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Reform Magazine | June 1, 2020

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Do stay for tea and coffee: ‘Is this an introvert’s dream?’

Do stay for tea and coffee: ‘Is this an introvert’s dream?’

Paul Kerensa considers introverts in self isolation

In last month’s column I asked if the Church is just as open for business for introverts and extroverts alike. Yet, since the previous column, most church buildings are no longer open for business at all.

But the church isn’t the building, it’s the people (although that makes them trickier to spot on Google Maps). So, in this bizarre sabbatical of ‘church from home’, let’s continue to ponder here, how introverts and extroverts might view the Church differently. Next time will be the ‘extrovurch’, but this time… the ‘introvurch’.

A friend of mine is a self-professed introvert. He found his church too extroverted – from handshakes to hugs, speaking in tongues to super-charged bands. When the handshakes became elbow shakes at the start of this current crisis, that may have been what he was after. The overwhelm had become too much for him, and he confided in me that was seeking a smaller, quieter church life. Perhaps this bizarre interval will reset things.

The loudest voices are the ones most easily heard, so he felt ignored. Maybe we think we’ve had a great service due to a lively welcome, a wall-of-sound worship band and an enthusiastic preacher. Putting myself (an ambivert – I’m on the fence) in my pal’s inward-facing shoes, I imagine that what he’s after is a sense of genuine depth. A powerhouse sermon can connect with introverts and extroverts alike but needs to go beyond decibels and PowerPoint.

I’m not saying extroverts have it wrong (and indeed, in the next issue, we’ll delve into church from their outgoing perspective) but perhaps sometimes we hear the right chords on the right instruments but without hearing words that resonate through the week. The still, small voice of calm is how many hear God – and for that, I guess we need moments of peace.

You can’t please all the people all the time but it’s good to know if some feel they don’t have their moment in church, whether that’s a moment of calm or of craziness. How we include both may vary from church to church, but perhaps spending as long in prayer as we spend singing at least one worship song might help. Quieter church moments need not be an afterthought.

It’s odd writing this in a season of self isolation. The worship bands have gone quiet after all. Church services streamed to our homes, or on TV or radio, can be as quiet as our remote controls make them. Is this an introvert’s dream? I know several who’ve said that this current shutdown, though utterly regrettable, has been bizarrely good for their mental wellbeing. Perhaps we can slow down, stress less and focus on gratitude, self care and neighbourly compassion. The days are quieter and the silence is golden. One friend noted that, thanks to less road noise, she’s heard the woodpecker in her garden for the first time.

When normality resumes, I wonder if church will change. There have been calls to continue live streaming (alongside traditional, in-person church, of course), and many disabled or housebound Christians have been calling for this for years. We can’t wait to get back into the building, and when we do, the band will strike up, the handshakes will rightly continue, and I’ll rejoice in that.

But I hope we’ll also learn to listen to those quieter voices, just as we might hear that woodpecker without the road noise. Perhaps we’ll hear God’s still, small voice too.

Paul Kerensa is a comic writer, performer and broadcaster

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This article was published in the May 2020 edition of Reform

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