Janet Henderson asked a number of folk who came to a special hospice service before Christmas why they'd come, and why they might think of joining in a worship activity. I thought it was worth reblogging the answers in full, and Jan's comment on them:
To take a bit of space out of my hectic schedule.
To participate in something that takes you beyond yourself.
To be able to share your concerns with people who will understand.
To be challenged about the things I know I avoid or get lazy about.
To learn about Christianity - to ask some of the really deep questions I have.
To be with people who are searching for God or love or something.
For a bit of peace.
To be close to our loved ones.
I think it's helpful to hear stories that make you think.
To find some strength to carry on.
As a resource for inner light and peace.
To help me find ways of explaining things to my children.
If I felt the other people wanted to get to know me I might go.
I'd hope to discover the wisdom I need to tackle things that are going on in my life.
I'd like to know more about how you can pray and what happens when you do.
I'd like to be able to go just for a bit - if you could come and go like we did here.
I need to see forgiveness - I need it for myself but I need to see it in other people's attitudes too.
If that's what some regular non-worshippers would come to church for, what shape would worship need to take, how would it look and what attitudes and behaviours would need to be in evidence? What language would be accessible?
Janet's challenge is to look for the reasons people want to come, rather than the reasons that they don't come. And then to work out how we connect with this.
I spoke to someone this morning who came to one of our garden centre Christingles in December, and loved it. "This is what church should be like". I think she had a mistaken impression of what church actually is like, (at least, what ours is like), but it was a significant comment. It's maybe no coincidence that it's one of my favourite services of the year too, and that we were there because the garden centre invited us.
The church isn't there to give the people what they want, because a lot of people want page 3, the restoration of the death penalty and a cut in international aid. But we have got to recognise that as culture changes, our forms of worship, meeting and community need to change as well.