Conversing in churches

February 25, 2011 |  by  |  Uncategorized

Isn’t it fascinating that we start to take notice of something when we hear of it from different sources? This has happened to me in regard to people saying how isolated they feel when attending church services.

I had heard this said a couple of times during the past few months. One was from a friend who reported, very poignantly, that she had given up going to a church close to where she lives as she did not feel welcomed nor was there any opportunity to get to know people in the congregation.

Another was from a person who left a country town in New Zealand to go to the city of Wellington for a new job. Since she did not know anyone there she thought, “I’ll go to the church of which I have been a member at home. But I gave up after a while as nobody spoke to me.”

Then just this week I was in contact with a friend I had met here in Hong Kong who had left for several years and then recently come back.  In the course of our reconnecting he asked “What is turning you on at present?” A very good question!

When I mentioned being engaged in developing the Conversare adventure and what it was about he exclaimed, “I wish there was something like that at my church. Since my return I have gone along to the one which I attended previously.  But I do not know the people there now and there does not seem to any means by which we can get to meet each other.”

It is possible to say ‘These people could have taken the initiative and made themselves known to someone present.’ As you would likely appreciate, however, this is not easily done. Where to begin, what to say?

Being asked during a service to say ‘hello’ to the person sitting next to you is not enough to get a conversation going. Nor would just having a cup of tea or coffee after a service.

What if these churches arranged gatherings periodically for Conversare type events to take place?

By this I mean having a person whose role it is to welcome everybody present and provide a few ‘light touch’ guidelines on what to anticipate and what to do as a participant – not a spectator. And then invites people to find someone they don’t know to join them in learning about each other.

In a context in which everyone is doing this and there is opportunity to mix informally once the taking in pairs is over.

This could be done immediately after a service or at a separate time. Preferably with some refreshments, beverages and snacks or possibly a meal.

What difference could this make? Could it help to develop a sense of community in churches and other religious organizations?

Could it be a way of bringing together people of different backgrounds, ethnicity and age? People who would usually not ever have an opportunity to meet? Could there be perspectives of life, and commonalities, which had not been imagined? Could this be most enjoyable and satisfying?

Is this important?

Do you think it would be worth while bringing up this possibility in your place of worship? The person with whom I had the conversation this week says he is will do this.

A nice example of something positive happening whenever we treat each other well?

Alan Stewart

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