Secondly, later in the morning, I joined the St Ebbes joint congregations meeting in Oxford Town Hall. Combining together the seven congregations gave a congregation of 700-800 people. It was good to be among a large gathering of young adults who are enthusiastic for the Lord and Mission, many of whom will soon be in parishes around the country. It is also good to remember that the Gospel still is attractive and student churches which clearly proclaim the good news about Jesus buck the national trends and grow. Vaughan Roberts did a great job reminding people that the Lord’s Prayer invites us to pray. We need to know to whom we are speaking before we can have a meaningful conversation, and that God, is, unlike any in the world religions, one who we can call Father.
Finally, this evening, I went to hear another student preach in Merton College Chapel in Oxford. This was a very formal sung Evening Prayer. The choir was amazing. The acoustics in the Chapel are very good, and the Chapel is often used by the BBC to record. There were about 25 in the choir and maybe 40 in the congregation. It was enjoyable and the music was very high quality. Personally I enjoyed both the volume and informality of the drums, guitars and singers in the morning as well as the marvellous formal music tradition found in the Chapel tonight.
What are my conclusions about the experience of three very different corporate worship services today? They are very tentative. I actually enjoyed all three services and I think that there is a place for the diversity of church which I have been in today. However I also think I feel that the age profile and numerical attendance at the St Ebbes service does speak volumes as to what young adults need to hear today. However, I feel challenged that the growing churches seem to be located in University Towns or suburbia in the South East of England with largely ‘yuppie’ congregations.
I think that the vision of the Church of England is sound. But we do need faithfully to reach the diverse communities and localities in which it is located … which requires us to be outsider-friendly and mission minded up and down the land. There is a nation which needs to be won for the Gospel of Christ, and that should shape everything we do in the church and in the communities in which they are located.