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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Is the Church dead in Europe?

The people kept coming!
I have heard many folks lament--in fact I think I may have been one--that the church is dying if not dead in Europe.  The pews are empty and Christianity is slipping away into an abyss of secularism.  Fortunately no one has told the people of Oxford that the church is dead!   You see last Sunday Kelly and I worshipped with the Black Friars (Dominicans) at a nearby Roman Catholic church.   It was advertised as a "9:30 AM Family Mass."   We got there about 40 minutes early so popped in for morning Matins first.   There were about 6 of us in the pews and about the same number of priests and brothers in the chancel.   As Matins finished a curious thing happened.  People showed up and began to move the chairs that were in the traditional configuration and moving them to face the side, creating a kind of 3/4 in the round.  Now at first I helped, but then stopped as these people seemed intent on moving ALL the chairs.  There were well over a 100 seats and I kind of scoffed and then admired their optimism.
Simple and joyful music right from
the Hymnal

Then they began to set up metal chairs as well.  What were they thinking.....then it became obvious.  PEOPLE!  LOTS OF PEOPLE!   Young families and children and high schoolers and college students.  Lot's of folks were coming to worship!   The music was simple, a big recorder, a flute and a violin.  The priests (3 of them) came in, kissed the altar and we began worship.  We said the Nicene creed, we heard the lessons read and enjoyed a very nice sermon about the need for rest in a restless world.  Afterward there were announcements, a collection for the Palestinians in Gaza and a call for volunteers to help with a Christmas card project and with a group that was going to get together with other Christians and talk about how to make Oxford a better place.  After worship folks gathered for Coffee, Tea and cookies.

These are the overflow chairs where
the monks sit... sanctuary is full
And get this....there are lots of churches here and they were full too!  What a wonderful discovery, here in a place of intellectual sophistication the church is alive and well!   I know sometimes it seems like the Church is on the ropes or has seen it's better days.  I think not!  Really, what if we get excited about the Gospel, about Jesus, about who we are and the story we have to share.  What if we begin to move the chairs around, so to speak, in movements of hospitality and expectation.   What if we pray for and earnestly seek revival in our hearts and congregation?

When I get back in celebration of the Reformation we are going to have a Baptismal Fest!   All during the fall we are going to look at our Lutheran Christian story and we are going to invite people to join us in the sacrament of Baptism.  To be washed with the Holy Spirit and to connect with the church.  We are going to invite adults, and children, and families and strangers to come and hear the good news of Jesus and then to receive the gift of his promised salvation that comes through baptism.
What are all these people doing here!! WORSHIP!!!

Let's remember that that Christ is not dead; but alive!  And so should the Church reflect this in all that we do.  So if you aren't baptized....we're coming for you!  If you need to get your kids baptized....we're inviting you!  If you want to find out more about the faith....we're encouraging you!  

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