Monday, 25 August 2014

On Taking My First Church Service

This evening I did something that I've never done before and which I have been dreading all week. I took a service at my local Church, the Isleworth Congregational.

A few weeks ago our long-serving Pastor the Revd. Antony W. Ball retired after forty years of thorough, loyal and dedicated service to our Church. As our Pastor it was always a pleasure to listen to Antony whenever he was in the pulpit. The scholarly, logical and analytical way in which he dissected the texts always captured my attention and even on my tiredest days my concentration seldom drifted. We have had some excellent visiting preachers, but speaking personally Antony's sermons were always the ones I gained the most from.

Fortunately although he has stepped down from the post to take well-deserved retirement he has assured us that he is happy to continue to preach to us, as well of course as serving still as a Church member. For this we will be eternally grateful (npi), because he is in my view irreplaceable.

Whilst I am under no illusions about my own abilities as a "preacher", I stepped into the breach tonight as I and all of my fellow Deacons attempt to fill the massive void created while he spends a few weeks away from the Church. Although I have spoken at many a political and public meeting, to audiences of up to 3000 in number, giving a sermon in a Church is so thoroughly different that it is reasonable to consider tonight as having been "my first time". I was very nervous.

I spoke (rather than preached, I guess) about the logic of Christianity and the way in which the laws given to us by God are for our own benefit and for that of wider society rather than being arbitrary or gratuitous. It was in essence a justification from a Christian perspective of the principles that guided me throughout my time as a community activist.

In numbers terms it was a modest audience, but those who were there seemed to think I did okay. Ideally I should have spoken for longer as the service finished about ten minutes earlier than usual. If there is a next time, I will know better.

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