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Reform Magazine | July 14, 2020

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Do stay for tea and coffee: ‘He clashes with their candles and calm’

Do stay for tea and coffee: ‘He clashes with their candles and calm’

Paul Kerensa on how the Church can serve introverts and extroverts alike

Introverts, extroverts, converts: lend me your ears. This is the third and final column in a series of three, pondering how the Church can serve introverts and extroverts alike. Those introverts and extroverts can surely then best serve the Church… But can we welcome one group without ignoring the other?

Last time, I reflected on my introvert friend in her rather loud ‘extrovurch’. This time I’ll empathise with my extrovert pal in his ‘introvurch’: a quiet Yorkshire chapel. My friend moaned to me that his outgoing nature clashes with their candles and calm, while he loves a noisy band, a Messy Church and generally whipping up a storm. I get the impression that he breezes in and blows out those candles, shattering calm.

Perhaps he’s a charismatic in the wrong denomination. But, without many other nearby churches, he tries to fit in. A square peg in a round hole. You can’t please all the people all the time, but it’s a shame he feels uncomfortable in his pew. Then again, have you sat in one lately?

Of course, lately, none of us have. So perhaps for now, it’s all a moot point. Church buildings are currently too quiet for all of us, doors sadly closed to all-comers. Church is temporarily online – live streamed or pre-filmed. Singing in his lounge, my extrovert friend can make as much noise as he wants, though post-service coffee involves less mingling than he’d like.

BBC local radio has been playing a half-hour service every Sunday at 8am, and BBC1 has offered a televised service too. These are marvellous and helpful. They mostly exhibit one form of church though: that ever-familiar Anglican church, seemingly in the village of Dibley, in the county of Midsomer. A century ago, one of broadcasting’s earliest criticisms was that it eroded uniqueness. It chose a tone and a type, transmitting that to homes across the land. How do we reflect the wider Church, with all its expressive, crazy, odd quirks, to locked-down Christians? None of the current way of things is ideal, of course. I just wonder if extrovert Christians may be missing church’s social side more than introvert Christians, who may be rather enjoying the quiet.

Perhaps we can up our efforts at inclusion, even in these weird days. In normal time, our Sunday service has opportunities for church members, from action-led singalongs to interactive puppet displays. Prayers may be contemplative one week, more vibrant the next, depending on who’s leading them.

Many of today’s live streamed services feature one minister, doing their admirable best. Our church has just started including guest families in our online services, filming and sending in readings and prayers (and that all-important puppet display – Bernie and Brenda are hits every week.) It means a diversity of worship styles.

Last week, we trialled post-service coffee, in Zoom groups. (We had to provide our own coffee, but at least we could choose our own biscuits.) I hope my extrovert friend is finding a way forward with church, even in lockdown.

Some institutions are like ocean liners: it takes a long time to change direction. Some may commit to ‘full steam ahead’ because it’s easier than veering this way or that. This crisis has shown that the Church can adapt when it has to, and that centuries of tradition can change in a moment.

When ‘normal’ church resumes, hopefully it will keep using different people, their gifts, and maybe this technology we’re all learning about. I’m sure my extrovert friend will welcome a chance to get involved – although, if they let him do the prayers, they may need to hand out ear defenders first.

Paul Kerensa is a comic writer, performer and broadcaster

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This article was published in the June 2020 edition of Reform

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