The Good Old Days
Mike Claridge - 21st May 2013
Roundabout - June 2013
St Andrew's, West Bromwich
What does “The Good Old Days” mean to you?
Maybe you remember the popular TV show that ran from the 1950s into the 1980s, a recreation of the Music Hall of the early 20th Century. An evening of variety, from conjurors to opera, comedians to acrobats. For those who can’t remember the programme, think of a hybrid of Britains Got Talent and Downton Abbey.
Maybe the phrase recalls years of childhood with summers that seemed to be unbroken sunshine from May to September. A golden age when you could leave your front door unlocked and walk around without fear of attack. If there was such a time it was short. The reality is that, if you go back a hundred years, our ancestors around here lived in times far more violent than today.
We sometimes hear about the good old days “when the churches were full”. In all likelihood it is the big occasions that people are remembering, the Sunday School Anniversaries for example. There would have been other occasions with plenty of empty seats. Maybe people don’t remember those because “theirs” was one of the empty seats.
But church attendances are falling. Times are changing, the way people live and organise their lives, and the priorities they have, are different now to they were even ten or twenty years ago. Many people have no connection with church at all. The language we use in worship and it’s hymns is meaningless and irrelevant to them. What can we do?
Recently, at Pentecost (Whit Sunday) we recalled the giving of the the Holy Spirit to the earliest followers of Jesus. A group of ordinary people were suddenly inspired to do new things. Pentecost means “fifty days” and in that period of time after Jesus’ Resurrection the disciples had clung to the familiar “continually in the temple praising God” (Luke 24 .53).
Pentecost changed that. They went out from Jerusalem to tell others about the love of God. The first disciples were all members of the Jewish faith but many of the people who heard their message were not. In response the disciples changed the way they did things. They changed the way they spoke about God and changed the ways of worship to adapt to the needs of others. Some were radical changes such as the removal completely of rules saying what could and couldn’t be eaten! (Acts 10). Eventually, at Antioch, they even changed their name and were called Christians (Acts 11 .26).
What does this tell us today? We are called, not to look back to something we remember, probably erroneously, as The Good Old Days, but to look forward. Not just to stay “continually in our churches praising God”, but to go out and tell others of God’s love. That will mean changes, not just in worship but in belief and in the “rules” of our churches. If we are to continue to proclaim the Love of God we need to move away from the culture of traditional “Church”, maybe even from it’s buildings too, and step out with trust in the Holy Spirit who guides us.