Today I visited Heaton Moor United Church to participate in a Christening / Baptism service for a young relative. I'm not in full agreement with this practice, but living in the free pluralistic society in which we now do, nor am I passionately against it. Ultimately I feel it is more a public celebration of the child's birth and a public committment made by the parents about how they intend to nurture their child, rather than a constraint on the child's future faith who will naturally go on to make their own choices. I guess it could also be seen as a renewal of vows between the married couple.
The church itself is a fantastic example of a modern church building, interestingly with the main hall situated on the upper floor, and the service itself was inspiring.The minister spoke about the need for Christians to observe the world around them and think carefully about how they engage with it, neither rejecting it as wholly corrupt nor becoming swept along but its trends. The minister also, quite tellingly, made a point of saying fantastic buildings were not enough, we ourselves need to be conscious vessels of the Spirit.
Interestingly enough, the church is a partnership between the United Reformed Church and Methodist Church, and sits almost bang opposite the neighbourhood Anglican church. It struck me as I watched a small flow of people leave each church, that maybe there needs to be much more collaboration as church participation decline - perhaps like what we have see with the Uniting Church of Australia.
Finally, a quick note about hymns. The hymns from the service were a mixed bag played to an organ. I am certainly not all for Jesus praise bands blasting out guitars but do think the congregation should understand the hymns, and some quite franky, are well past their use-by date in terms of the language used. This in turn results in half-hearted congregation participation, a 'head down, mumble through it' response, which undermines the very idea of worship. I have since decided, having reflected on this, to make a note of hymns of hear that do rouse the congregation, should I ever find myself in the tricky position of having to select hymns. 'I, the Lord of Sea and Sky' was sung well yesterday and within it there is a relevant theology, the 'Almighty God' of the surrounding universe is also the 'still, small voice' that speaks to us from within.