Published by Tim Cockell on Mon, 1 Oct 2018 00:00

A preacher from a mission society was attempting to put the young family who were going off to Africa for 3 years at their ease.  They were going off to a strange country with a strange culture and different language.  “Don’t worry about the language,” he said, ”you will pick it up very quickly.  Why, I’ve heard children as young as three speaking it fluently!”  Unfortunately, the preacher had omitted the fact that the 3 year-olds were native speakers!

Learning another language is hard, unless you are one of those really lucky people who has that gift for being able to hear something just a few times or see it once and remember what it means.  If that’s you, I am very envious.  I have been trying to learn German for the last 5 years.  It started when I realised I was going to need something to pass the time when my wife, Nell, was having her cancer treatment.  All those long hours waiting for appointments and treatment. 

When I started I hadn’t quite realised what a daunting task I had set myself!  I have really struggled with trying to understand something that doesn’t even seem to follow its own rules of grammar.  I have been frustrated when not knowing where to put the verb or why the word order changes in certain circumstances and why the same word in one context can mean a completely different thing in another context.  Talk about confusing!  However there have been those moments along the way when I have “twigged” some aspect of it and suddenly another piece of the puzzle starts to fall into place.   But it is hard to understand things we don’t know.

I was in a conversation with someone who telling me that they would really like to come to church but they found it really difficult, even awkward and embarrassing.  “Everyone seems to know what they are doing; they know when to stand up, when to sit down, what all the words mean.”  This is not the first time I have heard this.  People are afraid to come because they worry that they are going to do something wrong at some point and other will frown on them.  I assure this person that would certainly never happen at St. Mark’s.  But this has got me thinking.

Coming into church (any church) for the first time, or even returning after a lengthy break can be a daunting task.  It can be like learning a whole new language and some of the service can actually be in a rather strange tongue that sounds like it has come off the page of a Shakespeare play!  And then when you add in all the symbols we use, the practice of taking communion, people dressed in robes, long (and short) words that we use that people don’t know the meaning of, it can be just like being dropped into a foreign land where we don’t know the “lingo” and end up feeling a sense of helplessness.

We are very blessed at St. Mark’s to have a Welcome Team to meet and greet us when we come into church and to help visitors and new members, but it’s up to us all to ensure that those we get to know those we don’t yet know, and if necessary give them a hand with finding the right hymn (in the right book!) or the right page in the order of service, or assure them that their quietly playing children are not a nuisance.  

It can be very confusing for someone coming into to church for the first time and what we do in showing Christ’s love and compassion for them could make all the difference and influence whether they come again. So as we approach a period where we are very likely to have more visitors among us, I hope we will all show just what a loving, Christ-centred community we are.

With every blessing




Categories Word from the Clergy