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Source: (consider it) Thread: Discussions during church services
Gamaliel
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# 812

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It's become de-rigeur in 'lively' Anglican parishes and in Baptist churches I know, for the congregation to 'break down into groups' in order to discuss this, that or the other in the interests of greater interactivity.

I can understand the motivation. As discussed on these boards, sermons can have limited value in pedagogy.

Thing is, I do wonder how valuable such times are, not in a small group or mid-week context but in the context of a Sunday morning meeting / service.

I find they interrupt the 'flow' and besides, I have no desire to have an inconsequential 3 minute discussion in the context of a church service.

I also wonder about the pastoral wisdom of the practice.

This morning, for instance, Mrs Gamaliel headed off for the hybrid service they have here in summer which combines elements of both the 9am (traditional) and 11am (lively) services.

She was playing the organ for the two hymns they included alongside the worship band a short sermon, communion and lots of lengthy interactive, non-lectionary related messing around with wheelie-bins and discussion.

The bins were there to represent our sins being dealt with and the discussion centred on the theme 'Hopes and Dreams'.

As I'd printed out the order of service I knew better than to attend. As she was playing the organ, my wife was able to perch safely in the organ loft away from the discussions and interaction.

She was, as ever, sanguine about the whole thing but did observe how awkward it would have been had she been down in the melee and asked about her 'Hopes and Dreams.'

What could she have said?

'I have incurable cancer. My hope and dream is to live as long as possible before it gets me ...'

I mean, come on, whilst most people are likely to be hale and hearty there on a Sunday morning, there are going to be plenty of others who have little by way of hope, dreams or expectation. Why inflict this crassness on them?

Ok, not everyone is in our situation and some might find this sort of thing helpful. Do any Shippies have positive experiences of these kind of short in-service discussions?

Can they work? Do they work? Are they better than the alternatives - a traditional sermon or liturgy?

What think ye?

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Praise the Lord for He is kind.

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MrsBeaky
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I echo your reservations about discussions possibly interrupting the flow in a service of worship.
The teacher in me values the role of discussion in the learning process in other settings. I have learnt so much in discussion with other people, the Ship being a case in point.
But my heart longs for pastoral sensitivity in how we handle these discussions and what we choose to discuss.
Having been on the receiving end of both bad and good,I still believe it is possible to do this well but it does require skill!

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Bishops Finger
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Not part of my church experience of 60+ years (i.e. since I was in Sunday School!), so I'm not really qualified to comment, except to say that it's not something I would be comfortable with in the context of, for example, the regular Sunday morning Eucharist. Such things seem to me to have an infinite capacity for going pear-shaped...

In a less formal setting, whether in church or wherever, I'd probably be OK at taking part, but that's not what you're asking. Mrs. Gamaliel was fortunate in having her organ-loft as a tower of refuge.

IJ

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Albertus
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But what are you supposed to *do* with a short period of discussion that is then followed by a return to some kind of (other) worship? How does it get followed up? Where is it going? What is the object of the session and how does the discussion period contribute to achieving it?
Unless there is a convincing answer to these questions, this sounds like the kind of poorly thought through exercise that inexperienced teachers (I know, I was one) put into their teaching sessions under the impression that introducing another dynamic for a short while is worthwhile in itself. More experienced teachers know that while variety can be hugely useful, the choice of teaching method needs to be part of a carefully thought out plan.

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SvitlanaV2
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I appreciate having a time of discussion during church services, but I realise that it's not the norm, and most churchgoers won't be used to it. Some preachers also fear the loss of control that it entails.

The appeal of this sort of thing must also depend on the type of church it is. In my limited experience the MOTR CofE setting isn't a place for close congregational relationships, so I can understand that individuals wouldn't want to raise their health problems in a discussion with people they barely know.

In other churches people are expected to be more open about these things, and more closely involved with each other's lives. Black Pentecostal worship can be very interactive. I've also experienced interesting congregational discussions during Methodist and other church services.

Personality will have something to do with the appeal. I'm a bookish person, but I do get fidgety in church and often wonder how others can sit so utterly still most of the time. Yet others are full blown kinaesthetic types, and probably find normal church services difficult, if they stick around at all.

Discussions during worship services do need to be meaningful, and thoughtfully done. IME sometimes the discussion questions are too banal, or the time given is too short. Without a well-managed plenary session useful responses can be lost, or waffle can take over.

On a practical level, some churches have these discussions during Sunday services because many members are unwilling to attend small discussion groups at other times.

[ 13. August 2017, 16:48: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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BabyWombat
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Corporate worship is… well, corporate. We, all of us individuals, gather as God’s people called, ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven. For me, breaking into small groups fractures that “us-ness” of worship – my frailty may need to be buoyed by your presence as part of the body, but without chatting about it, or being asked “to share”. Today I may have nothing good to share, but being in the corporate body of Christ heals me in ways I cannot explain. To see your faith, but not hear about it or be in a position to question it, or you to question me, might be healing.

I do think small group discussion can be useful and helpful. If I’d responded to an advert of a parish discussion group, limited to 12 or so, at least I’d know that sharing was expected, or I could avoid it. But to come to corporate worship and encounter such would be very off putting, and I would feel tricked. And, I would wonder if the pastor just didn’t have time to prepare a proper sermon or homily, and took a short cut that was now making me uncomfortable.

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leo
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We do it occasionally but it can be a bit hard on a casual visitor to have to 'share'.

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SvitlanaV2
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BabyWombat

If it's a serious element and not just a bit of friendly chit-chat then discussion as a part of a church service will require the leader to put in just as much preparation as they do for a 20 minute monologue, not less.

The preacher/facilitator needs to know what they want out of the discussion. If there's a plenary, they need to have predicted the likely responses, so they're able to respond to the issues raised.

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Gamaliel
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Sure, interesting points everyone.

Our local parish church has thriving house-groups - although we don't attend - too busy and I find them too banal, pietistic and insular.

So there's plenty of opportunity for people to discuss things and share times of close fellowship if that's their bag.

I suspect the vicar just does it because it's trendy and what 'lively' CofE churches do these days.

As has been said, no follow-through and no opportunity to consolidate. A few years ago now the vicar told me off because I intervened after one such discussion - although not loudly and publicly - because one of the discussion groups fed back with something sub-Trinitarian and frankly heretical in Christological terms. The vicar did bugger all to correct it even though it could have easily been done without embarrassing anyone. 'Thank you for that ... but the Church's understanding is that Christ is both fully man and fully God ...'

I think the scope for it to go pear-shaped is very wide - unless, as seems to be the case in the settings SvitlanaV2 describes, there's an established 'tradition' of inter-activity as it were.

I've done loads of interactive stuff and then some, but I can't see how it can be vired successfully into something which retains the vestigial skeleton of an Anglican communion service.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

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Baptist Trainfan
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In my last church morning worship with 70-80 people and held in the pewed sanctuary was formal.

The evening service, with 10-18 people present and seated on a semicircle of chairs in the small church hall, was by its nature less formal. Following requests for discussion-style services, we held these about once a month. Some folk loved them, some stayed away. Most who came along who already attended worship in the morning.

The discussion always fitted into the general "liturgy" of the service; it was always prefaced by a short introductory talk. The questions were carefully prepared though some folk found them too difficult! We did not break into small groups. The themes quite often followed the Lectionary readings of the day.

This was not done in an attempt to be "trendy" but because some folk had specifically asked for this format of service. As worship leader I still maintained quite a tight control on things: it wasn't just a free-for-all.

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Bishops Finger
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That's the sort of scenario I think I was referring to in my earlier post - the informal setting does not mean that the service/group/discussion has to be 'sloppy', but I guess it does make a bit more work for the worship leader.

My local Baptist chapel used to follow a similar pattern on Sundays to Your Former Place, BT.

If it's what folk want, and if it works, go for it! Whatever you do that's a bit 'different', some will stay away, though.

IJ

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Gamaliel
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The difference there, though, Baptist Trainfan is that it was a service people had requested and could 'opt into' knowing what to expect.

It wasn't done as part of the main morning service whether people wanted it or not.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Enoch
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Curiously, I've some experience of this.

I suspect it's quite difficult to do well. Also in a lot of churches the acoustics work agains it.

Personally, I don't like being split into little groups. It's a forced structure. It also means that the congregation as a whole doesn't get to share any pearls of wisdom. Should there be any, only the people in that group get the benefit of it. Besides, Sunday morning worship is when the church meets as whole.

Also, it's hard on the deaf. They probably find it hard enough to hear with one person talking at a time, yet alone with a babble of different voices from different parts of the church.

It's best treated as an alternative way of doing the sermon, and making sure it's kept firmly under the management of the person preaching. There is a risk of the whacky leaping in with their particular wackinesses. If that happens, it's the responsibility of the preacher to control it.

It's also important to keep it as the same slot as the sermon. If so, it isn't really that difficult to fit it into the structure of Common Worship. For a Communion Service, rather than a Service of the Word, it may be worth moving the confession section to where it used to be in the BCP, so that the readings and discussion style sermon come together at the beginning.

As a teaching method though, it has the great benefit that people have less opportunity merely to sit, listen and think 'lovely sermon vicar'. It's harder just to be pew fodder. With luck, people can engage more in the subject matter.

It also has some of the authority of antiquity for it. I've been told it's more like what happens in a synagogue now, and what did happen in the synagogues of the first century. So it could well be how things were done in the primitive period of church history. It is also a bit more like
quote:
When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation I Cor 14:26
than the way most of us are doing things most of the time.

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SvitlanaV2
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Gamaliel

Regarding that 'Hopes and Dreams' discussion, it could be argued that the title's so broad that you could answer it as deeply or as superficially as you like. It could refer to oneself or to the whole world, and anything in between. It's hardly a phrase that forces anyone to mention things that they find too private or awkward.

So is your beef with the indelicate topic, or with the idea that the laity were expressing unscripted thoughts during an 'Anglican communion service', or with the lack of purpose in the discussion, or with the loss of 'flow', or ... what exactly? IMO each of those is a separate issue.

Mind you, with the wheelie bins there as well I'm wondering if this was an all-age service. When the kids are a priority sometimes the sensible older folks just have to grin and bear it. Did your wife think the service went according to plan, or were there lots of stony faces and trips to the loo?

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Rowen
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For the past two decades, my tiny, remote congregation has a sermon discussion... When I arrived last year, well, I was informed that that is the way it is.
The farmers come, with their families. We sit in a circle around the heater. I give the message, and then we naturally evolve into discussion. There is not enough of us to go into groups. Then the discussion evolves into Intercessory prayer.
Once I got used to it.... Well. I like it. It feels very much like family.
It only works because we are a small, and informal group, and because folk are committed to each other, to God and to the process.

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Lothlorien
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:


Also, it's hard on the deaf. They probably find it hard enough to hear with one person talking at a time, yet alone with a babble of different voices from different parts of the church.


An important point here. I wear fairly powerful hearing aids and what Enoch says is well worth considering. Morning coffee time is a nightmare for just this reason and I do not attend.

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Lamb Chopped
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Funny, I got severely crabby this morning because the pastor took over our Bible study class and essentially stifled all discussion. That man does like the sound of his own voice!

(Must consider my own sins in this regard, oh woe... goes away muttering)

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Zappa
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Damn, have I been taking over your church again, LC? [Biased]

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Lamb Chopped
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heheheheh. Would that you had. At least it wouldn't have been boring. (I was wickedly browsing the Ship)

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by Lothlorien:
I wear fairly powerful hearing aids and what Enoch says is well worth considering. Morning coffee time is a nightmare for just this reason and I do not attend.

Likewise

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My reviews at http://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com

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Gamaliel
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
Gamaliel

Regarding that 'Hopes and Dreams' discussion, it could be argued that the title's so broad that you could answer it as deeply or as superficially as you like. It could refer to oneself or to the whole world, and anything in between. It's hardly a phrase that forces anyone to mention things that they find too private or awkward.

So is your beef with the indelicate topic, or with the idea that the laity were expressing unscripted thoughts during an 'Anglican communion service', or with the lack of purpose in the discussion, or with the loss of 'flow', or ... what exactly? IMO each of those is a separate issue.

Mind you, with the wheelie bins there as well I'm wondering if this was an all-age service. When the kids are a priority sometimes the sensible older folks just have to grin and bear it. Did your wife think the service went according to plan, or were there lots of stony faces and trips to the loo?

Ehem!

My wife has incurable cancer, SvitlanaV2. She is going to die of it. It's unlikely she'll live to see her grandchildren.

Now, I'll give you our phone number if you like and you can ring her up and ask her about her 'Hopes and Dreams'.

Did you not read my post?

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Bishops Finger
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Mrs. G. [Votive] was indeed sensible to stay in her organ-loft. This sort of off-the-cuff 'discussion' can be so hurtful...much better if conducted in the manner described by Baptist Trainfan.

...and I'm afraid I'm another one who stays away from coffee-time (mostly) on account of the unbearable acoustics of our Hall (the Church is much, much better, acoustically, and is where I often have post-service pastoral conversations).

IJ

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The future is another country - they might do things differently there...

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Gamaliel
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SvitlanaV2, it's just as well I'm in a good mood otherwise you'd find a Hell Call in my answer and some very strong language awaiting you were you to accept my invitation thence.

As it is, I'll give you a somewhat more polite, but perhaps no less robust, answer here.

Yes, it could be argued that 'Hopes & Dreams' is a pretty broad and anodyne topic for discussion. Granted. But if you've got incurable cancer then it ain't going to look so anodyne is it?

Besides, what's the bloody point of discussing / airing one's hopes and dreams in that context? Don't these people have homes to go to, family and friends to talk to, pubs to drink in? I can see it having some social benefits for people who're lonely ...

But what's the pedagogic point? What's it meant to achieve? Team-building? A sense of community? Reinforcement for people's aspirations?

Besides, what possible bearing did the topic have on the lectionary readings for that day? Which were ignored. If the Good Lord hadn't wanted us to have lectionary readings he wouldn't have put them into the lectionary ...

Here's my beef. It contains strong language.

It is fucking crass.

That's my beef.

And no, I don't give a flying fart if the laity express 'unscripted thoughts' during an 'Anglican communion service' - they'll be thinking them anyway so voicing them isn't going to do any harm - but if I go to a communion service, guess what? I want to receive communion not listen to some ding-a-ling's half-baked thoughts about how they want to be a pop-star when they grow up or how they want to learn to tap-dance or save up and buy a conservatory or whatever else inane crap might have been 'discussed' that morning ...

So yes, lack of purpose. Abso-bloody-lutely. What is the bloody point other than the slavish copying of the latest trendy slurry to come dribbling out the arse-end of the dregs of New Wine?

The loss of flow, it'd be great if there were some flow. They lost that long ago.

Wheelie bins? Sure, I can cope with them. It was an all age service. Mind you, had I been there and anyone asked us about 'hopes and dreams' they might have found themselves inspecting the wheelie bins from the inside ...

Yes, it was an all-age service. That's some excuse at least.

My wife endured the service up in the organ loft out of harm's way. One of the old fellas, the church warden, joined her up there. He was trying to escape.

Everyone else seemed to be enjoying it. Perhaps they've already been lobotomised by the 11am services ...

Does that answer your question?

In short, the way Baptist Trainfan does it makes sense. I have no problem with that. I have no problem with discussions being part of church services - as several people have described on this thread. I have every problem in the world with what I've described though.

Why? Because it is shit.

[Razz]

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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ThunderBunk

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The sermon is part of the liturgy, not an opportunity for the exchange of opinions. This is why the right to preach is so jealously guarded (though, of course, it is reasonable to question how effective that process is). Much occurs by the engagement of the congregation in the sermon, just as it does in connection with the intercessions, but in both cases it is and needs to be silent. Otherwise the body of Christ gathered in that place is broken into its constituent parts.

Or (addressed to those who propose or defend this kind of nonsense) take your half-baked notion and shove in exactly the same corner of hell as the Alpha course lives in. As you prefer.

[ 14. August 2017, 19:30: Message edited by: ThunderBunk ]

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Bishops Finger
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Gamaliel raises another point, because at least two people at that service were able to take refuge from something they did not want to be part of.

People present at other, similar, services elsewhere, may be unable to escape, but, having gone innocently to church, find themselves trapped willy-nilly.

Not A Good Thing, IMHO.

IJ

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The future is another country - they might do things differently there...

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Stejjie
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I did do this on occasion, and some liked it and some didn't, but everybody talked. It seemed to work for the services I had the discussions in and for the type of church we are.

Then I was given pause for thought last year, when someone felt so uncomfortable with it (and not in a "uncomfortable, but able to learn from it" way) that they actually left the service. We've spoken about it since and things are OK between us about it, and she still comes to church. But I've not done it since then: if you don't want to take part in these, there really is nowhere else for you to go in our church. And if you turn up not expecting this and not feeling comfortable discussing these things in groups, it's going to be a tough time for you.

(There's also Thunderbunk's point that the sermon isn't first and foremost a teaching time, something that I've come to realise more and more as I've preached more and more.)

That said, there have been times where I've either invited comments/answers from the congregation or allowed people to speak when they've wanted to. Again, I think this can work in our context (a reasonably small church where most people know and trust each other well), and I actually think that done in plenary, people will feel less forced to talk; maybe there's nowhere else physically to go, but there's less focus on you as an individual, less pressure to say something if you don't want to.

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A not particularly-alt-worshippy, fairly mainstream, mildly evangelical, vaguely post-modern-ish Baptist

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ThunderBunk

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Stejjie, the person you mention was possibly an introvert. I am, and that is exactly how I would feel.

Introvert clergy should not be obliged to carry out such exercises, and introvert members of congregations should not be obliged to suffer them.

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Stejjie
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quote:
Originally posted by ThunderBunk:
Stejjie, the person you mention was possibly an introvert. I am, and that is exactly how I would feel.

Introvert clergy should not be obliged to carry out such exercises, and introvert members of congregations should not be obliged to suffer them.

I'm an introvert too (though one who doesn't mind too much talking in small groups, as long as it's with people I'm comfortable with). But you're right; and as I said, it did give me pause for thought and reason to stop doing it.

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A not particularly-alt-worshippy, fairly mainstream, mildly evangelical, vaguely post-modern-ish Baptist

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ThunderBunk

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quote:
Originally posted by Stejjie:
quote:
Originally posted by ThunderBunk:
Stejjie, the person you mention was possibly an introvert. I am, and that is exactly how I would feel.

Introvert clergy should not be obliged to carry out such exercises, and introvert members of congregations should not be obliged to suffer them.

I'm an introvert too (though one who doesn't mind too much talking in small groups, as long as it's with people I'm comfortable with). But you're right; and as I said, it did give me pause for thought and reason to stop doing it.
More seriously, there's a (possibly purgatorial) debate to be had about when such things are useful extensions of one's comfort zone, and that of the congregation as a whole, and when they constitute cruel and unusual punishment and/or make the baby Jesus, his mother and all the blessed angels weep bitter tears, and must be ceased forthwith.

I really do think this belongs in the latter group, but if asked to justify that I can only say that it goes against the whole tenor of the occasion, confounds its flow, and gives those it makes uncomfortable no way of regrouping before engaging in solitude with the rest of the service.

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Gamaliel - the church in question sounds truly dreadful and I'm not surprised you avoid such banality. 'Hopes and dreams' indeed! [Votive] for Mrs G.

Discussion can work in cafe church type settings, where people are sat at small tables anyway and it lends itself to a more informal kind of talk. But in a regular church set-up it's very awkward and seems pointless. If you're a kinesthetic learner then how will sitting in groups chatting help anymore than joining in with the liturgy? It's not exactly physically active.

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I loathe and despise the things. They run them along in my church about twice a year, which I can avoid by skipping church that Sunday. I would never attend a church where it was a regular practice. Sooner would I convert to Wicca.

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SvitlanaV2
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Gamaliel

OK, thanks for your response. If you'd called me to hell I wouldn't have had much to contribute anyway. I didn't mean to upset you.

However, I still don't understand why your family has remained attached to that church, in spite of all your longstanding criticisms, and the alternatives available to you.

FWIW, my mother died of cancer a couple of years ago. I wouldn't have wanted her to worship, or to be associated with, anywhere that made her as angry as this church has made you. I don't understand how any good could come from such a connection.

But my misunderstanding is my own problem, and it's not your job to clear it up. I apologise for what I said, and probably ought to retire from the thread.

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Gamaliel
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No, please don't leave the thread, SvitlanaV2. You have a lot to contribute to discussions on these sorts of topics - as on much else.

I over-reacted and I know you meant no offence or harm.

On Pamona's comment about our parish church sounding 'dreadful' ...

Well, that's in the eye of the beholder to some extent and to most people there it seems marvellous. It's certainly the most 'successful' and thriving church in the Deanery. The people are lovely, even though I find the whole thing hard to take myself.

As to why we persist with it ...

Well, when we moved here 10 years ago, I had a thing about supporting one's nearest church or parish church, whatever the style or ethos - and it's our parish church and a short walk away. I was more evangelical then, but in a kind of 'emergent' way and also with the kind of interests I have now and which I have often shared on the Ship.

The kids were younger then too, of course, 11 and 9, and we thought they'd appreciate the lively style and the youth work. In the event, they didn't.

I think this is the last straw for me, though, although my wife doesn't want to bail out and start somewhere else at this stage. She generally lets it wash over her and doesn't get too exercised about it. The traditional 9am service is ok as far she's concerned - although she wishes it wasn't too early. The other Anglican parish is a bit too 'high' for her - she's very much at the 'lower' end of the spectrum, although, like me, no longer an evangelical in the GLE sense.

Anyhow, my apologies for the rant. I know you meant no harm.

Peace be to all.

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Praise the Lord for He is kind.

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Albertus
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quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
...If you're a kinesthetic learner then how will sitting in groups chatting help anymore than joining in with the liturgy? It's not exactly physically active.

Quite. You'd be much better off doing the Stations of the Cross.

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
If you're a kinesthetic learner then how will sitting in groups chatting help anymore than joining in with the liturgy? It's not exactly physically active.

OTOH, it works very well for those who are akinesthetic.

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Curiosity killed ...

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I have always hated this sort of idea in the main service and much prefer the traditional sermon, even as a visual learner. If I am listening to a sermon heavily based on fire and brimstone or precepts of the Old Testament I can list heresies, take stock of the church architecture, count the number of times the preacher says certain phrases or think of something else entirely.

I have helped with services like this in the evening service slots we used as experimental (around the monthly Evensong and other irregular services: Stations of the Cross, Labyrinth Prayer, Compline). They are really difficult to do well and require willing participants to engage (with nightmare memories of trying to lead a prayer walk in Fairtrade Fortnight with an adult who challenged at each station).

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Baptist Trainfan
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I'm intrigued by your last post CK, not because I disagree with it (in fact what you've done closely parallels what I've done) but for two phrases you used.

For you talked about "think[ing] of something else entirely" when a formal sermon started taking you to places that you didn't wish to visit; and suggested that discussion services "require willing participants". Again I don't demur; but those phrases do beg the question of why folk should come to church apparently without a desire to engage with the ministry on offer and even perhaps wanting the liturgy to just "flow around" them?

(And yes, I realise that I come from a tradition in which preaching occupies a more significant place within worship than in some others, where the Sacrament is regarded as primary).

[ 15. August 2017, 08:15: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

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Curiosity killed ...

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I was mainly thinking of sermons I have encountered visiting other churches, often on holiday, most of which shall remain nameless There was:
  • the Church of Scotland sermon based on Samuel that I desperately tried to sleep through rather than let my blood pressure go through the roof - I knew what I was in for when I looked at the service sheet properly and realised what the readings and hymns probably were leading up to.
  • Nicky Gumbel's sermon at HTB loosely based on Nehemiah 1:1-4 because he wanted to fundraise to build something (it definitely wasn't a lectionary reading and I couldn't see any other reason for this), and I spent most of that sermon distracting my companion working out which OT stories were depicted on the west window - partly because the sermon didn't need much concentration - there wasn't a whole lot of material in it. He definitely was in the school of telling everyone something three times.
  • an Easter Sunday service at a church I'd attended before. The service was led by a new vicar and where the sermon wasn't about Jesus or Easter but all about a pilgrimage. That one I was focusing on the statues and other works in the church and what they meant - it's an ancient church.
I could go on, but won't.

The willingness to engage in different services as they are provided - go with the flow and take what you can from them - was thinking about services where I've seen people not engage. But it also suggests that the service should be advertised in a way that people know what to expect.

I was also partly referring to the prayer walk I set up and led as a Sunday evening service in Fairtrade fortnight. This prayer walk was open for people to wander around during the week, and just led on this one occasion. It was a number of stations with a few phrases and time to pray, think, use the activities or meditate on the themes. For example, one station had quotations from Deuteronomy about helping the poor and some suggested prayers, another was the bead into a bowl of water with time to reflect on actions spreading out and suggested prayers, another had a cross and nails to nail prayers to, a side chapel had the Lord's Prayer to pray with incense sticks to light. It didn't work as a led activity when one of the participants challenged every single station.

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Curiosity killed ...:
I was also partly referring to the prayer walk I set up and led as a Sunday evening service in Fairtrade fortnight. ...

It didn't work as a led activity when one of the participants challenged every single station.

The prayer walk sounds excellent, the constant challenges appalling and rude (did they "want to make a point", was it not "gospel-centred" enough for them?)

FWIW last Sunday - with plenty of forewarning! - we held a shortened service followed by a prayer walk around our neighbourhood. We stopped about 10 times and prayed for community cohesion, transport, education, some redevelopment going on, our mission, our neighbours and even the pub! It was quite strictly led (I wrote prayers for people to use, they didn't have to do so but I did ask them to stay "on topic"). Strangely enough I too preached on Nehemiah, but about going round the walls and being stirred to action as her saw the ruins.

[ 15. August 2017, 09:28: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
No, please don't leave the thread, SvitlanaV2. You have a lot to contribute to discussions on these sorts of topics - as on much else.
[/b]

Thank you.

quote:
Originally posted by Albertus:
quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
[qb] ...If you're a kinesthetic learner then how will sitting in groups chatting help anymore than joining in with the liturgy? It's not exactly physically active.

Quite. You'd be much better off doing the Stations of the Cross.

IME the process can involve quite a bit of movement: re-arranging any tables and/or chairs, deciding which group to join, changing position, assisting elderly people or young children, sorting or sharing out pens and paper, manipulating material prompts. In Gamaliel's case there were also things to put into wheelie bins....

I suppose it does sound banal, but not everyone necessarily wants to be other-worldly and sombre in church, or not all the time. And sometimes what other pew-dwellers have to say can be be more memorable or thought-provoking than the sermon! That depends on the quality of your preacher, of course.

Perhaps the most kinaesthetic thing about a small group is that you can respond to each other physically. In most historical church congregations this just isn't something you can do with a sermon.

Interactive sermons are one solution, but preachers aren't trained in how to do them, and I suppose most current worshippers in the mainstream wouldn't be keen.

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Gamaliel
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I think it depends on the context, SvitlanaV2.

I'm sure it'd work a lot better in Baptist Trainfan's setting than in an Anglican communion service. I'm not saying that one of the other is 'better' or preferable, simply that there's a different dynamic going on - and in one that makes the kind of discussion exercise I've described work better than it would in the other.

I'd have had no problem if the discussion element had taken place at a different time or in a different type of service.

I agree with CK and Baptist Trainfan that if you are going to do the interactive stuff, whether it be Prayer Walks or 'stations' or whatever else then it needs proper thought, planning and preparation.

It isn't something you can simply vire in and expect to work.

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Praise the Lord for He is kind.

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SvitlanaV2
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I suppose whether or not something 'works' in church depends on whose criteria are under debate. As you said, most of the other worshippers at that particular service didn't seem too bothered by the discussion. That might be a failing on their part, but there it is.

But my religious hinterland is obviously very different from yours. Firstly, the churchgoers I know are older and more willing to share their health problems. I also have far less of an emotional or theological investment in communion services, CofE or otherwise.

Also, Methodism doesn't have the same kind of anxiety about these things. There're fewer 'trendy' ministers, and the stationing system soon removes any unwelcome specimens from a circuit. Moreover, the ministers are often too busy running 3/4/5 churches to change the worshipping style significantly of any one of them.

OTOH, Methodist worship doesn't rely a great deal on mood, IMO, so a discussion segment hardly spoils the 'flow', or the atmosphere. A waffly monologue sermon might have to be cut in length to allow for a 'share with your neighbour' moment, but I'm not the one to complain about that, frankly.

Are discussions or interactive sermons, etc., necessary? Well, they're obviously a response to a changing cultural climate. If we were living under different religious conditions, folk would just turn up and sit quietly in the pews regardless, and ministers would have no incentive to offer 'trendy' diversions (especially when they have so little training to do it well. But who would train them?). That's just not happening.

Since we are where we are, I can't fault our preachers for trying. From where I'm sitting they should be assisted in their efforts so they can improve, though I realise that this will simply be unacceptable to many people. My solution in the past would have been that some churches should specialise in experimentation and others, in tradition, but if the CofE wants people to attend their local church regardless of churchmanship/style then that won't be of help to Anglicans.

[ 15. August 2017, 21:52: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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Gamaliel
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I'm very familiar with Methodist churches and how they operate, thank you very much. I'm also familiar with Baptist, 'new church' and Pentecostal churches and I've spent most of my time in evangelical settings of one form or other.

It's not about my wife being reluctant to discuss health issues either.

But bloody hell, SvitlanaV2, put yourself in her shoes. You go to church one morning and they break up into small groups to discuss something. The topic is 'Hopes & Dreams'. You have incurable cancer.

How would you feel?

Quite apart from that, it's supposed to be a communion service and it takes ages to get to the actual communion part because you've had to wade through a few interactive exercises of one form or other plus two discussion times - one about hopes and dreams, another following the sermon, before you actually get there ...

That's what I mean about the 'flow'. I'm not saying it should be some evocative mountain-top thing with everyone floating 6 inches above the ground ...

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Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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SvitlanaV2
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I mentioned my religious perspective and background because they're different from yours. I was explaining why I don't entirely share your perspective. But if you think that's irrelevant then fair enough, considering what your family is going through.

I don't know how I'd feel in your wife's position. Yet I'd like to think that we can always have hopes and dreams for the outside world, if not our own lives. When my turn comes I hope I can dream dreams on behalf of other people, like Moses who knew he wouldn't enter the promised land.

But you rejected that idea when I hinted at it before. Perhaps you were right to do so. Perhaps it's just too much to ask. I think my dying mother would have agreed with you, to be honest.

As it happens, I do think churches should be much more open about the disappointment, pain and pointlessness of much of human life. Many of us would be able to relate to that, including me, although I don't know if someone like your wife would find it any more helpful than the jolly stuff.

All the same, I wouldn't want hopes and dreams to be a forbidden theme during an interactive church service. (After all, which minister would avoid preaching a sermon on that topic?) Perhaps your vicar could have dealt with the possibility of upset by having had two discussion themes, one less personal. Groups or pairs could have chosen one of the two to discuss, according to preference.

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SvitlanaV2
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I'm also aware that people often hate it when services overrun. If discussions + communion have that outcome then I'm sure that'll cause some displeasure.
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Gamaliel
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Sure. I'm not saying it's wrong to have 'Hopes and Dreams'. I'm not saying my wife doesn't have them. They are necessarily limited, though, given the circumstances.

So it ain't going to go down very well being asked about them in public.

I also think it's a bloody bland thing to discuss in the context of a church service, but your mileage may vary. I'm no misanthrope but I don't give a flying fart what hopes and aspirations the person in the next pew has provided it doesn't harm anyone else and no animals are hurt in the making of their particular movie.

--------------------
Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Boogie

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This happens from time to time at our (Methodist) Church. This latest was last Sunday. For the first time ever I enjoyed it, in the past it has quickly turned into a general chat time - but this time we were kept on track. The groups were led by stewards who guided the discussion, which made us all think. Thiinking is pretty rare for me, in Church, these days.

The theme was the woman caught in adultery and each group was asked to respond in the 'voice' of a different person in the story.

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Baptist Trainfan
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Again, good guidance and preparation were the key to success - and a passage/topic amenable to discussion.
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SvitlanaV2
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Gamaliel

Ha, well, I think church often gets quite close to being 'bloody bland' anyway. Sometimes I think I'd rather hear the 'limited' hopes and dreams of the 89-year old lady sitting next to me than yet more rambling from the middle aged, middle class specialist standing up at the front!

But that's just me. We're all so different. Pity the poor religious institutions that claim to be for everyone!

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Gamaliel
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There's nothing wrong with blandness per se. Getting up in the morning can be pretty bland. And yes, the 89 year old lady may very well have a lot more to say and teach us than the 'middle-class, male specialist' blarting away at the front.

But if a mid-service discussion is going to work then it has to be led and managed properly - as the one Boogie's described seems to have been and as Baptist Trainfan observes. At least in Boogie's instance it was actually on an issue based around a scriptural text or story.

--------------------
Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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