On Sunday February 21st we had Café Church at our chapel this morning led by our minister Rev. Trevor Dixon. The church was laid out as tables with table clothes, fruit juices, croissants or bread rolls were available with spread and a choice of 2 jams. There were no set places; we could sit anywhere. Each table had a couple of Café Church menus which explained the format of the service. As it was the second Sunday in Lent worship began as we sang the verse of a hymn about taking care of our world and there was a meditation where we were encouraged to close our eyes and let go of all the business of our lives, thinking about the sower sowing his seeds. A second candle was extinguished for the misuse of our world and we said a prayer together for our world.
We then sang a selection of verses from ‘Think of a world without….’ which is a poignant hymn about our world. Trevor introduced the theme of our lives in relationship with others and told us of how he and his wife were at the traffic lights near Yeadon Airport when his car stalled as it often did but on this occasion refused to start. They were surrounded by cars and in the right hand lane ready to turn right and they could move nowhere! They felt helpless as it was impossible to get out of the car, and put on their warning lights. An ambulance nearby moved in front of their car and reversed to ask if they could help. Trevor was relieved when one of the paramedics directed the traffic whilst the other helped push Trevor’s car across the road into a car park. All Trevor could say was thank you. Once there he was able to restart his car and they could get on their way. They were their unexpected Samaritans who came to their rescue! He introduced the theme of the soaps which he wanted us to discuss; he admitted it was the ‘Everyday story of country folk, the Archers’, which was the only soap he followed.
We then considered as ‘starters’ whether we enjoyed soaps or not and why. Only one on our table watched the Eastenders Soap regularly as he had lived for a time in Paddington and he felt the Soap linked him to his time in London. The rest of us found the soap story lines too depressing to watch, when life can prove to be depressing enough without watching more. However one member of our group reminded us of the phone help lines provided after particular sensitive issues are covered in the Soaps; that certainly could be helpful for those affected by such issues. I admitted that I did follow the Archers which my mother had been an avid follower of, though I do miss some episodes, I listen to most. The Archers takes me straight home to the sound of the end of the Archers’ program, which used to be 6.45-7pm and then the gong would sound and it was time for supper!!
We also discussed what factors help or hinder us from feeling welcome at church. We felt welcome when people noticed if we were ill or asked us about how our family was; people at Wesley always ask how Malcolm is and how I am feeling. In fact I felt at home the first time I went to Wesley nearly 10 years ago, when our local small chapel closed. Trevor summed up our responses adding his own about how his son is giving up on the Archers till Rob Titchener is dealt with, but at least that story line does shows how much of a bully her husband Rob is and how he is isolating his wife Helen from her friends. My sister Fran and I have great discussions about how awful Rob is, whereas Malcolm laughs at my involvement in Helen’s situation.
We had not had time to consider the final question about whether modern technology builds up or breaks up relationships and neighbourliness. Trevor commented about being with his family and 5 family members were studying their phones and not really being with the family. That reminds me of seeing so many young mums looking at or chatting on their mobiles instead of communicating with children in pushchairs. I always comment on how lovely it is to see a mum in conversation with her young child, which seems so rare nowadays.
We then sang ‘When I needed a neighbour were you there?’ before Trevor read Luke 10.25-37, the Good Samaritan. We then had some questions to ponder; firstly in what ways do we feel we are able to love God with our mind? I think we can use our minds to read scripture, to learn of God but loving God with our minds, includes our thoughts, our whole being as we experience His closeness to us, often as we look back, even more in the bad times. The second question is one we all have struggled with; those questions about faith we really want answered such as; why do some people get healed and others don’t, despite many prayers having been said. Why especially do young people’s lives get cut short with cancer; young mothers like Kate, Cathy’s best friend, die of a brain tumour at 30! Why does her little boy Joseph have to grow up without his mum? I wish I knew! Why do so many innocent civilians lose their lives in war? Why are many refugees, fleeing from horrendous situations, exploited by traffickers and then refused asylum!!? We have many questions which are so difficult to answer.
We were asked if we had ever been surprised by someone who unexpectedly acted as our neighbour. A number of us had had some people who had come unexpectedly to our assistance and become our neighbours. It was encouraging to know how many unexpected neighbours have helped us in difficult times and that help has never been forgotten. We did not have time to tackle the final question on who our neighbours were? I think they are anyone who we recognise is in need of encouragement or help at any time and will try to be alert to recognise them.
Trevor summed it up by explaining about the antagonism between Jews and Samaritans and suggested we discuss who needs our prayers. We thought of the homeless, refugees and Muslims, who seem to be those we should make welcome. Trevor led the prayers of intercession and the Lord’s Prayer, before worship concluded when we sang, ‘Make me a channel of your peace.’ It was a stimulating thought provoking act of worship and fellowship. It was difficult for those who struggled with hearing, as they could not always fully participate in the discussions and missed a lot of what was discussed. We will have to learn to speak up so those hard of hearing will not miss out on the discussions.