My memory creeps back to the small but ornate church of St Anthony in the village where we stayed in Italy.
The nearest Anglican church was Sorrento, and as we were reliant on public transport there was no easy way of getting there last Sunday. So we did the same both Sundays we were there, and joined the little Catholic congregation. I have some Italian, and Hub has classics in his background, and they dished out printed sheets, so we were able to join in most things. The order of service is identical to ours, anyway.
The only difference being, of course, that we are ‘not allowed’ to take Communion. I always find this distressing. It’s one of the reasons I’m sticking with the Anglicans, for all our faults, because we practise ‘hospitality’ to members of other denominations and they can take Communion with us.
Anyway … I took the theme of ‘safe spaces’ this morning for the service, and asked the congo where were the places they feel safe, and then I moved on to those who don’t have such places, and the work of Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
I set up a tent/gazebo at the front of the church, and asked our middle-easterner to come and sit in it, as people who convert in his country face persecution. Then I invited anyone who wanted to, to go and join him, and stand round him, creating a ‘safe space’ of prayer.
He was in tears at the end, which I had feared, so I was glad I had contacted him yesterday and checked it out with him in advance. He is a lovely, mature person and thanked me for praying for his people and his country.
Afterwards we moved swiftly into the church meeting – not giving people time to disappear! We work in a united project with another denomination, and their mode of self-governance is by the congregation, so we alternate these meetings with good ole Anglican church councils. One of the reasons I was working so long yesterday was that 4 of the 8 items on the agenda were mine.
We got there in the end, and now I’m enjoying a NICE QUIET SIT-DOWN in the style to which I would like to become accustomed … 😉