Did you watch the Royal Wedding?
My family and I were grateful for an invitation from a member of our congregation to join their Royal Wedding party and watch with friends and family around a big screen.
It was noticeable for many reasons but it was certainly the first Royal Wedding I experienced with my phone in my hand and social media literally exploding. Clearly, we were not the only ones tuning in.
As the watching people of the UK had their chance to comment and ask questions via social media in a way that has not been possible with previous such events, I noticed that, broadly, they were saying three things.
- They were surprised by enthusiasm and happiness in church.
- Christianity was talking about quite nice, good, useful stuff like love.
- The secular world did not have a monopoly on good ideas to bring about positive change to the world.
The watching audience seemed to be divided into those who had little experience of church and did not expect it to be interesting, intimate, joyful and moving, and the churchgoing audience who were looking at their non-church friends with incredulity saying “Well, duh! What? Do you think I go to church for the cold, hard pews and to fall asleep out of boredom?”
What pleased me most was that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex used the Church of England’s Common Worship liturgy to get married. It is the form of the service that is used hundreds, if not thousands of times, every week around the country in hundreds, if not thousands of churches, when other couples get married.
Unlike William and Kate (who opted for the more traditional Book of Common Prayer), the service was contemporary, intelligible and clear, but also celebratory, joyful and full of grace.
I’m not sure who is at fault when such obvious ignorance of church is made clear. Is it my fault, the church’s fault, that the watching world don’t know that this is what we do, this is who we are? Clearly some of the blame is ours.
Or is it the wider public’s fault? They’ve bought into a stereotype seen in the media, on soap operas, and novels, and failed to actually bother to check out God and church for themselves. Should they not be responsible for the decision to make their own minds up about what it is Christians do, say and believe?
I can’t offer you a top-notch Gospel Choir, or a genius teenage Cellist, or even an enthusiastic African-American Bishop! I can’t offer you that.
But if you want to find a community where we worship and make music, celebrate all that is good in life, consider ancient wisdom and traditions and how they might help our lives, support and help one another in community, honour the best of modern life, and seek a life and world beyond what we see, seeking life in all its fulness and God as God is to be found, then I can definitely offer you that.
Rev David Green