Sunday 30th September was Back to Church Sunday; my nearest church, St.Mary’s, was one of the many churches taking part in it this year. I chose that day to be my first attendance at a Sunday service at St.Mary’s.
The theme for the sermon was “Why does God permit suffering?”; an apt choice for a service designed to welcome in newcomers to the church as well as returning lambs to the fold. And indeed, at St.Mary’s I had a very warm welcome; I picked an empty pew and sat down quietly, and within a couple of minutes a lady named Carol asked if I minded her joining me – and she pretty much took me under her wing! She told me where to find the baby changing facilities when my baby daughter’s nappy needed changing, and afterwards introduced me to various people as we had a cup of tea. I filled out a Welcome card and picked up a number of other leaflets, too. Carol introduced me to Nigel, the Reverend Anstey, who had spoken during part of the service.
It was only later as I spoke to Jackie that I found out Carol is the Bishop’s wife!
I returned again for the Sunday service the following week (the 7th); this service was the Harvest Festival service. It had quite a different feel to the preceding week, as being a Family Service all the children stayed (normally most of the children go off to the Welcome Centre opposite the church for Sunday School and other assorted activities). Instead of the Rector, Reverend Simon Heathfield, it was Jackie who led the service, which had a different, more informal feel to it.
Being a Family Service, it was also shorter than the previous Sunday. Even so, my daughter did start to get restless before the end (4-month-old babies not being known for having long attention spans!), so she and I listened to the last hymn and prayer from the South Porch, which is set up with rugs, soft cushions and toys so mums can distract babies quietly whilst still being able to hear the service.
Unfortunately, half my attention being caught up with the baby and her needs means I can’t pay as much attention to the service as I’d really like, but as I get used to attending services that should gradually change, and I’m hopeful of being able to get away by myself for the occasional early-morning or evening service when her father can look after her for me for an hour or two – which should get easier as she gets older.
Jackie and her husband David will be leading a “Just Looking” group on Wednesday evenings from October 17th which I’m hoping to attend.