Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Where should I sit?

At church on Sunday I made my way to the second row and sat alone behind the empty front row.  This is not a post asking for sympathy or reassurance.  It's not about asking people to sit at the front. It's just a reflection that I'm still thinking through.

Why don't we sit together at church?  Or more accurately, why am I sitting alone?

At our church it seems that people tend to sit in families (though the word couples would be more accurate).  Mind you, I don't see a lot of the rest of the church from the second row, so maybe there is some inter-family mingling.  I either sit alone, if J is playing the piano that week, or just with J. Sometimes someone might sit in the same row as us, but on the end, with a gap between us.

I know that part of the reason that we sit alone is because we're at the front.  Even in a congregation with a very low percentage of young people the concentration of people is towards the back rows.  That's part of the reason I sit at the front, to try to encourage others to fill the seats from the front too (after two years, I don't think it's working). 

Perhaps I could go and sit with someone else, but it has been very rare for someone other than J to sit with me so now I've become a bit shy about joining someone else in their row.

I remember a similar seating structure at our old church back home: people sat in family units.  And I understand the practicality of this: sometimes a whole family takes us a whole pew, and it's helpful for the parents to be able to block their young children into their row.  But it was different at the evening service of the church where J and I met.  This service was made up mostly of youth and young adults, and some of their parents.  No one sat alone.  The church was very social and you would always sit with your friends.  People didn’t sit in family units, but they still stuck with people they knew and were comfortable with. 

If we as a church are a family under our Father God then we should feel comfortable and able to sit with people at church who aren't part of our biological family.  We shouldn't need to leave gaps between people. 

And if the Christian faith is more than a personal and private experience then our time of corporate worship should not be spent alone as if it were. 

I think this means I should give up the second row and sit with others.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Stop and chat

“I didn’t want to live here.”

We had our community end of year party last night and this phrase came up a couple of times during the open mic time.  It was true for me too.  I didn’t want to live here mostly because the name of the community sounded funny (I won’t mention it here for internet security reasons).  I knew nothing about any of the college residential communities before we started college but this one was at the bottom of my list purely for the weird name. 

We had games for the kids during the afternoon of our end of year party

But now, like others reflected last night, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else while we’re studying at college (and even post-college too!).  I don’t know of anywhere else where you can have a meaningful conversation with your neighbours as you hang out your washing on the same line, as you walk to the car, as your children play together in the playground, as you study in the rooms specifically designated for study, as you stand in your front doorway, as you take out the rubbish, as you check your letter box, as you drive to college together, as you borrow things from each other and return them later. 

BBQ dinner together

Last night one of the leaving students encouraged us to make the most of these opportunities for conversations.  After all, if you can’t talk to your Christian neighbours in this safe and loving community then you certainly won’t be able to talk to your neighbours when you move away from living in Christian community. 

I haven’t been good at using these opportunities.  But last night I was encouraged to change.  Often I would pass people hanging up their washing as I walked to the studies and I would say hello but not much more.  It’s easy to tell myself that I was just busy with assignments or blame it on my introversion.  But sometimes I would wonder and worry if it seemed like I was being rude. 

One of the wives who I’ve become friends with over the two years we’ve both lived here told me that when she first met me she found me intimidating because I didn’t talk much.  I didn’t talk much because I was shy and didn’t know what to say!  She showed me that my silence can be misconstrued and I certainly don’t want that. 

In the evening the adults had dessert and games, prayers, awards and an open mic time

So neighbours, friends, I humbly apologise for the times when my conversations with you (or lack there of) have been cut short, awkward, rude, unloving or distracted.  I truly didn’t mean to come across that way and I really do want to get to know you better.  I’m sorry for my introversion, shyness and awkwardness. 

Because of last night I’ve decided on next year’s community–living motto for myself (which I will start on right away and not wait for next year).  Stop and Chat

I will hang my washing outside more often, as much as I can, and I won’t opt to hang it inside just to avoid a conversation at the washing lines.  As I walk to or from the studies I’ll stop to chat with the parents and children  in the little playground.  When I hear children playing outside I’ll go out to spend time with them and their parents. 

All this I will do because relationships are more important than what is gained from being reclusive.  Supporting each other is more important than studying.  People are more important than personal planning. 

I may need help, reminders and support.  But I don’t want to waste this time we have living in this wonderful community.  Thank you Christian neighbours for being so loving, welcoming and such great examples to me.  I hope I can be the same.