In fact, I didn’t go to church last week either.

Last week I was at Greenbelt for a different experience of church – on a field at Cheltenham race course. As folk gather they are invited to gather in groups of about 20, in which they will share a ‘picnic’ communion bag. I sat myself down and was invited to join a group from Cambridge (pretty welcoming considering I confessed I was from Oxford!) and it turned out one of the group was a young man I knew from my curate days. Greenbelt is one of those special places where surprising and serendipitous encounters happen.

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This week I went to see my mum who’s recently been in hospital and spent a lot of Sunday on bus and train to get there. Plenty of time to catch up on diary management, catch snatches of conversations from other people’s lives and to daydream out of the window. 

Arriving back at the place where I grew up always seems to somehow catch me unawares, with all that is the same and all that has changed, the juxtaposition of beauty and some ugly development in the scenery, with the pang of remembering. We didn’t do much – it was enough to enjoy spending time together, and for me to continue the process of acknowledging the passing of time and the aging of my mum.

There are a good few weeks ahead of me not attending church, during the weeks of my sabbatical, or not attending in the way I’m used to, as a minister and worship leader. I quite enjoy having a break from church – and don’t usually attend church when I’m on holiday. I don’t feel I need to. This is time when I need to learn a different sort of attention – maybe attention that I don’t usually give to my nearest and dearest, or attention to the world around me, rather than the world that can be limited to church.

So what I am saying – a vicar who counts congregation weekly and writes down the numbers and despite talking about the quality of discipleship (rather than quantity) wonders often where people are if they are not in church, with me? I’m saying that it’s good to take a different perspective, take a broader view, and maybe good to take a break from church. It’s then up to churches to remember that we are places with different sorts of walls and boundaries, places to allow remembering and welcome new ways of seeing and being in the world.

My dad was a keen photographer and I came back this weekend with just 2 of his many cameras. Having them reminds me of his diligence in teaching us about always being open to learning and finding a new way to see the world, and be part of the world.

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