Sanctus 1

Normally, when you are given a pencil and a piece of paper on the way into a church service, it means you’re going to have to write down why you love God, or what you’ve been thankful for this week, or a short psalm; or sometimes you have to write down the absolute worst sin you’ve ever committed – the one that you can’t possibly believe you can ever be forgiven for (and it’d better not be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit) – and then screw it up and throw it away or set fire to it or something. What you certainly don’t expect to be asked to do is to write down the thing that makes you most angry with God, scrumpled it up and then throw it at a picture of Jesus. But then Sanctus 1 is not a normal church, and this is not a normal service, even by alt.worship standards.

I was in two minds about going, if I’m honest: on the one hand, Sanctus 1 describes itself as an emerging church, and the blurb on their website is very encouraging in the way it speaks of “a journey of creative exploration into faith, worship, spirituality, friendship and lifestyle” – but equally, the phrase “alternative worship” is something I’ve been bitten by in the past: all my experiences of it have either been ordinary Evangelicalism set to ambient music and PowerPoint, or so vague and handwavey as to be almost indistinguishable as Christian.

Thankfully, tonight’s service on the issue of anger was neither of these things: whilst the Bible was used (perhaps more even than in a modern Evangelical service?) we were never preached at; whilst we were given space to think and feel and respond for ourselves, we were never encouraged into vague sentiment. There was a refreshing feeling of raw honesty – Min shared a story about being angry with God because the church told her that when her grandfather died without knowing God, he didn’t go to heaven. The sort of issues that are maybe sidestepped and brushed under the carpet at a normal service were faced head on, and whilst conclusions weren’t necessarily reached – these are hard subjects – the acknowledgement that these issues exist and deserve to be given space was far more important than presenting a simplistic proof-text quick-fix solution.

I don’t know if I could deal with this as my main style of worship, week-in, week-out – yes, there was ambient music and powerpoint, so I guess some parts of alt.worship are here to stay – but it was definitely a useful and enjoyable experience, and, perhaps more importantly, the fact that it exists and that people are exploring new ways to approach God and explore their relationship with Him is massively encouraging to me. I’ll certainly be going back.

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