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Hallo again to all.

Today we attended Sunday worship services in our own church after almost two months of being elsewhere and worshipping elsewhere. The notion of 'our own church' is powerful. It it a beacon, a stake in the ground, a benchmark. Whatever 'home' means, our home church is (at least for us) a big part of that. In previous weeks we had attended Sunday services in four different time zones. Those churches were all good, all populated with good people, but they weren't home.

Arriving today at our home church, we walked up the familar walkway past the familiar foliage and the familiar belltower, into the familiar narthex, and thence to our accustomed seat (in a few spaces from the aisle in the second pew from the front on the Epistle side). The choir processed in to a familiar hymn, the usual clergy in their usual places and Lenten vestments at the end of the procession. The liturgy was right out of the book, the chanting of familiar words to familiar melodies. It was hypnotically ordinary, and therefore felt soothing.

Then, just as we were being lulled into a familiar sense of complacency, the reading of the Gospel and the Sermon were merged into a liturgical dramatization of today's appointed Gospel reading. Various men and women from the congregation played the roles of Jesus and those he spoke with in today's reading. The Rector stepped down to sit in the front pew and the Deacon narrated the dramatization.

There are skills to using lavalier microphones and one of the actors in the dramatization did not have those skills. So her lines were more or less incomprehensible. It was a (forgive the word choice, please) familiar Gospel passage, so we knew roughly what she was supposed to be saying, but for the dramatization to work well for us, it would probably have been beneficial to have been able to understand what she was saying.

This was momentarily very stressful. We'd been looking forward for weeks to coming home to our own parish and resuming what we always do here every Sunday, only to find that it had changed into something quite unexpected. This was an experiment. Perhaps if we had attended this church the previous week we would have heard the announcement. But we hadn't, and didn't. Replacing something familiar with something so different was discordant and unsettling to us.

The rest of the service reprised the familiar. Nicene Creed, Prayers of the People, the Confession, the Peace. The endless announcements. Then the Eucharist. The closing prayers and hymn. Remembering not to say the A word in response to the Deacon's dismissal. Listing to the postlude (a dazzling JS Bach piece with which we were not familiar) we spent about 30 seconds feeling grumpy and mistreated. But then we realized that was embarrassingly silly. This church is not just for us, it's for everyone. And people who haven't attended before, who might hear about the interesting liturgical drama and come to have a look. We might want the church to be familiar and static, but surely God wants the church to be alive and adaptive.

We'll cope. We always do. We'll need to find some other emotional symbol of home*.

See you next week. Sound familiar?

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23 March 2014

*Recently we had lunch in a large city far from home with the managing editor of one of the world's best Anglican periodicals. He asked what everyone asks, which is 'What exactly IS Anglicans Online? It seems so quaint and old-fashioned.' We've never known the answer to that question either, but we plead guilty to the charge of being quaint and old-fashioned.

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