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. 

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