Sunday, 22 February 2015

Lent 1. Roman Catholic: St Mary and St Michael

The house we now live in used to be St Mary's and St Michael's Roman Catholic chapel! It is wholly unsuitable location for the modern ageing population, or for families used to shipping everyone around by car, as it is up a very steep hill with little parking. In the 1970s the congregation saw the light and agreed to move down the hill on to the much more sensibly located site of the church hall in downtown Settle.

The church website seems quite quiet, but there are quite a few names on the "rotas" page so there must be some things going on. There is also the bonus with Roman Catholics that they are supposed to actually go to church, so it was highly likely that there would be at least some people there. Actually there was a bum on almost every seat... I should have counted but I estimate there were maybe about 60 people in total!!! This may partly be because the church serves quite a large area; the nearest RC services are about 15-20 miles away at Kirkby Lonsdale, Skipton and Hawes. Apparently, in some villages (Hawes and Sedbergh), where there is no RC church, the priest uses the Anglican church building to hold mass every so often. 

The people seemed friendly and normal, and there was a wide range of ages present. The priest (Fr Francis) is even newer to Settle than us, having arrived last September. He didn't say anything abhorrent or obviously heretic, apart from accidentally proclaiming this to be the first Sunday in Advent. He believes in angels and the heavenly host and told us to call on them when tempted during Lent, like Jesus did in the wilderness. It was all quite positive. When we fail at our hard Lenten missions, we can repent, call on the angels and God won't give up on us! This is great news. I'm a bit nervous about some of the wild looking churches on the Lenten List! I often think Anglicans could do with more appreciation of the heavenly host, as it might help us be more positive about our otherwise empty churches. 

The funny thing, that I've notice before in RC churches is that the words of the service are almost identical to the Anglican apart from about two words, these being "Hail Mary...". You'd think we could come to some kind of agreement. I'm not sure there are that many other deep underlying differences. The means of the distributions may be distinct, but I think that random Anglican or Roman Catholics have a high probability of sharing very similar beliefs. Other differences; the communion wafers were thick and chewy rather than thin and crispy, and the wine was sweet and strong. I knew the tunes to about 3 of the 4 hymns and the words to 2.

The interior of the church is modern and pleasant and a bit smaller than I had expected - I'd already been in the church hall for an orchestra rehearsal, and the church itself seems quite a bit smaller than the hall. Three stained glass windows that used to grace what is now our lounge are installed in the side wall of church. And there is a jolly photo of the new superhero-Pope by the door on the other side.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

About the Julia/Church Project

We lived in Japan from 2001 to 2013. In Yokohama, Japan's second largest city with three and a half million inhabitants there are a number of churches. Around Yamate could be found baptists, roman catholics, united methodists and anglicans. There were others, but these were the ones with English speaking services. I never visited the baptists, but the others had a small community feel but with fast changing populations as people came and went from Japan, which turned out to be quite healthy, as it seems to cause people to be accepting of different ways of doing things. 

Thirteen years later we come to Settle. Wikipedia says, "the town has a population of 2,421 according to the 2001 Census" Next door is Giggleswick, a village with a population of 1410 (also according to wikipedia). There are also surrounding villages and settlement which must add more hundreds. And the churches? Looking at the "churches together in Settle and District" website, I count six denominations. Six! I thought the church going population of the UK was, similar to Japan, supposed to be about 2%. Either I'm wrong or the churches are mostly empty. Since last August I've been going to the Anglican churches in Settle and Giggleswick, and they do seem sparsely attended. I'm tempted to suggest that it would be better all round if all the buildings closed, get given to the church preservation trust, or sold off as private houses, and everyone meets together upstairs at Ye Olde Naked Man cafe for an hour each week. 

Six denominations in Settle and six weeks in Lent (apart from Easter Sunday). It's time for a Lenten Project!

Denomination Church Sunday Services
Roman Catholic St Mary & St Michael 11:15am
Anglican Holy Ascension; St Alkelda 8am,9:30am,11am,5pm ?
Methodist St John 10:30am
Independent Congregational Zion Congregational Church 3rd Sunday (so, 15 March 2015) 10:45am
Pentecostal Settle Christian Fellowship 10:45am
Quaker Friends Meeting House 10:30am

After announcing my intention to visit them all, and having seen the somewhat rubbish film "Julie & Julia" on the aeroplane back from our recent visit to Japan, husband James insists that this project be blogged.