Sunday, 11 June 2017

Church Tourism Derails Somewhat

My plan for today was to visit, for the first time, a 'Cafe Church' Fresh Expressions held by a Hull URC church. I arrived before time, to discover that it had been cancelled because "Everyone had gone home" after a previous service. The previous service was a youth one, because this church is connected to some young people's organisations.

The minister told me it was cancelled for this reason; the woman alongside said I had attended the previous week. He told me it would start up again.

However, he did not ask for contact details. So what would I do? Turn up again only to find it cancelled again? In my Unitarian experience, ha ha, if one person turns up you run the service. I have been there with three plus a minister.

I don't think it was likely but there was an outside chance I might find a place there. Parking is awkward, indeed takes time in The Avenues. Well, I won't return now.

So I wondered what I would do. Instead of going home I knew that Holy Trinity (Hull Minster) ran its 'traditional' service at 11:15, and I was back at the car at 11:01. I didn't much fancy it, but there might be something else to learn.

I arrived 2 minutes late in the church itself. I just could not participate and even the final blood-curdling hymn caused me to close the book. I counted about 50 plus in the space including 18 in the robed choir. I was told by this woman afterwards that some from the choir and a few were at this decaon's ordination in York; indeed she would preside at her first Eucharist in the evening service.

The service was taken by the main fairly folksy priest. The woman I spoke with mentioned above said about the URC no attendance that it is secularisation, and she had just written an essay on it for the Open University. Sociologist? No, historian. She said about pre-First World War so I said oh yes that 1913 was the high point for church attendance but in fact it only kept pace with the rise in the general population. I told her I had a speciality in Presbyterian and Unitarian history, indeed how Presbyterians and Independents worshipped in the Nave at Holy Trinity before being kicked out after the Restoration.

This woman had trained as a midwife in Ipswich when she knew a Unitarian family. She said that they are Quakers now. I said each are like 'cousins', neither containing demands for doctrine.

Now the preacher was only training to be a Lay Reader. Quite elderly I thought (!) but when does one become a Lay Reader? His sermon had been on Rublev's Trinity ikon inviting us in, plus references to the 1 Corinthians and the read-out Matthew Trinity-like statements. I said to him that these are not doctrine of the Trinity statements. He didn't disagree, although I could tell he wanted to disagree. He agreed Matthew is a late insertion. I said that the early Christians were not trinitarians, and Paul certainly was not. I could see here too that he wanted to disagree, but could not. I said the gospels are trying to say that Jesus was appointed, chosen as Messiah by God, and I said John's gospel is closer to Arian. He agreed! I said there was no inevitability that it would end up as Trinitarian, and indeed at the Reformation the proof of this was when some retained the Church doctrines they were trinitarian, but those who read the Bible alone in Eastern Europe were not. So he said if Jesus was only (at best) Arian, it affects salvation. So I asked why? I said if you take John's Gospel, it says In the beginning and in Arianism Jesus is the first born of all creation. He said yes but Jesus says 'Before Abraham was I am' so I asked how that changes anything and, of course, he could not say.

I did point out that I was not Arian myself, and also that the Trinitarian was a construction in the context of Roman Empire. "Oh you think that?" he said. "Yes."

For me the service was full of clutter. OK, there is a surface appreciation of choir-sung bits, but they may as well sing forms of nonsense. I know I rather like being an argumentative sod unpicking assumptions in sermons, but there is no future in it. Like the last time I visited (and I was remembered), I just detected that people are well aware of all the arguments but just go along with it. I call it self-deception and I am no longer interested in pursuing that. The liturgy struck me as so much clutter and I won't be going back there either.

In fact I'm not sure if I am going anywhere in future. I can think of one or two places to visit but that will conclude my travels. After than I shall enjoy my Sundays like most people do.

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