The Sunday Sanctuary (Mark Rodel)

Monday, 21 December, 2009

Mark RodelMark Rodel describes The Sunday Sanctuary.

One month into our great adventure in Portsmouth. What has been going on? What have we learned?

On 22nd November, the tiny congregation who met in the parish church building of St Luke's, Southsea, said goodbye to that place. In a special service, we moved around the building, stopping at various points - the main entrance, the font, etc. At each 'station' we marked some feature or character of the church's life, symbolised by that particular piece of church furniture. We committed ourselves to carry that aspect of our common life forward into our new future.

Why did we do that? Because from then on, we were putting a stop to the 11am Sunday service in the church building and instead meeting in the community room attached to a nearby tower block. But it's not just a matter of geography. We haven't moved our Sunday service of Anglican liturgical worship. We've ended it.

The time for the intentionally Christian community's worship is now on a Tuesday evening as part of our home group. Each week we share a meal, a Eucharist and prayer and engagement with the Bible in my home.

On Sundays, between 10am and midday, we now open what we're calling the Sunday Sanctuary.

We provide breakfast and refreshments all morning and some sort of craft-based activity. Alongside that, we also offer one or two light, reflective activities. We've been describing it as a family drop-in in the publicity material. Is that what it's been?

We're not expecting people to come to us and do what we do without space for question or doubt or just exploration in conversation

Already, we have experienced a steep learning curve. I anticipate that our Tuesday night gatherings will include some lively conversations from now on! The first surprise was that people stay all morning. We had been working on the assumption that people might come for 30 or 45 minutes and then go. One or two craft activities are sustainable for that length of time, but not if people are there for two hours. So we are having to think pretty rapidly about creating a broader range of things to do.

But at the forefront of our minds is the need to ensure that all we do is intentionally spiritual. It would be easy in lots of ways to resort to 'entertainment', but we aren't a youth or kids' club. We're a church operating a family drop-in. We're not about forcing anything on anyone. Everything is optional. But everything we offer comes from who we are - ourselves and our faith.

The difference between what we're doing here and a regular church service is that we're not expecting people to come to us and do what we do without space for question or doubt or just exploration in conversation. The activities we offer share some of the things that we have found meaningful. They invite others to imaginatively enter into that world of meaning - to 'try it on for size'. But we will always respect people's freedom and if they find themselves taking a different point of view, it will not affect our welcome of them. Watch this space...

About the author: 

Revd Mark Rodel is City Centre Pioneer Minister and Associate Priest, St Luke's Southsea.


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