thinking about 'spirituality' and new age a lot recently. There seems to be
quite a lot of new age interest in our village. There's the 'David Andrew
Sanctuary', which meets every Sunday evening in the village hall. I'm not really
sure what they do but it seems to include some clairvoyance, mediumship and
other stuff. Then there are the weekly classes in clairvoyance, readings, et al
at one of the chalet parks here and there are also occasional clairvoyance
evenings as, for instance, a fundraiser for the playgroup.
see all this as an evil perversion (and in some ways I must admit that I do) but
Paul's approach in Athens seems more authentic and missional ("I see you are in
every way very religious" he said after being shocked at the number of idols) .
So I prefer to think of new age stuff as an attempt to walk the same journey as
I am walking; as a sign of a longing for meaning and an apprehension of the
sad thing is that they do not see the church as having a role to play in their
journey. In part it's because we do not speak their language (and I don't just
mean words; we don't use their symbols or rituals). In part it's because we
don't listen or try to get alongside.
about needing to do something to start making contact with those who are seeking
but not looking at church came to an action point
when, on the Wednesday before the
2004 village fete a woman phoned asking to have a stall for her tarot readings.
suddenly triggered a passion in me: we, the church, must have a presence too.
Remarkably, I had three clear days ahead of me with little other work to do; the
opportunity seemed heaven-sent. I decided to have a "St Andrew's Chill Out
Tent", not as an evangelistic opportunity but simply as a marker; an attempt to
say that we know something about spirituality, too.
I managed to
get hold of a tent, about 18' by 12', and designed four areas or 'stations' to
go in it:
prayer station, with a bowl with floating candles, a prayer leaflet which I
put together with some prayers (mainly Celtic) for different occasions, a
prayer box into which people could put prayer requests, a couple of books on
prayer and a brief introduction to prayer which I wrote.
meditation station, with incense, some books, a handout and an introduction.
Jesus station with an introduction, some books, night lights in the shape of a
cross, pictures of Jesus from "The
Christ We Share" and a few copies of 'footprints'.
station with pictures, an introduction, some books and an art nouveau lamp.
was also a table with some glasses and a jug of chilled water because it had
been hot for the few days before the fete and I wanted to offer some
hospitality without competing with the refreshment stall.
The tent was
decorated with a series of
bible texts on suitable images and music played in
the background - Arvo Part, Gregorian Chant, and so on.
Around the tent I put up a number of
quotations from the Bible.
I also put
checklist of the things I needed.
I wish I
could say it was a huge success but it poured with rain all afternoon and very
few people went to the fete. But it had some effect - a few visitors entered and
lingered and at least one church member was put off because she thought it was a
new age thing! One man hovered outside the tent for about two or three minutes
before deciding not to enter and a couple of women spent some time at the prayer
and meditation stations.
were against it: firstly, it was put together in a hurry and more importantly,
it poured with rain for the whole afternoon while the fete was happening.
fact meant that a lot of church people used the tent as a shelter and for a time
it became a sort of base for the fete organisers (mainly because my wife,
Shirleyanne, was one of the key organisers). Other church members wandered in
for a chat. This had the effect of making the tent a place of busyness rather
than peace. Largely this was because I had no time to tell church people about
the tent or its aims, so they came in.
In fact, Im
not sure that there should have been anyone in the tent at all. I had this
notion that I would sit quietly in the tent, meditating, and that this would
model an atmosphere for any visitors. Perhaps one or two might want to talk; if
so, I would engage with them. If not, Id just sit still. But maybe my presence
was both an attractor to church people to come and chat and an inhibitor to
I was also
concerned that the tent was too large but this led me to prepare four stations
and the end effect was that it was actually a little too cluttered. I dont know
if this mattered but I was aware that the forgiveness station (inviting you to
put a stone into a bowl of water if you wished to put away something that you
regretted) was rather exposed if there was anyone else in the tent. In addition
I had to put two stations (prayer & meditation) on the same table which was not
practicality. Because it poured with rain non-stop and the wind got up from time
to time some of my cards got wet and the ink ran. A laminator (which Ive now
ordered) would have been a great help.
worth doing? Yes, it was. If nothing else I learned a lot. But I do believe that
it was some kind of a marker; unashamedly Christian but in a manner which many
would not associate with the church. It was a start, a small one perhaps, but a