St Matthews held 5 separate meetings on different days of the week and at different times during January 2023 to engage with as much of our worshiping community as possible. We began with 5 questions which acted as prompts rather than a structure we had to adhere to and they were:
How can St Matthews worship better reflect who we are in the week? How can our worship help us learn how to follow Jesus? When have we encountered God in Worship and what helped that to happen? What do we value about our worship? What would we do differently?
Our process led to exploring simple things like whether small tables are less threatening than larger tables for coffee, our experience in other Churches, the model of family in Church which can be positive but also experienced less positively. We thought about music, silence, when we use words and sometimes do we have too many words. We also wondered together whether our worship and community life lives up to our ambition to be a Inclusive and Recovery Friendly Church.
Consultation and change is a process, especially when we do not all agree, that means whatever happens next has to be provisional and experimental. Even when the changes are quite minor.
We have begun using slightly shorter liturgies, with more pauses for silence and more explanation. The choir have moved where they sit and we plan to use processions once the music and liturgy for them are ready, with a greater emphasis on welcome. We recognised that being a family Church, or being perceived as such might have negative as well as positive connotations. How easy is it to be welcomed into a family and find a place and welcome there?
There is also work to do around welcome and communication, both online as well as in Church. We want to value both the traditional and the contemporary to take out of our store houses treasures that are new as well as ones that are old. Change generates anxiety which needs to be recognised and acknowledged, but change is needed if we are to be a community of worshipers where old and young can worship together. We need to own the fact that we have chosen to be a recovery friendly and inclusive Church and reflect on that in the ways we construct and perform liturgy.