(no) MOAR

Help.  I think I’ve overdosed on church.  There’s a lot on offer during Advent.

My family are artists and musicians, mostly, so this is a busy time of year.  Buzzfloyd had a concert with her friend and sisters in it (I didn’t go to that one, but everyone said it went well).  Then as the weeks of Advent rolled by we had a procession of enormous figures from a church nativity set coming through the house because their faces needed re-painting and their robes touching up – urgently in some cases; you should have seen Jesus!  Bright orange shiny limbs and his eyes rolled up into his head.  He looked more like a voodoo doll than the infant Christ.  And the harmonies for O Holy Night and all the other choir numbers have been in rehearsal – it’s a very beautiful environment to be in, feeds the soul.  Last Saturday we took my beautiful mama to the brass band Christmas carol concert – our Rosie on the trombone and her partner Jon conducting (naturally; it’s his band - here are some of them playing a fanfare outside the abbey). 

I went to an Advent quiet day at Pett chapel out in the country, led by their pastor, and also to one of his Advent Bible studies, all about Joseph.   I’ve been there most Sundays recently, but also (when I can juggle timing and energy levels) to the Methodist chapel just across the valley – we can see the spire from our kitchen – and to the glorious Anglican church full of incense and kindness where the Badger is a Lay Reader.  He was preaching last Sunday, which means a double – 8am mass then 10.30 – so I went with him to the 8am, then scooted up to Pett where a dear friend from way back, Derek Brice, was preaching.

Meanwhile, the last couple of weeks I’ve been out to the healing service and Eucharist at Crowhurst – centre for the Church of England healing ministry.  It’s a wonderful, Spirit-filled experience, but has a certain . . . er . . . full-on quality to it.  A while back the Badger and I were chatting about doing and being, and established that while he is into doing in a big way – a Grand Doer – I am somewhat fainter and flimsier, and mostly incapable of anything other than simply being – so, more of a Small Beer really.  And to us Small Beers, the undiluted Spirit of a Crowhurst healing service is best kept to the ‘occasional’ category.  But a friend of mine has been gravely ill, and we made a tryst to meet up there each week, since I am also incapable of socialising.    

I went to the Bruderhof  big carol sing which was moving and amazing as always.

Finally, having chickened out of last week’s Bible study, and almost walked out of the most recent Crowhurst eucharist through sheer overwhelm, we reached the weekend.  I’d said I wouldn’t make it to the evening carol service, but I so wanted to hear the choir sing O Holy Night after listening to Hebe and Alice singing it round the house through the last weeks, and I wanted to hear our Rosie playing her harp in accompaniment to Silent Night.  I changed my mind and went.

The reason I hadn’t wanted to go is that the church that carol service happens in is an Evangelical congregation of serious and determined persuasion – a bit like the Puritans, maybe.  It is a church of sermons, but I hoped we’d be let off light as it was a carol service and lots of the people there are not church-goers most of the time.  But no.

I’m not sure how long the sermon lasted (I don’t wear – or even own – a watch), but in terms of feeling-time it was about four hours long.  So, twenty minutes maybe?  The preacher made an interesting mistake right at the beginning of the sermon, where he said he wanted to talk ‘for a few weeks’ about the Christmas story.  He laughingly corrected himself, but it would have been fine to have just left it like that.  He talked rapidly for a long time – about . . . well . . . television programmes and the Magi and Christianity and school sports days and supermarket checkout queues.  I was a bit restless and looked at the bricks in the wall and the candle flames, the arches going up high into the shadows, the polished wood of the pew.  I wished I’d brought a book to read, or at least something to draw on.

Then as he came into the last chapters, he began to talk about MOAR.  ‘More’, of course, but he said it ‘MOAR’, like the lol-cats.  He said we could learn MOAR by coming to the course the church would be running in the New Year and find out MOAR from the special leaflets they would be pleased to give us completely free as a Christmas gift and discover MOAR about Jesus and the faith.

Well now, I love Jesus.  I recognise in Him my heart’s desire.  But at that moment he was receding rapidly into a plaster figure viewed through the wrong end of the binoculars and MOAR was what I definitely didn’t need.  But at last it was over, and time for Silent Night, which was so beautiful – the choir singing softly, and Rosie playing her harp in the candle-light and the shadows.

Then it was time for a blessing, and after that we got a re-run and reminder of all the MOAR things that were available for us – then applause and a reprise of Torches Torches, and I scuttled past the mince pies and out into the night.  I hope you would have been proud of me, though: in an early part of the service where the preacher asked us to put our hands up if we couldn’t stand mince-pies, despite my besetting literal-mindedness I managed to spot that we weren’t actually supposed to, because it was just a preliminary to letting us know there’d be some on offer afterwards along with tea and leaflets as part of the MOAR.

It is a source of frustration to me that participation in gatherings feels like a ride on a ghost rain or getting lost in a hall of mirrors with a crowd of Hieronymus Bosch’s depictions.   

I know how disappointing I can be.  A friend commented recently, on hearing with surprise of my being received into membership at Pett chapel, “It just seems like in-and-out, in-and-out to me.”  I guess she’s right.  The difficulty I have is that the faith community always wants MOAR.

In the church of my dreams, there would be nothing but a small stone chapel in a grassy field, with a mug of flowers from someone’s garden on the altar, low benches to sit on, candles in simple holders of wood or stone, a woodstove, and sunlight through the windows.  Nothing precious that anyone would want to steal, requiring the doors to be locked.  Nothing complicated requiring constant fundraising.   Simple.  Plain.  No hot drinks at the end or greeters on the door, no leaflets or posters or banners or flyers.  The people would enter in silence and wait in peace for worship to commence.  They would leave quietly, with no kissing and no frightening laughter with wet open mouths.  Their faces wouldn’t be forbidding or grim, just soft and gentle. Their eyes would be kind.  Not beady.  There would be no microphones or electronic paraphernalia, the singing would be accompanied by musicians like the old parish bands – a cello, a trombone, a viola, a flute, a guitar, a folk harp, a bodhran – portable and simple, coming and going with the musicians, and leaving behind nothing but the echoes of joy.  The children would sit with their parents to hear the Gospel story and bring to God the heartaches of the world – or else play out in the churchyard if the sitting felt too long.  No committees, no incessant asking for money, no social occasions, no lunches.  Just the holy Gospel story and the prayer, the music and the people and the place.  And on Christmas morning the same, but with frost.  Everything just . . . unobtrusive . . . simple.  Enough of itself.

But only in my dreams is it like this.  I go to this church and that church, or I meet with a friend, and for a while everything is fine.  And then they want MOAR.  Already this Christmas, like a great rumbling tummy, like the troll at King Henry’s table that ate all his food and then his sheep and then his pet greyhounds, the word goes out for MOAR.   Are you having Christmas with your family only?  What about the lonely neighbour, the homeless vagrant?  Have you bought gifts for your grandchildren only?  What about the world’s poor?  Bring socks!  Christmas is for sharing!  What do you know about the faith?  Come to the Alpha Course and learn MOAR!  Have you only been to the carol service and the Advent studies and the concert?  Could you not make time, at this special season, to go and sing some carols at the nursing homes?   Might you consider volunteering at Surviving Christmas or the Snowflake Project or the Debt Counselling service . . . or . . . 

The Lord is asking you to get out of the boat, to step out in faith!  He wants to stretch you, to challenge you, to move you on!  The Lord never stands still!  What words are the sure signs of a dying church? ‘We always do it like this’!  No!  The Lord wants something different, something MOAR!

The calendar bristles with events, and the people try to make a point of attending, but the organisers are disillusioned and disappointed because the people showed up to the event but didn’t come to help set out chairs and tables and wash up afterwards.  The attenders felt they’d done their bit showing up to yet another event, but the organisers felt let down – they wanted MOAR.  Women’s meetings, men’s breakfasts, toddler parties, messy church, living cribs, healing ministries, executive meetings, property meetings, finance meetings, meetings to plan ahead for the meetings, prayer before and coffee after, mid-week fellowships . . . glory . . .

I feel inadequate, and unfriendly, mean-spirited and uncomfortably like Scrooge.  But I can never cope with MOAR-church for very long.  

No MOAR, in 2013.   Less-church.   Nothing MOAR.

“It is desirable that a man live in all respects so simply and preparedly that if an enemy take the town... he can walk out the gate empty-handed and without anxiety.”                         ~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden


365 366 Day 353 – Tuesday Dec 18th
(As in, this)

Surplus Christmas decorations.  We do put up some tinsel here and there, and cards sent by dear friends.  We have a holly wreath on the front door, and we have a tree; and that’s enough.

365 366 Day 352 – Monday Dec 17th

I am an absolute demon for hoarding packaging that will come in useful some day.  This year I’ve tried to find that useful place and occasion and send the packaging to it – or throw it away.

365 366 Day 351 – Sunday Dec 16th

Felt pens.  I think these went in one of the craft kits I made to give away on Freecycle.

365 366 Day 350 – Saturday Dec 15th

Bits for a textile craft kit to give away.

365 366 Day 349 – Friday Dec 14th

Yet another plaid skirt.

365 366 Day 348 – Thursday Dec 13th

Nice skirt, but at the time I was too thin for it.  I wouldn’t be now – hah!  Oh, but hey - who cares?

365 366 Day 347 – Wednesday Dec 12th

Waste paper bin.

365 366 Day 346 – Tuesday Dec 11th

Surplus saucepan.  Went to homeless man who'd got a place of his own.

365 366 Day 345 – Monday Dec 10th

Surplus plastic containers.

365 366 Day 344 – Sunday Dec 9th


365 366 Day 343 – Saturday Dec 8th

Oh dear, I felt guilty parting with this.  It was painted by Bernard’s first wife Anne.  He loved her so much, and treasured her paintings.  This was one he gave to me.  As they have both been dead quite a long while now, I made an executive decision to donate this to raise funds for the hospice that cared so well for both Anne and Bernard in the last difficult stretch of life.

365 366 Day 342 – Friday Dec 7th

More acrylic display stands.

365 366 Day 341 – Thursday Dec 6th

I had a few of these given to me because I wrote some of the stories on them.  One went winging its way across to Julie Faraway for her grandkids to enjoy.  One is for the Wretched Wretch.  Simply can’t remember whatever I did with the other one.