‘Are we going to church today?’ – the sign that we are truly on holiday and that the professional church-goer has the same luxury of choice as everybody else. So it’s best navy cords instead of all the episcopal gear and [another luxury] arrive just in time rather than 30 minutes early.
It’s Holy Communion in Dunfanaghy – north-west Donegal where we have had a house for almost 15 years and feel very ‘at home’ – both known and knowing people.
So, without doing a ‘mystery worshipper’, how did it feel?
I think that I came away having been reminded again that the experience of church-going has more to do with what I am carrying with me than with what happens in the building. This congregation works because they are people who know each other and have all sorts of connections with one another and with the wider community. There is a strong strand of identity and distinctiveness as part of the protestant community in Donegal. They are good at accepting those of us who are ‘in-comers. They allow you to do your believing and your belonging together.
And what I think about as I sit there is about how much of our lives is now interwoven with this place – our sense of being Irish because we now live in Scotland; our children growing up; the tragic losses of people whom we knew as friends that the community has suffered. Doug, the Lay Reader, has a wonderful accent – and I think of him as the manager of the golf course doing a ‘firm but kind’ when our golfing children kept wanting to sneak onto the course at the bottom of our lane rather than at the 1st tee.
And because there are all those connections and linkages and memories – heightened by the New Year – it becomes possible to begin to respond spiritually, to measure thankfulness and hear familiar words in a fresh way.
And at the end – chat at the church gate and coffee with friends. It’s as if you distil who you are, where you come from and what you need to think about into an hour. And, if you don’t do it, you’ve missed something precious.