Congregational. It seems to be on its last legs - someone at Settle Chirstian Fellowship (SCF) told me they thought it was to be officially closed next year, and the building sold off. 

My overall impression is of each church having its own special gifts. The Friends have the gift of silence, contemplation and charity; the Anglicans have the liturgy, the structure, and an inspiring building; the Methodists have variety and forward thinking, and good preaching; and the SCF have prayer, community and outreach. If the gifts were all put together there would be a wonderful church! 

Which brings us neatly to: Churches Together in Settle and District. On Sunday I attended my first "ctisad" event, which was Pentecost Together, a gathering in the wind (but not rain) on the garden outside Booths at 3:30pm. There were about 15 there, and I recognised all except one of the adults by face if not name - So I know there were people from Methodist, Anglican and SCF, at least. The service involved music, plus readings from the Bible. The music was lead by the guitar playing female pastor from SCF, and the readings were done by a woman who attends the Methodist church in a neighbouring village as well as Chrstian Fellowship and the Informal Worship at the Anglican church, and she also came to the Women's day in Harrogate. It was an excellent service, with an lovely variety of hymns well sung (best music of anywhere I've been). Afterwards, we enjoyed a picnic for about an hour. When I asked the woman I sat next to which church she attended she said, sometimes Anglican, sometimes Methodist and sometimes SCF. She also saw no reason to choose. But like me she is also relatively new. Maybe in time people all develop a habit for one place. Anyway, I hope the ctisad will go from strength to strength and that no one will make us choose. At least not until there is just one church, one church hall and one church car park in Settle.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Easter +N: 3 May 2015, Settle Christian Fellowship

After Scotland we were in Vienna running the marathon, flying the next Sunday, travelling again the Sunday afterwards, so it wasn't until 3 May that I got to the sixth and final church in Settle, Settle Christian Fellowship

 There were about 10 in church, and it was the only church of all of them that was too hot. Not with the fire of the Holy Spirit, but with overhead electric heaters. The service was not amazing, but the people and the establishment are more so. Having never found out how the Zion Independent Congregational Church works in practice, I had lots of questions for SCF, and they were kind enough to spend a while explaining how it works. The church has a bunch of trustees which probably comprises the small core of regular attendees. It owns a building, and the congregation members "tithe", which, I assume means basically that they give a not insignificant fraction of their earnings to the church.  They are affiliated to International Gospel Outreach - I am not quite sure what assistance IGO specifically supply them with. Their pastor is pretty much chosen from within (maybe IGO help them advertise), and is largely voluntary, in the sense that they get only expenses and (I think) no living costs. So the pastors are not ordained, and there is none of the massive pyramid of priests and bishops and who-knows-what as in the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. It seems a fairly healthy way of doing things. Without the structure to lean on, I got the impression that the trustees lean a lot more on God and each other when making decisions; they pray a lot together and struggle until they come to consensus decisions, guided by their mission statements. They are involved in some charitable work in Tanzania, although I'm not sure quite how that is organised. 

As for the service, the pastors are a husband and wife team. The prayers were good, the music was pleasant, lead by a the female pastor on guitar, although the songs themselves were rather inane. The male pastor was about the worst Bible reader I have encountered; somehow managing to make a straightforward reading unintelligible. The sermon wasn't great - something about God always being God. However, I may be being too critical, because the sermon did not make me angry as so often happens in the Anglican church!

All in all, it was very interesting to see a church being conducted on such a different model, through it's community rather than through a governing infrastructure, and apparently surviving and contributing well to the wider community, even if not particularly full of people.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Easter Day. "And now for something completely different"?

Six Sundays in Lent and six churches in Settle so I should have fitted them all in. But I didn't go to church on the Sunday of the New Wine Wimmin's Day, and then, even though that might have counted as the Anglican experience, it really didn't because it wasn't in Settle. So then I went to the Anglican church the Sunday afterwards. So that leaves the Christian Fellowship unvisited. Some people I spoke to think I'm looking for which church to go to, but it is more that I am interested in understanding why there are so many different churches each containing so few people in one small town. I have gained some partial answers, but that's a post for another day, when I have managed to visit the sixth church in Settle.

But now it is Easter and time for something completely different! 

Church of Scotland: 9:30am St Columba, Ayr.

St Columba Easter Sunday Services
Sunday 5th April 2015
7.30 am – Early Morning Service  –  Low Green
Followed by Breakfast in the Midton Road Hall
9.30 am – Family Service
11.15 am – Morning Worship
12.30 pm – Holy Communion
6.30pm – Evening Songs of Praise

The inlaws live in Ayr, so while they were roasting the goose, I was off 5 mins down the road to represent the family at St Columba. I've visited this church on quite a few occasions over the years since I met James - well over 20 - and I think that I first arrived at about the same time as the current minister. With such infrequent attendance the minister doesn't know who I am, but it seems clear that the church has grown tremendously under his ministry.

So, with only 5 services on Easter Day it's not surprising that they could only raise 400 or so for the family service at 9:30am... !!! (The photo is taken 10 minutes before the start of the service!). Apparently, at the early service on the low green there were 140 adults and 8 dogs. That service we attended last year, with only around 50 adults and 3 dogs. In around 1992, when I first went, they had their dawn service a few miles away up the local hill (Brown Carrick), with a congregation of about 15. How things have changed... Of course, you always get more at Easter, and Ayr is 30 times the size of Settle, but when visiting St Columba I always get the impression that, in Scotland, normal people still think it is quite usual to go along to church on a Sunday morning. In England it's now a pretty weird thing to go and do, and so the congregation is proportionally weirder.  So, almost everyone was wearing clean clothes and makeup, and the air was thick with perfume. There were men and women, old, middle aged, youth and children of all ages. In Settle, apart from the Roman Catholics, it is almost all women both running and populating the churches. The population at St Columba was, however, still skewed towards the older generations, despite it being a family service.

The minister is a very joyful man, and injects a considerable amount of humour into proceedings, even when tackling serious or sad subjects. But Easter Day is a happy day in the church and so he was in his element. The sermon started with a catch phrases quiz. Out of a long list, including Monty Python's "and now for something completely different", he finished with "I don't believe it" which was the catch phrase of someone called Victor Meldrew who was in some sitcom or other. This was his hook into talking about how the disciples failed to believe the apparently hysterical women returning with silly stories of the empty tomb. I have in the past dubbed this church "Christianity lite", but that is probably a bit unfair, and due to me mostly attending the family service whenever I visit. Although this time he didn't progress the sermon to much beyond a statement that Christ is Risen, it is common to have not very deep sermons at Christmas and Easter, so as to not scare the non-regular attendees.

The front of the church was curiously decorated with little trees with eggs on them. Someone had gone to a lot of work knitting chicks, each of which had a creme egg up its bum, which were hidden around the church. During the second hymn, a little gang of the kids went around and found them all and they were given to the children on the way out of church. The music was particularly good today, with the excellent organist plus a trumpet(!) playing prelude and postlude, as well as the hymns.

The service was just 50 minutes and consisted of notices, hymns, a reading, a sermon, a wee speech from a young woman hoping to do good works in South Africa this summer, and a bit of praying. But it took 10 minutes to leave the church, with each attendee receiving a knuckle grinding handshake from the minister. He does know a remarkable number of them by name, but Ayr isn't as friendly as Settle (nowhere is as friendly as Settle!), and, although the church is full with the noise of chatter before the services, only once has anyone really struck up a conversation with me at the church, and the minister does not ever ask me who I am. So, I'm not sure how people get to be in this admittedly ginormous in-crowd. I am guessing that the church has grown by word of mouth, and so people go along to the church with their established friends and relations, and thus never really need to be introduced. 

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Lent 6: Cantores Salicium, 7:30pm Bolton Abbey

Having missed out on all the Palm Sunday ceremony and any kind of music, due to going and being quiet at the Friends Meeting House, the "sequence of words and music for Palm Sunday" at Bolton Abbey, performed by local band Cantores Salicium, seemed appealing. We went to hear the same choir support the lessons and carols at Settle Anglican church at Christmas and they had been excellent. The music was more challenging this time, being in Latin. And although there was a lot of lamentation (It was titled  'The city weepeth sore in the night' ), the standard was not at all lamentable, and was instead, once again, really good and very musical. I now know two of the (approx 24) choir members, as one is a Settle Harrier and another a French Horn player in the Settle Orchestra.

The Priory Church of St Mary and St Cuthbert, Bolton Abbey, about 35 mins drive from Settle, is the roofed remains of a former Augustin abbey, another monastery that was dissoluted by Henry the Eighth. There seem to be a lot of them around! The church seems to occupy about half of the original church and the rest is ruins. Here is the view from the other end.

So, this was a Roman Catholic monastery, but was taken possession of by Henry the Eighth and thus, like all the other nice old churches in England, is now Anglican. The music performed was sort of interesting in this context as was all 1550s-1650s, from the likes of William Byrd, and thus written in the 100 years directly following the dissolution in 1540.

After the service we enjoyed a nice dinner at the Brasserie at the Devonshire Arms hotel just down the road, to celebrate the acceptance-in-principle of our first paper since the start of

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Lent 6: Quaker, 10:30am Friends Meeting House

Last Sunday it was time for visiting the Quakers. I'd never been to a Quaker meeting before, but after explaining my newbie status at the door, I was given a handy leaflet to read at my seat. Turns out that to someone who has lived for a long time in Kamakura, home of Zen Buddhism in Japan, a Quaker meeting is very straightforward, You just sit quietly for an hour. It was quite fun, but was less comfortable than Zazen due to the difficulty of getting in to a good posture on the pews which sloped slightly backwards - you have to slope forwards in zazen to get a good straight back and keep your feet on the ground.  Consequently, people sat very slouched, which can't be very healthy. 

We sat round in a square, approximately 25 of us. Apparently the meeting starts as soon as one people enters the room so there was no introduction. A couple of times people spoke, in surprisingly coherent ways. As it said in the handy booklet, people only speak when the spirit moves them. I'd been dreading this as, when ad libbing from the liturgy, non-ordained Anglicans generally spout rather embarrassing stuff! Not so here. The first person (who turned out to be "the warden" who had greeted me at the door) spoke about how we should always consider that we might be wrong. The second person followed up with how doubt can be a powerful force for good and how we should all be open to new experiences (unlike those other people who don't allow themselves to doubt...hmmm). Despite it being Palm Sunday there was no acknowledgement of this and I extrapolate this to suppose that Quaker meetings don't observe the church calendar. At the end of the meeting were notices, and I got the impression that there was a lot of promotion of good works, worthy causes, and work for charities underway.

After the service (Nescafe for the second week running - I opted for tea!) I learned that Quakers read a lot and write a lot. They have a little library from which it is possible to  borrow books. The titles were rather interesting, covering a large range of religion and spiritual practice, from "mindfulness" to "the Muslim Jesus". I met one person who said she was  Buddhist. Later the same week, I found a leaflet on Buddhism in our region at the railway station, and found that the Settle sessions are held at the same Friends Meeting House. I expect I'd need to do much more of that reading to understand properly, but on the surface, Quakerism seemed rather like Buddhism in the sense of being less a set of beliefs and more a way of life and worship, and thus not necessarily incompatible with other religions. 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Lent 5: 10:30am St Johns Methodist

I'm supposed to be an Anglican so was surprised that the Methodist church seemed the most natural so far. The church is part of a "circuit" of 8 churches, served by 2 ministers, and supported by a bunch of lay preachers. These ministers and preachers circulate round, leading services in different churches on the circuit each week. 

The preacher for today's service was a woman, who announced that the service would, unusually, be "by the book", (which made me think of Star Trek, Wrath of Khan) and that we should all pretend we were in some Anglican cathedral or something. The interior of the church isn't much like an Anglican cathedral. Nevertheless, at this point everybody found, as if by magic, a methodist service book. My father was a Methodist, and James knows about the Church of Scotland and both have always been quite insistent that one doesn't write down the service. But there it was! A whole book full. Most noticeable was the creed which consisted of believing in Father, Son and Holy Spirit and included none of the other various details common to both Anglican and Roman Catholic. 

There were maybe about 35 people in church (I sat too near the front to count easily). The sermon was pretty good - about how, as little seeds falling into fertile soil, our hard outer shells are removed so that we can grow and bear much fruit in Jesus.  At the end of the service, the man behind me could be heard to say that the preacher couldn't be faulted for going on too long, so I suspect they may not always receive such a clear message. Like proper Methodists, the singing was very loud. The words were written up on an overhead projector, but were not particularly modern, and the organist allowed the congregation to drag him back such that every hymn was a dirge by the end of the first verse, no matter how sprightly the starting tempo. Organist should make sure not to listen to the congregation, but I suppose in this case, when they were actually pretty loud, that's was more difficult than usual. However, the problem wasn't quite so bad on the 1970s song, played on the piano that the service was ended with. There was coffee after the service (only instant), and everyone seemed extremely friendly. No one asked stupid questions, and someone even asked the one question I had been wondering that no one else had asked, which is, after hearing we'd moved from Japan, to enquire what churches are like there. There were some people there of around my age, although, unlike at the Roman Catholic church, children were not in evidence. 

And their toilet is twinned! For all know, this practice is all last-decade, but I've not seen one before.

The church has big plans underway, architecturally speaking. The current building, built at the end of the Victorian period, is too big to heat and repair for an hour a week, so they've sold the land, and the building is to be demolished. They're also hoping to sell the organ (wonder if the organist will be included in the sale). A new "worship space" is being built in the car park of the present church hall, which will position it directly next to the Catholic Church and its church hall. I think they really ought to get together and rationalise these buildings. One church, one hall, one car park.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Lent 4.5: Fountains Abbey

It was dissoluted by Henry the Eighth so is no longer a proper church, but last Thursday we visited Fountains Abbey. Faced by about 15 members of the Cambridge Uni Society of North and West Yorkshire (plus me and James) the tour guide tried really hard to fill the hungry minds before her in the hour long tour. It was all extremely interesting, with the history of the foundation and growth including explanation of the historical differences between common all garden Benedictines and the back to basics Cistercians (Fountains Abbey was the latter), and there were many insights into the daily lives of the monks. Quite a lot has been deciphered by archaeologists analysing the features of the ruins. To me it all looked like piles of stones of many colours (see pretty pics at the bottom of this post), but they can see cupboards and notice boards,  can identify who the sculptures are of,  and even find plumbing. Yes medieval plumbing!

In Japan, quite a lot of religion occurs out of doors, which really is as it should be, but over the hour long tour I grew to appreciate why this is not very practical in Yorkshire. Fountains Abbey no longer has a roof (thanks to Henry, who also realised this was the best way of making the place uninhabitable), and even on  pleasant March day, it got very cold. By the end everyone was hoping that the warm and furry dog that someone had brought along would come to them to be petted.

Walk through the Abbey and you get to Studley Royal Water Gardens and the tea shop. Then walk through the deer park and you get to St Mary's, which, like our house is a Gothic Revival Church.  Unfortunately it is only open from Easter so we couldn't go inside. Some similarities in style between St Mary's and our house are apparent, but St Mary's is really very beautiful. It had a famous architect.

The water gardens may be a historical feat of engineering, but they are a bit dull being just grass and water and statues. There is also a stately home built mostly from stones taken from the Abbey after it was ruined, and a Mill which dates from when the Abbey was a big profit making enterprise. We had only the afternoon so no time to visit these two places. Together all of this is a World Heritage Site. It is a bit strange that Kamakura failed to obtain this status a couple of years ago. Just its water gardens are much better let alone the many temples. 

Lent 4: 10:45am, Zion Independent Congregational Church

I'm slow to comment on the Congregational church because I still don't really know what to make of it. This is what wikipedia says,

"Congregational churches are Protestant Christian churches practising Congregationalist church governance, in which each congregation independently and autonomously runs its own affairs.
Many Congregational churches claim their descent from a family of Protestant denominations formed on a theory of union published by the theologian Robert Browne in 1592. These arose from the Nonconformist religious movement during the Puritan reformation of the Church of England. In Great Britain, the early congregationalists were called separatists or independents to distinguish them from the similarly Calvinistic Presbyterians. Some congregationalists in Britain still call themselves Independent."
"In 1972, about three quarters of English Congregational churches merged with the Presbyterian Church of England to form the United Reformed Church (URC). However, about 600 Congregational churches have continued in their historic independent tradition." 

After my visit two weeks ago I am still not much wiser than that. Zion Independent Congregational Church, built in in 1816, is located about 5 minutes walk from our house in Upper Settle. There were 13 in church, and I was youngest by perhaps 3 decades (I'm 45). They have a service once a month, and I'm not sure what they do on the other weeks. I think that that Congregationalist means that the congregation do it all themselves without a big unwieldy church hierarchy. So I was surprised to see a great big pulpit in the church, which really suggests a fairly major hierarchy, at least between leader and congregation. This wee congregation is presently without a pastor. I have no idea where an independent church get a pastors from anyway. I suspect the congregation has swung from pillar to post throughout it's existence, as exemplified by this very entertaining early history of the church that I found online. But it is certainly a curious establishment.

So, without a pastor, one of the congregation did indeed introduce the service, with some jolly good and heartfelt prayers and then some rather quiet hymns. The majority of the time, was, however taken up by a powerpoint presentation from someone from Open Doors. I wasn't impressed as the speaker repeatedly used the word "Islamist" when they actually meant not Islam at all, but actually the flavour of radical extremist looney-tune-ism who, this decade, associate themselves with Islam. It is actually not the first time in a church in Settle that I've heard this and it makes me so furious that I am even moved to agree with the comments made a couple of days ago by the Home Secretary Teresa May, who expressly pointed out that this distinction should always be made. After 12 years of Buddhist and Shinto influence in Japan, it is obvious that Judaism, Islam and Christianity have far more in common than they have not in common. And yet it feels like, in the UK there's a lot of churches capitalising on the unfortunate current situation to promote Christianity in a kind of "we're right and they're wrong" kind of a way. Like no one has ever committed mass murder in the name of Christianity! When I got home and looked up Open Doors, they didn't seem quite so bad - they basically give Bibles and other things to churches who can't get them because they cannot worship openly. It all started in the 1950s with someone smuggling Bibles into the USSR. 

For Lent 5 I visited the Methodist church (post soon!), which, of the churches in Settle, is probably the closest in style to the Congregationalist. I met there someone who had previously been in the URC (United Reformed Church - see info in Wiki article above). He also had no idea where Zion would get pastors from. So I remain ignorant. But I do think someone needs to write a history of this incredibly independent church it before it completely disappears... 

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Lent 3. MOTR CofE: 8am, Holy Ascension

"MOTR" = Middle of the Road. This is the kind of Church of England Anglicanism that is neither conservative Evangelical nor Conservative Anglo-Catholicism but something often perceived as being in between the other two, while actually being something quite different. It comes in for criticism for being nothing much, but is actually rather an interesting thing, as it is, by neccessity, trying to include all members of the local community. Mostly, therefore, it is Liberal Christianity, and at its best, this inclusiveness means all sorts of different types of worship are practiced. But, being community based, it often gets a stuck in "tradition", when people who have lived in an area a long time find it hard to even try any new things, and this has the unfortunate consequence of keeping new ideas and new people out. These are the kinds of churches found in small towns and villages all over England. 

The thing I like best about them is that they have services at 3 different times of day. I really do like walking out through the silent streets to an early morning service, or, alternatively, winding down at an evening service and then meeting James for a gentle curry afterwards. These morning or evening services are usually less hamstrung with trying to be cool and  relevant to families with children, who it seems are the principle focus of all churches. It's a bums on pews game - get a family and you get all of their bums! Get a single person, and that's just one, sad, bum.

In the Settle area, there are three Anglican churches under the same priest, and this leads to an almost incomprehensible schedule of services, not helped by the frequent misprints on the website. Twice I have turned up to non-existent services, which is really annoying at 8am! Another time I ended up phoning the priest on Saturday night because I didn't believe what was on the website (which was wrong again). Something really needs to be done to fix this chaos. Three services each Sunday but only one in each church would be a start. Last Sunday the 8am service was at the church in Settle, Holy Ascension. It was the modern style service (Common Worship) with a short sermon but no hymns. With only 7 in church, there was also time after the service to talk with the priest, which was a rare treat - she is usually far too busy charging between the three different parishes to stop and talk! I'm not actually very familiar with Common Worship, even though it came in at the turn of the Century, as that was the time we left for Japan. It is funny the things we have missed; things that everyone else thinks are old that are novel to us. 

Our own living room is rather nicer than the general interior of Holy Ascension, but a treat for the 8am crowd is that they get to sit right up near the altar and so enjoy not only a greater sense of togetherness, and close observation of the Communion ceremony, but also the prettier part of the building.