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A few days ago I received the following thought-provoking comment on the “Things I’m Looking For” page.

“do you think there’s a danger of slipping into a me-centred consumeristic attitude, rather than seeing the search for a church as the search for a community to be part of and to contribute to? To paraphrase JFK, don’t just ask what a church can do for you, but what you can do for the church. Just another angle you might want to consider!”

There are two real parts to my answer:

First, I should note that the very process of church-shopping is by its very nature individualistic, and does to an extent treat church (christ-centered community) as a commodity like any other. I do not believe that church is a commodity, but urban church life is very different to the kind of parish life that presupposes an obvious choice as to what community one should behave as part of.

I am looking to find a church community to engage with, and contribute to. Churches are, however, incredibly diverse and I want to make sure I make the right choice. Like most people my beliefs and values are very important to me, and there are quite a lot of churches where I would not agree with the leadership enough to feel comfortable there. Also, things like style of worship and congregation have to be considered as well. Although I am attempting to as be open minded as possible, I have felt a little out of place in a couple of the Churches I’ve visited, due to either age or mindset. So yes, my choice of church is “me-centred”, because it is “me” that will be giving up my free time to attend. But though my perspective comes only from myself, I am looking for a church where “me” can fully contribute and feel part of the worship community. An individual looking for a group.

Secondly, I am in a sense part of a church community. I am a regular attendee of wednesday nights at Sanctus 1, in the Nexus Cafe in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. I like Sanctus’ originality, casual attitude and I am beginning to get to know the people there better. Sanctus has a lot of strenghts, but those strengths can sometimes be weaknesses too. It is open to all types of people and opinions, but in its attempt to be non-divisive and creative it isn’t very worship focussed. Sometimes I feel that it doesn’t really fulfil my more spiritual needs, but I do feel part of the community and I feel that God is present there, but not in quite the same intensity as at a more traditional church.

Hope this has given my perspective on your comment!

Church Shopper

Subscription

Unfortunately when I update this blog is quite irregular. I try to do it a couple of times a week but it really depends on how much work I have to do: the more work, the more time to procrastinate.

I know there are a couple of people who check back repeatedly. To save yourself the frustration of checking back multiple times without anything having been updated, why not subscribe?

Just to the right of this post there is a button which has “Sign Me Up!” written on it. Put in your email address and you’ll get sent a notification every time I post something new. Its pretty straightforward and will save you a bit of time. Go on… you know you want to.

Church Shopper

Apologies

It’s been too long since my last update. One of the reasons for this is quite simple: my dissertation is due on Tuesday. While I am nearly finished (yay!) it has taken up a lot of my time and so I haven’t updated from last week. Another reason is the sheer amount I have to write about my Easter experiences! I went to 3 churches, all of them totally different from each other and had some memorable experiences (and not in a good way!)

Changes to this blog

Hello readers, today I have included a number of changes to the blog. Firstly, I’ve learnt how to embed image and video files, so you won’t have to leave this site to view pictures of Manchester churches.
Secondly, I’ve written a massive new post about my time in St Chad’s, Ladybarn last sunday, which is almost certainly the first blog post to include the phrase “I am theomorphic.”
Thirdly, I’ve included a poll giving you readers the opportunity to choose what I’m doing this sunday. (for more information visit this post.)

I realized that as the number of visits I describe increases, it’s going to become a bit more confusing to navigate, so I’m currently working on creating categories based on geographical location, and as I branch out, denomination, to make things easier. (Edit: This has now been done. I have also put up a “widget”, which I think is the same thing as a doodad or a thingamajig, that allows you to subscribe to this blog!) The reason behind all this added change is the fact that I have finished the first chapter of my dissertation!

Hope you enjoy the changes!
The Church Shopper

Control my Sunday!

I’m quite pleased with the amount of traffic this blog has received within only a few days, so as a way of expressing thanks, I’ve decided to make things a bit more interactive.

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the day that commemorates Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem on a donkey, when crowds of people supposedly laid Palm leaves in his path. In the past I’ve only ever celebrated Palm Sunday in an Anglican chapel, and so I’m keen to see how other denominations might deal with this part of the liturgical year, that comes just before Holy Week (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday.)

So the options I’ve given are definitely all out of my comfort zone. I’ve never worshipped in any of them before, and with the exception of Roman Catholic never even been in any of their churches, and have no real idea of what to expect from the services. Hopefully it will expand my mind to a tradition I have no previous experience of before, and at the very least I’ll gain an insight into different theological cultures.

The particular churches I’m considering going to, depending on the results of the poll:
Eastern Orthodox- St Aidan’s Levenshulme
Roman Catholic- Church of the Holy Name, Oxford Road
Unitarian- Cross Street Chapel, Manchester
Charismatic Evangelical- Ivy Church, who are holding special Easter services in Gorton

If anyone has any other recommendations (particularly for the Charismatic church, as Gorton is quite hard to get to) then feel free to comment on this post.
The poll should be in the sidebar on the right.

About Me

The Church Shopper is a Manchester student looking for God, or more specifically, looking for Church.

I have been “church-shopping” for a few months now, and I have realized that there are a large number of people who share my situation. Perhaps you have just moved to Manchester and have not found a church that appeals to you yet. Perhaps you have become disillusioned with your old church and fancy a change. Perhaps you have no history of church-going, and are interested in what the fuss is about.

 Because this blog is readable by everyone, CS will attempt to make it accessible and not too filled with ecclesiastical (church-related) jargon, or at least with a bit of clarification.

About me: I have history of being involved with an evangelical youth movement, but it was far too conservative for me. My negative experiences there, as well as growing doubts and uncertainties in my head, led to me stop attending church for a number of years. Over the past year, however, I have been filled with a spiritual yearning for worship and community. I have an appreciation for the theology of Leo Tolstoy, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Tom Wright, the retired bishop of Durham, and Dave Tomlinson, author of “Post-Evangelical”. This blog will chart my journey around the various worship communities in Manchester.

Good news, everyone!

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.

http://www.sanctus1.co.uk/

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!

Yours,

The Church Shopper