Sunday Service, 21 July 2013, 11am
Visiting minister: Rev Melville Schofield
After last week’s ridiculous marathon of a service, I was hoping for something short and sweet today. The sign above the door said the service would be from 11.00 to 12.15, and they didn’t even use up all the time allotted. Punctuality is next to godliness … or something like that.
The United Free Church was formed in 1900 by a merger of the Free Church of Scotland and the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and what remains of it today is descended from the congregations that didn’t join back up with the Church of Scotland in 1929. You really need a diagram to understand all the mergers and schisms, and luckily there’s one online, for those who like spaghetti.
There was nothing about today’s service to distinguish the United Free Church from the Church of Scotland – the same demographic profile (elderly), the same hymnbook (CH4), the same format (five hymns, two readings, prayers, sermon), and the same prospect of terminal denominational dwindling within a generation. Sorry, that was naughty of me! Nice flowers, though – a gravity-defying arrangement of yellow blooms. It’s the first time this year I’ve actually noticed there being any flowers in a church, though I may have overlooked them elsewhere.
Also novel was the sign that read: “Weekly Giving – last week we gave £589 – each week we need £800”. By my calculations, that means they needed £16 from each of the fifty people who attended this morning, and that if they pulled a similar crowd last week the average donation was £11.78. And if my other calculations are correct, that makes United Free worshippers more than four times more generous than Church of Scotland members. Yes, yes, I know that’s a wild extrapolation, but I couldn’t resist the comparison.
The singing was feeble, which was a pity because it really didn’t do justice to a raise-the-roof hymn like Fanny Crosby’s “To God be the Glory”. I sang about as lustily as I usually do, and a lady in the row in front was kind enough to compliment me afterwards, but that only made me wonder if I shouldn’t have toned it down a bit and whispered along with the rest of them. But if you ever need a soloist, I’m available for weddings and bar mitzvahs too.
The readings, from the Good News Bible, were Isaiah 61:1-9 and Luke 4:16-30 (in which Jesus quotes Isaiah 61 in the synagogue in Nazareth), and the Rev Schofield’s sermon discussed the Nazarenes’ “kent his faither” attitude to their home-grown prophet before dwelling at greater length on Jesus’s mission to bind up broken hearts, however they came to be broken, and on the hope of resurrection that cheers the darkness of the grave.
And it was all over by 11.52am. Hurrah for concision! I left the church in a good mood, unlike last week, and I was further cheered by the slightly strange but nevertheless delightful sight of a cat on a leash being taken for a walk down Kekewich Road. The sun was shining, God was (possibly) in his heaven, and just for a little while all was well with the world.