What do church outside noticeboards tell us about their churches?
A priest on holiday can perhaps be forgiven for reading and reflecting on the outside noticeboards of churches he comes across. In the last few days I’ve been asking myself for whom are the notices intended and what do they actually communicate?
One notice I saw announced, boldly and simply, 10.30am Dr Jones of Newcastle (no indication of the nature of the service) then at 6.30pm Oxygen (no explanation to the unknowing passer by what that was – was Dr Jones’ ministry such that by 6.30pm the congregation would need Oxygen?). At another church Sunday times for the winter and the summer were given, without indication when those times applied, and then the notice said – ‘services held as announced.’ (Which meant… what?).
One church noticeboard gave no regular services times whatsoever but a large poster had been put up on it which simply read Next Sunday Sexagesima 10am (Wow! That will draw them in… For the uninitiated Sexagesima is the old name for the Second Sunday before Lent.)
And what of the village church, with a beautifully kept churchyard but without any signage and no indication of service times at all but an expensive looking notice on the door which read ‘The Church is kept locked during the week. A key is not available.’ What does that communicate about the church?
Of course it’s easy to be critical, but on a serious note it is important, I feel, to question what church notices communicate to the passer by, especially the non churchgoer. We should be prepared to question how widely terms such as ‘Eucharist’ or ‘Messy Church’ are understood, or misunderstood. But then what can we say? I will be looking carefully at our notices at St Chrysostom’s!
Of course, I have come across encouraging and welcoming examples. “The Church is open every day in daylight hours. Sunday worship at 10am. All welcome” How welcoming and how to the point.
In my small and random survey I will give first place to a remote village church with a clear simple notice giving worship times and contact details. The church was well kept and open and to top it all homemade jams and pickles for sale in the porch and an honesty box. It offered a friendly welcoming sacred space. Interestingly, and I believe significantly, at this church Dominic (7) and Gregory (5) wanted to stay longer than I had anticipated.
Anyone recognise it from the photo?