Ok, so I know the church of the future won’t just look like one particular church, but I visited St. Paul’s Onslow Square in London last week (a congregation of Holy Trinity Brompton) and had a number of thoughts:
A very simply format, with worship led by a very competent band which was situated in the centre of the church. The band stood in a circle facing inwards (presumably to take everyones attention off them and to divert it onto God). I did miss having something to focus on – usually in church your eyes are diverted to a cross or a window or eve a candle, which can be both helpful and unhelpful. Here there was nothing easy to focus on from where I was sitting.
Many young people were engaging with God throughout the worship. One young man who I saw was singing with absolutely all of his might. This was great, especially as engaging with God is what church is supposed to be about. The congregation was very young, possible with an average age of about 24 (made me feel old). I think the other congregations of HTB have a greater age range.
After quite a good half hour (maybe more – i didn’t notice as I was enjoying it) the band left their places and there was a sermon. The sermon wasn’t great but i know that was out of character for HTB as I’ve heard a number of other sermons given by podcast. It concetrated on giving – giving of your whole self to God which works itself out in giving of time and skills and resources to help build the kingdom and aid the mission of the church.
Surrounding the small stage in the centre were no pews and not even any chairs. Everyone was sat on cushions on the floor (with the exception of a few sofas round the edge). Very informal, very relaxed, a party atmosphere with coffee and cakes available.
After the sermon there was another chance to worship and also for people to be prayed with or simply wait upon God. This type of prayer minsitry seems to bee integral to the service and not just an add-on.
It was vision sunday. Inside the church they had set up stalls each giving information about a different area of the ministry of the church. People afterwards could go up and find out about this area of ministry, what is involved, whether it fits their gifts, and how to get stuck in. They do this twice a year which helps people easile get integrate with the church and serving in it.
The whole thing had the feeling of a (good) youth service in it’s simplicity and accessibility. Anyone could easily come and know what was going on. There are many excellent youth programmes around but many of them see a great drop out rate after the youth programme ends, as the young Christians try to integrate with a traditional church service. This service reduces the culture gap between youth work and adult services so it is easier for young adults to continue with their faith.
So, a few minor gripes about this or that, but very enjoyable nonetheless!