Welcome to the inaugural post of the ChurchShopper!
Please take some time to read the “About” section to understand the purpose of this blog a bit more, as well as understanding my personal perspective. Please also forgive me for the terrible Futurama reference.
I think, as this is the Genesis, as it were, of my blog, I should take some time to explain the beginnings of my church-shopping experience.
While it is tempting to launch into excessive autobiographical detail, I think it should suffice to say that I was a committed Christian who became disillusioned due to my experiences with the public-school conservative end of the Evangelical spectrum. I believe fully in the equality of women and so was disheartened to see those who I considered leaders to be acting so contrary to my views of what the bible teaches (many are involved in the “Reform” movement).
When I came to University, I attended a few bible study sessions but my doubts grew and I came to stop openly defining as a Christian, largely due to the association in peoples’ minds with the previously mentioned public-school conservative evangelicals. Recently though I heard about the Emerging Church movement.
For the benefit of clarification, the Emerging Church movement, as I understand it, is like Church in the sense that it is largely a group of Christians gathered together to engage with God, it is very different from the traditional church format. Many have no hymns, which was a blessing for me, as sitting through “Shine, Jesus, Shine” one more time would have me reaching for my
revolver earplugs. Sermons at Emerging churches tend to be more interactive, and to deal more with contemporary culture. By this I don’t mean they attempt to be “down-with-the-kids” through that most cringey of genres, Christian rap, but rather that it appeals to those who tend not to be considered traditional church-going types.
Sanctus 1 is the most prominent example of an Emerging Church in Manchester. It was formed as a collaboration between the Anglican, Methodist and United Reform churches, under their “Fresh Expressions” movement. They have services at 7:45 PM on Wednesdays, and 10:30 on Sundays. Like all good Churches, the Congregation is a mixture of many different types of people. There are young proffessionals, older people, students, but the congregation is small and it seems like there is a lot of turnover, to use business speak. Quite often I see a face, or a couple of faces, once and never again. I have been attending Sanctus 1 regularly for a number of months now, and I am grateful for what it has done for me. The first time I attended, the music they played at the start of the prayer/quiet reflection session seemed extremely familiar. This was surprising as I don’t usually listen to ambient-type music. As it neared a crescendo, however, I realized that it was in fact Speak to Me/Breathe by Pink Floyd! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_iSj2frQSU Needless to say after this I came back for more. During Lent the themes have been based around things that Christians traditionally give up for Lent. Services have been based around smoke, the internet, and last week there was a meal without any salt in it (an interesting experience!) and a discussion of Jesus’ statement “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” in Matthew 5. I would recommend Sanctus for anyone who is looking for a “fresh expression of church”, and to anyone who is tired of overly dogmatic services, totally alien to contemporary culture.
Recently, however, having gained an opening through Sanctus into the Church-Shopping world, I have decided to expand my experiences, and try out more and more different churches, in the hope of finding something that is right for me, and in the process informing those in similar situations about the many different churches and types of church in Manchester. I want to boldly go where many have gone before, broadening my horizons, and reporting my findings!
The Church Shopper