This racy little number (the car, silly) could be taken as a metaphor for how some of us in the Scottish Episcopal Church like to see ourselves - small, zippy, a tad unpredictable, liable to be misunderstood (think of being pulled over by ra polis because of your go-faster stripes) and slightly OTT in appearance. I don't know if anyone would actually see all these qualities in the gathering of Lay Readers assembled in Oban today, but it threw up some interesting insights.
The visiting facilitator from The East (cf the magi) might have been forgiven for thinking he'd arrived on another planet. Lay Learning is one thing when coordinated in an urban environment, but you have to think twice about flying someone to a meeting - it has to be seriously worthwhile to have them make the journey. Argyll and The Isles is peopled by small congregations being run by lay people, throwing up questions about Reserved Sacrament use (and the understanding of its use), the best use of the few stipendiary clergy we have and the necessary training for the laity who have the will and the commitment to undertake it. All the problems of running a voluntary organisation surfaced in the discussions, and few of the answers.
I don't have the answers, of course. But there are some things which struck me with some force. The need to remember that for everyone who hated their childhood education and therefore may run a mile from anything which reminds them of it, for everyone who shuns intellectual activity from whatever reason, there is someone who needs to learn, needs to find substance and stimulus in their faith as in the rest of life. We have to feed their minds as well as tend for their souls. It seems to be a feature of church life in some areas just as it often seemed in school that you bend over backwards not to alienate the less academic - but the cerebral must be cared for too. And that means that at some point along the way there has to be professional input.
There was talk of advertising, publicity. I'd say the best advertisement is the result. So if your punters are lit up with the experience of faith and what happens in their church that will be the best advert you could have; if they are gloomy killjoys with a need to address God only in Elizabethan English who endure patiently a weekly service lacking in any spark then most seekers will run a mile. And there are all sorts of beastly puns hovering on the rim of consciousness - puns about revs...
Go-faster stripes, anyone?