Worship at St Peter’s – What is it like?

If a complete stranger came to the main service at St Peter’s, what would they experience?
(In fact, we do get visitors, so this is an important question for us.)

The service is mainstream Anglican, even “middle-of-the-road”. We start at 10am and nearly every Sunday morning service is a Parish Eucharist, with robed clergy and server. After some quiet organ playing, the short procession comes in formally and bows, before a minister welcomes everyone and announces the first hymn. We take seriously the holiness of the God we worship – there is silence before we confess our sins and after the Thanksgiving Prayer over the bread and wine. But we also take seriously that we are one body together, as Christ’s friends. So there is a smile and a twinkle in the eyes – God is holy, but he is pleased to see us!

Photo: Pentecost 2004, singing together.

Pentecost 2004, singing together.

The music is quite traditional, mostly accompanied on the organ (with an occasional piano backing). We can’t sing the really jazzy numbers without a backing group – and some of us wouldn’t want to, though others wish we could… One or two of the more modern songs I choose are forgotten by most churches, but they sing of compassion, of shared suffering, of healing and justice in a broken world…

Photo: On Pentecost Sunday, we all wear red.

On Pentecost Sunday, we all wear red.

The sermons are quite short, though I haven’t timed one for a while, and suspect they might be getting longer! We try to engage seriously with the Bible readings set for the day, and think what they mean for us today. One thoughtful member of the congregation said, “People know you take the Bible seriously, and I think they understand what you’re saying. But I don’t know how much difference it makes in our lives…” Well, that’s honest!

About a quarter of our congregation are of African or Caribbean origin, which reflects the welcome they have received, and the commitment of the previous vicar the Revd Rajinder Daniel. One such lady says every now and then, “I think we should have longer services, with more joyful singing” – but I’m not sure her wishes are shared by everyone else!

After the service we sit in the hall and chat over a cuppa and a biscuit – sometimes celebration cake – and once or twice a year we spend the day together, with a special lunch (it was Caribbean cookery, one notable Harvest Thanksgiving) and shared activities in the afternoon.

Photo of Chris B (Vicar) holding a baby who is reaching for his beard

Chris Burch (Vicar) with a baby, just baptised, keen on his beard

Evening services are few and far between (the occasional celebration service, like the Tudor Evensong we sang at the Armada weekend in June 2006), but most of the families who come for christenings (or baptisms) have too many family members to come to the morning service, so we welcome them to an informal service at 2.30pm. The atmosphere there has been described as “Dibley” – or “sanctified Working Men’s Club” – and I’m not sure if they were compliments.

Photo: Baptism on a Sunday afternoon in 2002. Dibley...?

Baptism on a Sunday afternoon in 2002. Dibley…?

Photo: Children at our impromptu Sunday School at the baptism.

Children at our impromptu Sunday School at the baptism.

Photo: Two girls at our impromtu Sunday School at the baptism.

Two girls at our impromptu Sunday School at the baptism.

There’s a trick in being welcoming and informal without losing a sense of the presence of the holy God (or worse, being patronising), and I guess we hope we get it right more often than wrong.

If you’re in the area, do please come and tell us how we’re doing!

Chris Burch.

This entry is dated Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006 at 12.29pm and is filed under News.

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