Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Passing the peace or arranging a coffee date?

We attend a little local Church with the number of people attending on a good day being only in the 20's. Apart from the Sundays that I lead, we have visiting ministers. One of them tends to lead quite a formal service, in this very small friendly congregation. He dresses in robes and follows very set and religious sounding prayers. Always near the beginning of the service he invites us to share in "Passing the peace" where we are to shake the hand of people in the congregation, and say the words, "May the Peace of Christ be with you." Sometimes he has a difficult job getting order back in the service as this group of people greet each other very warmly, with very little formality. One Sunday he could be seen up the front surveying the noisy rabble looking most uncomfortable, and when he finally got silence returned, he commented that he thought he should bring a bell to signal "time up". Last Sunday he invited us to pass the peace, and a lady across the aisle wrapped her arms around my wife in an enthusiastic hug, to which my wife responded warmly. The woman then moved on to me. "I'm not giving you a hug, it wouldn't be proper!" she joked. I feigned disappointment, as we grasped each others hands and said, "Great to see you!". As I moved about the melee that ensued, I noticed not all were saying the right words, some were catching up on stuff, there were "high fives" with the children and general warmth, smiles and laughter. I over heard a conversation my wife had. The woman she was greeting said, "We'll have to go for coffee again. When can you make it?" and it carried on. When we got home I joked with my wife. "You were not supposed to be arranging a coffee date! This is worship. You were meant to be passing the peace?"  "I think God would prefer us to sort out a coffee break." my wife responded. I think she may be right.  Love shared is God shared, and what better way to share love and life than having a coffee break.
We have been told we are "not viable" as a congregation. We are just a small group of mostly elderly people but the love and friendship between the group makes us more than viable. The regular gathering is worthwhile, healthy and life giving, even if we don't obey directions.

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