Before I’ve finished boring you with details of our recent time away, I want to say a word about going to church on holiday. This seems to provoke strong reactions amongst Christian friends. Some seem genuinely shocked that we would consider church when we’re away from home. “You’re on holiday. Surely you have better things to do!”
But this reaction genuinely shocks me. If going to church is so stressful, so dull, such an effort, then why do we go at all? Yes, holidays are supposed to be a break, but when I go to church on holiday it is a break. The things that can make church stressful are usually eradicated at a different church. I’m not on any rotas, I’m not chasing so-and-so to discuss this-and-that, I’m not filling pigeon-holes or trying to remember what I need to collect before I leave. I get to sit with my husband (a novelty for a clergy wife) – or, possibly better, he takes the kids out so I can enjoy the rare treat of an uninterrupted sermon.
I have some great memories of holiday churches from when I was a kid (plus a non-memory of apparently attending the church I go to now when I was 14, en route from Scotland). I’m incredibly grateful that my parents, in a very unassuming way, demonstrated that corporate worship was important, whether at home or away.
On our recent holiday, we ended up at Crossroad Christian Fellowship. Ignoring the small oversight of not putting their service time on their website* (we guessed, and hit the ’20 minutes either way’ rule), we found them to be an incredibly friendly bunch. Actually, ‘friendly’ doesn’t go far enough. I walked in and immediately felt like we’d found some long-lost family. For two hours, our brothers and sisters opened their lives to us. Lots of people chatted to us, we got invited to a barbecue, one man gave us his phone number should we need anything during the week, and one lady ran creche just for our kids. I also really enjoyed the worship and teaching, but this is kind of irrelevant to my point.
My point is that if we only ever go to our own church, we’re missing out on what God wants to teach us about his family. By sticking to the safety of our home church, with friends who love and accept us because they know us, we’ll never experience complete strangers loving and accepting us, despite not knowing us. And we’ll never learn to realise that actually they aren’t complete strangers, they’re Christian family members with whom we’re destined to spend eternity.
It’s tempting to walk into a new church and think everyone’s a bit bonkers, purely because we don’t know them. But God’s family is brilliantly bonkers: joyful, messy and full of hope. When I try and pre-judge Christians I don’t yet know, I need only look to my own weakness, and God’s incredible grace towards me, to start joyfully loving and accepting others.
* I’ve looked again, and service times are in fact on the website! They’re in a table form, which I couldn’t see when viewing the website on my phone. Apologies to Crossroad!