At St Paul’s Rothesay we’re keeping the church open on Wednesdays throughout the summer. It’s the day we have a quiet mid-day service of Holy Communion so it makes sense to keep it open then. The sandwich board outside invites people to ‘Come in and see’. We take turns to be there, offering an unobtrusive welcome to allow folk to look around, to pray or should they choose, to talk. Some churches in our diocese are open every day but this is our modest experiment.
I find it a great way to carve out a bit of quiet time in the week. My two ‘shifts’ have so far proved very different. The first was a glorious sunny day and during the afternoon about a dozen people came in. Several stopped to chat, sharing stories and in one case, the pain of a bereavement. With their permission, we included the family in that week’s intercessions.
The following week it was raining so I thought some might come in for shelter but I had no visitors that afternoon. In the morning however, a lady had popped in to say a thank you prayer for the arrival of a grand-daughter. She was visiting the island and had received the good news while a long way from her family. She stayed for the communion service and the happy event was included in the intercessions. Her joy was a gift to us and she was delighted that she had happened upon a group of Christians with whom she could share it.
In just over a week spanning two Wednesdays, life and death came through our doors – and doubtless all sorts of experiences in between these extremes. It reminds me of Larkin’s famous poem ‘Church Going’. It doesn’t lend itself to easy sound bites (it’s too good for that) but I can’t resist quoting from the last stanza:
‘…Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground…’
Whether folk are serious, joyful or merely curious, I’m happy we are open so that they can ‘come in and see.’