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.

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