I was warmly welcomed, and actually, although I'd never visited before, it did feel remarkably like "home". It was like visiting the mother-ship.
I arrived at 10am, so I just missed "songs of praise", which is largely traditional hymns without much liturgy, from 9.30-10. When I arrived there were around 50 adults in church; I was later to discover that there were around 10 children in their children's groups, which take place during the 10am slice.
The 10-10.30 slice is called "understanding our faith" - very similar to our "slice 2" teaching slice, though with two hymns. This week the theme for the Sunday was "brothers and sisters". The transition between this slice and the next was a chance to discuss with our neighbours how we can be better brothers and sisters; those around me were clearly going out of their way to make sure I was included in the group.
From 10.30-11 there was a service of communion. The children rejoined us for this, but to my surprise there were no songs or activities designed to include them; they simply congregated at the back. One thing that really impressed me was the way the adult congregation seemed so tolerant of the children running around and talking; it simply wasn't an issue. This slice was the one most unlike what we do at Galleywood; not least because there was only one congregational song, whereas our communion slice is mainly in song; on the other hand, the whole communion liturgy was used "straight" (straighter than I do it, anyway). As far as I could see, no one left at the beginning of the communion slice, and a couple of additional adults arrived.
11-11.30 was refreshment time. I introduced myself to the Vicar, Rob, and Kath, who is one of the Commissioned Ministers (the equivalent of Readers in London Diocese) and is also Rob's wife. It was clear that this is the time most of the "coming and going" takes place - almost nobody not on staff or in the band stayed on, and a new group (around 30 adults and 12 children) arrived.
11.30-12 is all-age worship, and here I was completely at home; this felt very similar to our 11.30 slice, though with a much bigger band! Children were well engaged, and there was good banter between the slice leader and members of the congregation.
12-12.30 is "exploring faith together", an interactive informal communion service without music. We started by gathering around the table - by this stage some of those there for the 11.30 slice had gone, so I guess there were 15 adults and 12 children. We went round the circle sharing information for prayer, and the children all lit a candle and served the bread and wine. Then we got into discussion groups to talk about being better brothers and sisters; most people contributed to the conversation. Children had their own separate discussion group, led by the Vicar, in a different portion of the main worship space.
12.30-1 (yes, Rolling Worship was still continuing) was lunch, with a birthday cake and song for one of the church members. Over lunch, Rob and I shared our experiences of Rolling Worship and mused about whether we should have some sort of get-together for the Rolling Worship churches (there are now 4 in the UK) next year.
Here are four things I thought were worth thinking about borrowing for our own Rolling Worship:
1) We probably need to be more relaxed about children being present. They will make noise, but that needn't bother us. As a proportion of the congregation, there are actually MORE children at John's Hillingdon than at Galleywood, and I wasn't clear that their church is better equipped than ours (just one room available for children's work outside the main worship space). Half of the children present in church came "early", half "late".
2) We don't HAVE to have a refreshment break between all our slices.
3) Maybe we should be starting to create more "unchanging" items. For example, the opening songs of each slice are the same every week - and have been since 2007. This gives each slice a "brand identity" of its own. And having each child light a candle and state a person or topic for prayer is a weekly ritual, too.
4) There's obviously a bit more joint planning going on in Hillingdon than in Galleywood. Every Monday, the speakers, lead musicians and slice leaders for the next Sunday but one get together to craft the service - ie 13 days before the Sunday concerned. Could we do the same?
If you're visiting this site from Hillingdon, or if you're at Galleywood, I'd love to hear your comments. What do you think are the lessons to learn?