Before the Pandemic the evening service at Caersalem Caernarfon was stable, with a slightly smaller group of people coming than on Sunday morning, but we had no intention of getting rid of it. However, during lockdown we settled into a pattern of holding an online service in the morning only and so as we re-started public meetings last year the question had to be asked: what to do with the evening service?
Instinctively getting rid of the service felt like a failure, it felt like losing ground and giving in. But by the grace of God that is not the story of Caersalem as a church in general – in a secular age we have had the privilege of witnessing some church growth and blessing in recent years. So how could we let go of the evening service without it feeling like a failure? Or, to be honest, how could we stop holding our evening service without feeling guilty about it?!
In the end we were at peace with the decision for two reasons. Firstly, we were well aware that the lives of our members were extremely busy – particularly those holding down professional positions, families with children, and members caring for vulnerable family and friends. For many, life was so busy that people did not have the opportunity to rest and get a real Sabbath, and part of the problem was the busyness of our programmes as a church. Far from being a blessing, the busy pace of church life had at times become a burden. By letting our evening service go we were giving our members more space in the week to rest with family and friends.
But the second reason for us to be at peace in getting rid of the evening service was to clear an evening in the diary in order to do something different and new. And hence the latest development in our church life: a ‘Caru Caersalem’ (‘Loving Caersalem’) evening, an evening of fun, sharing and hearing different voices within the church … in short, everything except a service.
In one sense it’s just a social evening with a cuppa, cake and perhaps games at the heart of it. One person described it as a Youth Club for people who are still young in spirit! But the vision also has a spiritual aim, which is to create a space to develop church life into a true community and more than just a series of meetings. It will be an evening that will try to normalize the practice of talking about how God has been at work in our life. The evening’s moto is: “This is how everyone will know that you are my followers, and that you love each other.” (Ioan 13.35)
Another important part of the vision is that it is organised and run by members of the church who have little or no experience of organising and leading within the church. That is, the evening is deliberately open to people to test out their giftings and try to better implement the principle of the priesthood of all saints. And so neither I as Minister nor any other member of the church Leadership Team can be involved in the organisation and running. For people who know me, taking a step back doesn’t come naturally to me but sometimes leaders have to do this in order to create space for others to step up and practise their giftings in a safe atmosphere.
The evening is an experiment at the moment and the first session was a real blessing; we want to hold it for a few weeks this term and we’ll see what comes out of the vision in the future. But there may be a parable in how making a difficult decision such as winding up the evening service can create space for God to do something new among his people.
If you would like to discuss big questions about church life in the 2020s, there will be a forum to do so and to experiment running from September through Engage – information here.