This weekend has been full of parties. I love parties and find any excuse to hold them. In the last year I have had a 20th wedding anniversary party, a New Year party, two birthday parties and numerous informal parties just because it’s the weekend.
So this weekend I thought I was going to 2.5 parties – about the right number. A 40th, a 50th and a school reunion (.5 because there were only 7 of us and I knew everyone there.) It turned out by the end of the weekend that I realised I had been to 4 parties – a 40th, a 50th, a school reunion and a Eucharist.
Dragging myself out of bed on Sunday morning I realised that the reasons I wanted to go to church were very similar to the reasons I wanted to go to parties.
- I liked the host and wanted to spend time with them
- There was something to celebrate
- There were people I wanted to see
- There was a chance of conversations that would enrich my understanding of the world
- There was a meal involved
I had never before thought of church as a party. We don’t do bands and dancing at our church, people rarely dress up and the gathering is carefully ordered. I once went to a church that ostensibly felt and looked far more like a party and the first chorus we sang included the line ‘We are all dancing on God’s dance floor.’ This somehow grated with me although I could not get the metaphor out of my head. But I think now that the reason it grated was it suggested Church is a nightclub rather than a party.
Nightclubs are not like church should be because:
- You often have to pay to go in
- You only really talk to the people you went with
- There is no real shared focus to the gathering
- You are not really celebrating anything (unless you are having a party in a nightclub)
While there are great things about the dance scene, fundamentally by going to a nightclub you are consuming an experience. Hopefully at a party you are creating something together and enacting something about generosity, community and trust.
One of the best parties I went to recently featured a band playing a set in someone’s front room. That evening, hosted by a fantastic couple of people, enacted so much generosity, community and trust that it somehow changed those of us that went – a little bit like they way you can be changed by church.
This couple opened their home to anyone who wanted to see the band – they left their door wide open in an area of Birmingham that is often associated with poverty and deprivation. They gave any money raised to a local charity and they baked fantasic cakes for those at the gig. They trusted the weather enough to move all their sitting room furniture into the garden and then provided those of us outside, watching through the window, with warm blankets. They welcome each person as if they were old friends and provided an environment where friendships were naturally created and deepened. It wasn’t God’s dance-floor but it was most certainly God’s party.
Jesus promised to show up when two or three gathered in his name. At the best gatherings God seems very present – wherever they happen and whoever is at them. My guess is that God likes a good party, especially those that enact generosity, community and trust and make spaces for friendships to flourish.